Sharon Twigg-Smith is one of Punahou’s valued advisors and most dedicated supporters, which is striking when considering that she was introduced to the School not as a student but through the experiences of her family. “I was not aware of Punahou before we moved here and when my son began attending, I was stunned by his experiences here. I lost no opportunity to tell him, ‘You are so lucky, don’t take this for granted,’” she remembers.
As the mother of Nathan Smith ’88 and the wife of Trustee Emeritus Thurston Twigg-Smith ’38, Sharon has seen Punahou’s impact on two of the most important people in her life and it’s this, she says, that motivates her to give so much to the School.
Sharon’s passion for fine art brought her and Thurston together over 20 years ago, and she says that she has always been struck by his deep appreciation for the education he received as a “scholarship student” at Punahou during his last three years of high school. “He was so grateful for the opportunities that Punahou and later Yale gave him; he believed that they formed the kind of man he turned out to be and he never forgot that. He always remembered Punahou and always gave to Punahou.” In addition to his four decades of leadership as a trustee, Thurston has made a gift to Punahou every year since he received his first U.S. Army paycheck in 1942.
Sharon currently serves as a trustee for the Honolulu Museum of Art and Hanahau‘oli School, and recently took on an important leadership role for Punahou as a member of the Campaign Steering Committee for Ku‘u Punahou. Her motivations to take on this volunteer commitment includes the fact that this campaign is clearly different from others she has participated in.
“Campaigns in the past here have always been for very specific projects, such as the gym or Case Middle School. This campaign is different. We’re celebrating 175 years and it makes people reflect on how far we’ve come as a school, not just the physical aspect of the campus but what’s important for teaching and learning ahead. Things are changing so fast that it’s going to take an enormous effort to maintain the kind of edge that Punahou wants and needs. It’s an expensive proposition to keep being a leader in the field of education today, and in order to do that you need donors,” she says.
Sharon and Thurston’s giving to Punahou over the years exemplifies the depth of their commitment to the School and their confidence in its future: from decades of unrestricted annual gifts to a generous bequest for financial aid endowment to an important contribution to the new grades 2 – 5 neighborhood – all of which are top priorities of the Ku‘u Punahou campaign.
“Having a husband who was so loyal to this school, but also seeing my son and the kind of person he’s become has shown me the opportunity Punahou has to form human beings,” she says. “Not just academically, but teaching people to be kind, to seek knowledge, to be fearless. It creates the kind of people who attain greatness, and what a gift that is. I decided to join the steering committee for this campaign because this work is so important. The future of Punahou is our future.”