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Michael Latham, Ph.D., Announced as Next President of Punahou School


Today Punahou School’s Board of Trustees approved the appointment of Dr. Mike Latham ’86 as the School’s seventeenth president. Latham will assume the position in the summer of 2019, upon the retirement of Dr. James Scott ’70, who has led Punahou since 1994. Latham will be the fourth president to lead the school since WWII.

“We have emerged from a very thorough and thoughtful search process with the greatest confidence in Mike Latham as Punahou’s next leader,” noted Mark Fukunaga ’74, chair of the Trustee Search Committee. Initiated in May, 2017, Punahou’s presidential search was conducted in partnership with the consulting firm Spencer Stuart. It included 63 community listening sessions in Hawai‘i, on the continental U.S. and internationally, as well as a digital survey, to help articulate the characteristics sought in Punahou’s next president.

“Punahou was fortunate to attract a highly qualified candidate pool from around the world, and the Board of Trustees believes that Mike exemplifies the qualities of strategic leadership, intellectual innovation and community building that will shape the next era of Punahou’s history,” added Fukunaga. 

Latham comes to Punahou from an accomplished academic career as an educator and teacher. He is currently serving as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College at Grinnell College in Iowa, an outstanding national liberal arts college widely known for its innovative, inquiry-led curriculum. A highly collaborative leader and empathetic listener, Latham’s accomplishments as Grinnell’s chief academic officer have included co-chairing the task force leading to a new Institute for Global Engagement; spearheading a faculty commitment to deliver a research experience for every Grinnell student; promoting the creation of an initiative to advance innovative teaching with technology and data across multiple fields; advancing the design of a new $120 million interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Studies Center; leading the restructuring of Grinnell’s approach to diversity and inclusion; and helping to attract major external grants from the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Carver Foundation.

Prior to this, Latham served as a member of the faculty and Dean of Fordham University’s College at Rose Hill in New York City. Following thirteen years as a history professor, during which he won the university’s award for excellence in teaching in the social sciences, he moved to an administrative role. During his five years as dean of the college, he implemented a major commitment to student research across disciplines; advanced undergraduate science education through faculty professional development, facilities upgrades and the creation of new interdisciplinary programs; and promoted international education through enhanced language offerings and the creation of a new study abroad program.

A widely respected scholar of U.S. history and foreign relations, Latham has also taught in China at the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies. He is the author of two books and dozens of articles, essay and reviews, and has served as an advisor to numerous educational organizations and research publications. Latham graduated summa cum laude from Pomona College with a B.A. in history, and received his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Los Angeles. He attended Punahou School from grades 7 – 12, graduating in 1986.

“I am deeply honored and grateful to have the opportunity to come home to Punahou, a community that has had such a transformative impact on my own life,” Latham said. “Punahou has long been a truly outstanding school, with wonderful teachers and talented students. Under Jim Scott’s distinguished leadership, moreover, Punahou has continued to innovate in developing a personalized approach to education, embracing social, emotional and ethical learning, and pursuing vital initiatives to enhance access and diversity. I am eager to build on that foundation, to promote inquiry-led teaching, strategic planning, global engagement and community-based education that deepens our commitment to social responsibility. Punahou’s mission, heritage and enduring sense of place in Hawai’i are forces for distinctive excellence, and I greatly look forward to working to support all of Punahou’s faculty and students, from kindergarten through the Academy,” he explained. “I am also very excited to spend time in classrooms, learning from our teachers, talking with students across the campus, and connecting with the School’s devoted alumni and friends,” he said.

Latham will complete the 2018 – 2019 academic year at Grinnell before returning to Hawai‘i with his wife, Jennifer, and two daughters, Maile and Anya, to become Punahou’s next president on July 1, 2019. 

“We are thrilled to make this announcement with more than a full year to thank Jim Scott for his extraordinary 25 years of service,” said Board of Trustees Chair Ethan Abbott ’72. “Jim has positioned Punahou as one of the world’s leading K – 12 educational institutions, guiding the school through many key transformations to enter the 21st century as a highly respected thought leader and community partner. We are deeply grateful to him and look forward to a new chapter in Punahou’s history under Mike Latham’s guidance.”

Media Contact:
Laurel Bowers Husain
Director of Communications
Phone: 808.944.5742