In December 2007, the President's Home at Punahou School celebrated its 100th anniversary. Designed by Oliver Traphagen of Duluth, Minn., the structure was erected at the foot of Rocky Hill to replace the original president's residence, built in 1885 near Old School Hall.
The President's Home was designed "to be a gracious home for the school's leader," according to Sharon McPhee, wife of Rod McPhee, school president from 1968-1994. It overlooks Alexander Field, also built in 1907, and predates all but two buildings on today's campus: Old School Hall (1852) and Pauahi Hall (1896).
On December 31, 1907, Punahou's eleventh president, Arthur Griffiths (1902-1922), and wife Helen moved into the new residence. Their daughter, Eleanor '25, was the first child raised in the home. Griffiths' 20-year tenure encompassed the campus construction of Rice, Dole and Castle Halls, and the addition of Cooke Library, now Cooke Hall.
Arthur Hauck's relatively brief presidency (1922-1927) was marked by his boundless energy and by growth in the school's fledgling endowment. He and wife Beryl had two children - Hubert '34 and Margaret '36. Hauck was succeeded by Oscar Shepard (1929-1944), who led the school during the tumultuous years of World War II. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commandeered the campus for the war effort, and the President's Home became the administrative center for Punahou classes, which scattered to private homes throughout the neighborhood. Oscar and Mildred Shepard and children Nancy '39 and John '44 lived on campus during the military occupation, and Nancy was married in the home during those years.
In 1944, Punahou's fourteenth president, John Fox, arrived from East Hartford, Conn. where he had been superintendent of schools. The Fox era, from 1944-1968, saw an expansion and growth in academics, athletics and student enrollment along with an increased Punahou commitment to a multiethnic student body. In 1967, Fox proudly led the dedication of Thurston Memorial Chapel, designed by renowned architect Vladimir Ossipoff.
The President's Home was originally built to be cooled by island breezes with a spacious, open la-nai encircling the ground floor. The Fox daughters - Jean Fox '49 Horn, Patricia Ann Fox '52 and Mary Bell Fox '54 Blackstone - recall that when rain blew into the la-nai, they would rush to collect the chair cushions and push the furniture against the interior walls.
Rod and Sharon McPhee arrived in 1968 to a home that boasted Hawaiian-style hospitality and openness, but, at 76 years old, was in desperate need of repair and upgrading. Time, termites and dry rot had taken their toll on the aging structure. In 1983, a major, unrestricted bequest by Jane Black '40 finally made possible a long-overdue renovation and work began that year.
Architect David Stringer and designer Mary Flanders Philpotts-McGrath '55 drew up plans to improve the infrastructure, redo the stonework, modernize the plumbing, install new hardwood floors and enclose the la-nai with windows. The home was made handicapped-accessible and the President's Pavilion was created so that guests could flow freely between home and pavilion. The project received a 1987 Hawai‘i AIA Design Award for integrating the needs of a family home with a space "that also serves as a gathering place for 300 people or a dining area for 200."
The McPhees lived in the President's Home for 26 years, except during the 14 months of its renovation. The educationally progressive Rod McPhee was noted for expanding opportunities available to students; he also oversaw the construction of the new Bishop Hall and athletic complex, and the renovation of five historic buildings: Dillingham, Cooke, Alexander, Pauahi and Old School Halls.
President Jim Scott '70 began his tenure in 1994. He is Punahou's second alumni president, the first being William DeWitt Alexander (1864-1871), who served prior to the school's first graduating class of 1878. Dr. Scott is the first graduate to serve as president - as well as the first of Chinese and Hawaiian ancestry - and Maureen Dougherty '71 Scott is the first alumna spouse.
The Scotts have made modest changes in the private quarters, principally to accommodate their children, Tessa '16 and Buddy '18. The Scotts are strongly committed to the public role of the President's Home. Events hosted there have reflected the diversity and breadth of campus initiatives as the "skyline" of campus buildings has expanded to include Case Middle School and Mamiya Science Center, and will soon accommodate the new Flanders Dance Pavilion.
Over 100 years, the cow pastures and open stretches of land once visible from the home have given way to houses, highways and high rises. Today, one can enjoy a panorama from the President's Home that extends makai over the Winne Units, Luke Center for Public Service, Thurston Chapel and the Castle Art Center; and rises mauka to what will become a new K-1 neighborhood anchored by historic Wilcox Hall.
Maureen Scott speaks for all the families who have lived in the President's Home over the last 100 years when she says, "The "P" and "H" in President's Home are capitalized because the home plays an active role in the life of the campus. While we live in it, it is our challenge and responsibility to steward it for the benefit of the Punahou community."