Duncan MacNaughton ’62

2019 “O” in Life Awardee
Real estate developer Duncan MacNaughton ’62 has transformed how Hawai‘i lives, plays, shops and gathers, and as a Punahou trustee, he’s helped the School reimagine learning for the 21st century.

For his contributions and his commitment to Punahou and the community, Punahou Alumni Association honored MacNaughton with its “O” in Life, the association’s most prestigious award.

MacNaughton was destined to be an impact player in the state. His father, Boyd, led C. Brewer, one of Hawai‘i’s largest sugar companies. At 23, the younger MacNaughton joined Dillingham Corporation’s property development department and later was responsible for residential development at the McCormack Corporation. Combining his early experience in commercial and residential development, he founded his own company in 1975, with a corporate vision to work with good people in businesses they enjoy.

Today, The MacNaughton Group, where he is chairman, is synonymous with developing some of Hawai‘i’s most notable properties: Hokua at 1288 Ala Moana, Park Lane Ala Moana, Kapolei Commons and Waikele Shopping Center; and introducing big brands like Costco, Target and Starbucks to the Islands.

MacNaughton’s motivation to create engaging gathering spaces has been grounded in a genuine affection for Hawai‘i. “I have always kept Hawai‘i at heart and tried to make business decisions that hopefully are true to that goal, and I have used this frequently as a compass to navigate many of our business decisions,” he said.

At Punahou, the real estate developer has been invaluable in the boardroom for his tough questions, creative thinking and long view. MacNaughton joined the School’s Board of Trustees in 1997, shortly after Jim Scott ’70 became president. “I remember Duncan getting up as the head of the Buildings and Grounds committee and he said, ‘Over the next 20 years, we are going to essentially be rebuilding the Punahou Junior School,’ and he was absolutely right,” Scott said. “Here we are, as we finish part two of the Kosasa Neighborhood, he was prophetic and he was instrumental.”

MacNaughton has been a source of sage, wise, insightful advice and counsel to Scott and fellow trustees throughout the years. Supportive, yet respectfully candid, Scott says McNaughton let him know when something needed improvement, but always took a “nose in, fingers out” approach. The pair worked together to advance key initiatives and envision innovative new learning environments.

Scott recalls a time when the board was figuring out how to build and conceptualize the new Cooke Learning Commons. “Duncan said, ‘Okay, the old library is now a learning commons. We’re trying to explain it as a gathering place, as a place of high collaboration that can be flexible. It’s like a Starbucks,’” Scott said. “And there was something about that that just lit us all up, and we said, ‘You know, you’re right.’”

As a fundraiser, MacNaughton opened doors for Scott to meet prospective donors, and was generous with his own funds. Most recently, MacNaughton co-chaired the historic Ku‘u Punahou campaign, which set a goal of raising $175 million over four years.

Inspiring, renewed facilities, a fully funded campaign, and a school positioned for the future – that is MacNaughton’s legacy at Punahou. “He’s an old-world, elegant gentleman,” Scott said. “He’s just one of a kind.”
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