Richard H. “Dick” Cox ’38

“O” in Life Awardee

Department: Alumni Profiles


Each year, the Punahou Alumni Association recognizes a group of individuals who are dedicated to improving the lives of others through service and contribution to the communities of Punahou, Hawai‘i and beyond. The individual stories of this year’s awardees feature diverse vocations, a variety of passions and an unwavering commitment to the School. Their achievements are an inspiration to the entire Punahou community.

Read additional stories in this feature by Myron Arakawa ’66, Kaui Hart Hemmings ’94, Lynne Johnson ’62, Eric Kusunoki, Allen Murabayashi ’90, Kahi Pacarro ’97, Kenneth Richardson ’48 and Loretta Luke ’64 Yajima.

“O” in Life Award

The “O” in Life Award honors an individual who exemplifies the ideals of service to Punahou and the community. Created in 1954, the “O” in Life Award is the Punahou Alumni Association’s most prestigious award.

By Erin Teruya ’93 Kinney


Dick Cox ’38 has a humility that belies a lifetime of professional accomplishments and contributions to his community.

At the President’s Pavilion where he was the honored guest at a special award luncheon, the 96-year-old shunned his cane and enthusiastically greeted those gathered to celebrate him.

“I was amazed just to be considered for this award, and I’m still unsure why it came to me,” Cox said as he addressed the crowd.

“Dick earned this distinction and deserves this award through his professional success, his passion and support for Punahou and the numerous contributions to the people of the state of Hawai‘i he’s made throughout his life,” affirmed Andy Bunn ’86, president of the Punahou Alumni Association.

Cox was born on Maui and raised on Kaua‘i. His family moved to Honolulu when he was in eighth grade, and he graduated from Punahou with the Class of 1938.

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California Institute of Technology, he returned to Hawai‘i and had a distinguished career in the scientific, water and land management fields at McBryde Sugar Company on Kaua‘i and later, as a vice president with Alexander & Baldwin.

Cox benefited his community as a charter member of the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s Commission on Water Resource Management, serving for 12 years as an unpaid volunteer.

He was active with the American Society of Civil Engineers and worked tirelessly to have the East Maui Irrigation System designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, placing the Maui ditch in the same league as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Panama Canal.

Through his career, Cox found opportunities to mentor and support young people. Through a research project on water rights, he got involved with the East West Center at University of Hawai‘i – Mānoa and used the opportunity to participate in programs and interact with international students. He hosts a dinner at his home each year for recipients of the fellowships he created.

He has also been a loyal and consistent donor to Punahou since before statehood. He established the Cox Family Endowed Financial Aid Fund and has also been heavily involved at Wo International Center.

“It is important for someone like Dick to have students participate fully in the life of the School,” said President Jim Scott ’70. “He’s endowed a fund through the Wo International Center that allows students to travel regardless of their financial circumstances.” Nineteen students were able to travel to China with the Punahou Symphony this past spring break because of his generosity.

Norborne Clarke ’62 nominated Cox for the “O” in Life Award. “Dick is a man that clearly believes that a good education is the best gift that someone can give a child,” noted Clarke.

All of Cox’s six children attended Punahou, as well as two grandchildren. “Together they’ve earned 20 degrees, including 10 master’s and four doctorate’s after attending 28 different colleges,” said Clarke.

Cox enjoys keeping close tabs on Punahou. He takes regular strolls along Piper’s Pali. He was present at Punahou’s 125th, 150th and 175th anniversaries and is looking forward to his 80th reunion in 2018.


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