The School welcomes the leaders of Nā Wāhine Pā‘ani o Punahou and Punahou O-Men Athletic Club. Volunteers are vital to a thriving community, and Punahou is grateful for these leaders and the many individuals who provide their time, expertise and resources to these key organizations.
Pā‘ani’s mission is to support athletic participation throughout all grade levels and to enhance the girls athletic programs.
President Kellie James ’01 Schmidtke
Nā Wāhine Pā‘ani o Punahou has celebrated many milestones since its inception in 1985 – not the least of which is bringing a $100,000 gift to fruition in October. The funds will be used to enhance the outdoor playing area by the Lily Pond in the Sidney and Minnie Kosasa Community for Grades 2 – 5. “We’re delighted and honored to announce we have met our goal thanks to the support of the Punahou community,” says Pā‘ani President Kellie James ’01 Schmidtke. “Creating opportunities and spaces for physical movement is one of our central tenets.”
Fulfilling this pledge is particularly meaningful for Schmidtke because much of the fundraising took place during the pandemic – and it is a testament to the organization’s determination and perseverance. In recognition of the gift, Punahou will dedicate the new walkway in front of the Lily Pond as the Pā‘ani Pathway. “We all have fond memories of the area,” she notes. “It’s not only a central artery of campus gently hugging the rim of the pond, but it is a gathering place for athletics teams, students, families and alumni.”
Schmidtke has been a fixture within Pā‘ani for almost two decades. “I first joined the board in 2006 and over the past 17 years, I’ve been lucky to meet many of the amazing founders of our organization who were trailblazers in the world of girls’ sports. I’m passionate about continuing their legacy and elevating female athletes’ experiences and opportunities now and always.”
During this time, there have been many memorable moments for Schmidtke. “I’m most proud of the scholarships we award each year to female athletes with our endowment, the more than $55,000 in grants we’ve awarded over the past 5 years to teams and outdoor programs,” she says. “And I also get to work with so many wonderful people who also support our mission each year.”
Going forward, Schmidtke envisions boosting membership growth and fundraising through the Pā‘ani ALOHA Collection collaborations. Most importantly, she hopes to pay it forward by fulfilling as many grant requests as possible so that students can reap the rewards that Athletics has to offer – and which she has enjoyed firsthand. “I’ve always been an avid tennis player but after coming to Punahou in 7th Grade, I had the opportunity to try so many new sports such as soccer, track and field, volleyball and paddling,” she says. “These taught me valuable lessons, helped me make lifelong friends, and made me a well-rounded athlete which only enhanced my 4-year varsity tennis journey.”
Nā Wāhine Pā‘ani o Punahou has a lifetime membership of more than 100 women, plus dozens of additional annual members. Known for its annual flower sale at the Punahou Carnival, Pā‘ani dedicates thousands of dollars each year to sponsoring student athletic tournaments and activities along with an endowed financial aid fund.
Schmidtke, who has built her career around supporting Hawai‘i’s youth and communities, is currently director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving at Catholic Charities Hawai‘i. She holds bachelor degrees in Organizational Sociology and Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies at the University of Michigan and a master’s in business administration from the University of Hawai‘i. Schmidtke and her husband, Scott Schmidtke ’01, have two young sons, Sullivan and Parker, who have a love of many sports such as wrestling, basketball, tennis, soccer, swimming, gymnastics and golf.
– By Gina Gelber
Punahou O-Men is devoted to enhancing students’ athletic experiences and providing a venue for fellowship among former athletes.
President David Walker Kowen ’01
Kowen originally joined the Punahou O-Men Athletic Club in 2013, when close friend Alika Williams ’93 encouraged him to participate in its annual Kona Safari – a pre-carnival trip to Hawai‘i Island where O-Men members pick citrus fruits and avocados to sell at the event. “I had so much fun working for a good cause and connecting with fellow Punahou alumni of all ages,” Kowen says. “I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of the organization.”
He began attending the regular monthly meetings and helping in any way he could. Before long, Kowen was named second vice president and rose in the ranks to become president for the 2023 – 2024 academic year. “The camaraderie and networking opportunities afforded to our members are second to none,” he says.
Kowen is passionate about O-Men’s mission because athletics has been an important part of his life for decades. “My years playing basketball and water polo at Punahou School are some of my fondest memories,” he says. “These experiences instilled a tremendous amount of confidence within me and helped develop a steadfast work ethic that allowed me to become the husband, father and successful small business owner that I am today.” Currently, Kowen is head coach for Punahou’s Varsity II boys water polo team.
During his tenure, Kowen’s goal is to uphold traditions, continue to expand membership and explore new fundraising opportunities – all against the backdrop of prepping to commemorate the organization’s centennial anniversary of its founding in 1925. “We will honor those who came before us while celebrating the current members, coaches and staff who drive the success of our athletic department,” he says.
Moving the organization forward also entails investing in the future. One of Kowen’s favorite projects has been the design and installation of an O-Men citrus orchard on O‘ahu. “Thanks to the generosity of one of our members, we were able to plant nearly 40 citrus trees that will one day provide our organization with an abundance of fruit to sell at Carnival,” Kowen says. The organization has also been working to enhance athletics by making important contributions, which include a new sound system for the track and field, an automatic rebounding machine for the basketball program, life vests for the kayaking team and balls and goals for the water polo teams.
Kowen encourages interested alumni to reach out or to join in some of Punahou O-Men’s fun volunteering opportunities because helping is gratifying. “Over the past 10 years working with the Punahou O-Men I have been lucky enough to reconnect with old classmates as well as cultivate many new lifelong friendships,” he says. “I have particularly enjoyed my interactions with our members and seeing our donations being utilized by current students.”
Kowen is married to Dr. Tiare Salassa ’01. They have three children; Mason ’32, James ’34 and Carter. Their family enjoys camping, surfing, paddling and traveling. With master’s degrees in urban and regional planning landscape architecture from the University of Minnesota, Kowen owns local consulting firm, Kolea Design, which specializes in residential landscape design.
– By Gina Gelber
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