As seasoned supporters of countless organizations and causes, Leighton Mau ’69 and Jeff Stone regard purposeful gifting as a mindful act that syncs with what matters to them – what moves them.
Thus, when these longtime friends and business partners talk about their combined gift to Punahou – a significant sum that helped launch the Mau/Stone Design and Engineering Lab at the new Junior School Learning Commons – they weave a story of their 40-year friendship, how their families are intricately tied, and how they collaborated in a way that’s deeply meaningful to them.
As president of The Resort Group, Stone is one of Hawai‘i’s most successful developers and master-planned resort community operators. He spearheaded the development of Ko Olina, ushering in vacation resorts such as Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club and Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, along with condos, shops and restaurants. He also has led developments in Princeville, Kaua‘i, Lonomakua Lands in Waikoloa, Newport Beach Hotel and Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina in the Bahamas.
Mau is president and CEO at Waikiki Shopping Plaza and Waikiki Business Plaza, which includes the Top of Waikiki restaurant and SKY Waikiki. He was also an investor in the Ko Olina development and now in the Princeville project.
Their gift to Punahou came about last year in conjunction with Mau’s 50th Class Reunion. His father, the late Bill Mau – a legendary businessman who developed Waikiki Shopping Plaza, Waikiki Business Plaza, the Ambassador Hotel and other landmark areas of Honolulu – had been a longtime donor to Punahou, and Leighton hoped to continue the legacy. “I wanted do something big for my Class, but I couldn’t do it alone, so I thought of one other guy with as big a heart as my father, and that was Jeff,” he said.
When Mau asked his friend if they could pool their money to offer a big gift, Stone immediately responded: “Let’s go for it.”
The Mau/Stone Design and Engineering Lab, set amid the Sidney and Minnie Kosasa Community for Grades 2 – 5, supports innovative teaching, inspiring creativity in young children. It will help turn fresh ideas into tangible innovations.
The pair agreed that attaching their names to the lab was ideal, as they regard their own careers as creative pursuits. The early development of Ko Olina, for instance, was rooted in envisioning a resort area that hadn’t existed before, Stone said. “We had to be on the cutting edge and invite Disney, Atlantis and other players to change the mix of what Hawai‘i was.”
Creativity and innovation are the foundation of what it takes to stay ahead in the visitor industry, Mau agreed. “I believe that for my father’s success, for Jeff’s success, for anybody’s success, you have to use your creativity, wherewithal, work ethic and discipline to achieve what you want to achieve,” he said. “That’s what resonated with us with this design center – they are teaching this to the students.”
Along with being aligned with the design lab’s mission, both men feel a strong connection to Punahou, particularly Mau, who attended the School from kindergarten through graduation, running cross country and track. To this day, he still trains on the Punahou track. His four siblings are also Punahou alumni, along with his daughter, Erica Mau ’07. Even his mother, the late Jean Liu ’35 Mau, attended Punahou until the seventh grade, when she had to withdraw because of the Great Depression. In all, Mau estimates the various generations of his extended family, including his nieces and nephews, have spent more than a century attending Punahou, instilling the School deeply in his family’s story.
Stone’s daughter, Chynna Stone ’05 Showe, also attended Punahou and played on the water polo team. He said he always felt grateful that she was able to attend the School, and it impressed him that the School’s alumni stay so connected. “It was just a total honor to join in,” Stone said. “I feel like I was already part of Punahou because of my daughter, but I’m actually woven now even more so because of this gift. I’m very, very grateful to be a part of the Kosasa Community, the lab and Punahou in general.”
Mau and Stone also saw their gift as a learning opportunity for their children, to see how money can be thoughtfully directed to projects that align with their families’ beliefs and experiences. Mau says both Erica and Chynna know they wouldn’t be who they are today without the experience Punahou offered them.
“This was kind of our journey for our daughters and my son, [Sean, who attended Mid-Pac Institute] to learn how to give,” Stone says.
Giving with the heart, they say, is part of both families’ legacies.
“We’re teaching them that this is how you do things,” Stone says. “Giving is something you get into your bloodstream – into your DNA – and we want them to have the same DNA. I think Leighton got it from his father, and his daughter gets it from him, and I’m hoping my daughter gets it from me. We’re trying to teach our next generation how to give. That’s the only way we’re going to perpetuate it forward.”
Mau says his father, who passed away in 2011, was committed to generously funding worthy causes because he grew up poor. As he became successful, he read books by Horatio Alger, and one of the key principles was that behind every man’s success is his ability to give, Mau said. This idea now remains a cornerstone of his own beliefs.
The gift to Punahou was particularly special to him because he did it with Stone. “To be able to do something like this together with a lifetime friend, basically, there are no words that can express how grateful I am that he would do that with me,” he said.