Fifty percent of alumni have settled away from Hawai‘i, but reunions draw them back to Punahou. For Vernon Endo ’72, the 50th Reunion has renewed his relationship with the School and his classmates after a lifetime far from the Islands. He has lived primarily in Montclair, New Jersey, but also attended college in Massachusetts and spent several years creating and heading companies in Bermuda and Dublin. As a member of the 50th Reunion Gift Committee, he has genuinely enjoyed reconnecting with people. “I was stunned by how many had stayed in touch with each other, and volunteering was a good way for me to reconnect with Punahou.”
The first in his family to go to college, Vernon wasn’t feeling confident when he arrived at Williams College, but he soon realized that he was as well-prepared – academically and socially – as most of his peers. “At Punahou I was encouraged to maximize my potential, in part, by looking expansively at the future, while being reminded, of course, of the related challenges and uncertainties ahead.”
Vernon cited Paul Berry, who taught U.S. literature and “Novel to Film” as his most influential teacher. “He conveyed an excitement about Fitzgerald and writing that remains with me to this day. He quoted Fitzgerald frequently: ‘The best writing is rewriting.’ He introduced me to film as an art, distinct but equal to literature and other forms. This was a new concept to me at the time.”
Asked what Punahou should be focusing on today, Vernon cited critical thinking, effective communication and working in teams as some of the most important skills that students must practice for success in today’s business world. “I’m such a big believer in liberal arts education, now more than ever. When I first joined Citibank, there was a clear career path. Those paths are less common today. The environment is evolving quickly and many of the best opportunities are entrepreneurial – new ventures, solving problems. You can’t train in school for those opportunities. It gets back to being able to think and communicate clearly. I see that the skills I used to think were ‘fluffy’ are essential. People who can think analytically, and who can write and present capably are highly valued by organizations.”
Vernon chairs the board of Bloomfield College in New Jersey which has a very different demographic, with 80% of the students qualifying for Pell grants. He has found his work with this small, private, financially troubled institution challenging and meaningful. “Recently, I went back to the Punahou website, which I usually never do. Our Gift Committee materials and the website really resonated. I used to have the impression that Punahou had a lot of money and resources and could afford to experiment and be cutting edge, but at the end of the day, Punahou is also doing a great job on the things that I care about: Equity, Inclusion, Values. Bloomfield College is transformational but so is Punahou. Punahou was transformational for me in a broader sense.”
Vernon agrees that Punahou’s commitment to financial access for every admitted student is a tangible demonstration of the School’s social responsibility. At the same time, he believes strongly in giving to the Punahou Fund to make resources available for the current needs of the School.
Vernon concluded, “The 50th Reunion experience has reawakened a lot of memories and thoughts of why Punahou is so important. I feel a little nostalgic now and am hopeful that my classmates will take a moment to reflect.” He and his wife, Joy, are eagerly anticipating the June celebration. “What other school has a 10-day reunion?” Vernon enthused. “We’re doing the whole shebang!”
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