By Scott Osborn ’94
From her numerous contributions to the community to her four decades of service as a Punahou School Trustee, Mary Moragne ’54 Cooke has lived the kind of life that makes her a natural choice for Punahou’s highest honor, the “O” in Life award.
Mary Moragne ’54 Cooke is congratulated by David Clark ’49.
Cooke grew up on Kaua‘i and entered Punahou as a sophomore in 1951. Upon arrival she resided in Castle Hall, which was the girls dormitory, built in 1913 with a generous gift from Mary Tenney Castle. Acclimating to the rules and structure of dorm life took some time, but she looks back on that era with fondness.
After graduating from Punahou, Cooke journeyed to Ithaca, New York, as a student at Cornell University. She graduated in 1958 with a degree in home economics.
When asked about her husband, Sam Cooke ’55, she remembers, “I first met Sam at a wedding on Kaua‘i when he was 10 years old.
When we were students together at Punahou he actually bet me five dollars that I would marry him,” Cooke laughs. “I ended up paying him off at the altar.” The devoted couple celebrates 54 years of marriage this year.
Cooke went on to receive her Elementary Education Teaching Credential from the University of California – Berkeley and shortly thereafter returned to Kaua‘i with Sam, where she began teaching at Kalaheo Elementary. They soon started a family, and it was during this time that Cooke deepened her community involvement. Her list of contributions is extensive and includes participation in organizations such as the Junior League of Honolulu, the Garden Club of America, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Malama o Manoa and many others.
Cooke joined the Punahou Board of Trustees in 1968 on which she served faithfully until 2011. “It was an honor and a privilege to serve as a trustee for 43 years with so many wonderful people,” she remarks.
As a trustee, Cooke witnessed many seminal moments in Punahou’s recent history, but one of the highlights was the rededication of Cooke Hall in 1989. To her, this initiative represented Punahou’s commitment to maintaining its historic heritage, and as she noted during her “O” in Life acceptance speech, “Historic buildings speak to us and hold not only symbolic value but also provide utilitarian need.”
Historic preservation is one of Cooke’s passions. It was a driving force behind the Manoa Heritage Center, a nonprofit organization she and her husband founded in 1996 that promotes the preservation and sharing of a historic property in Manoa Valley, which includes Kuka‘o‘o Heiau and “Kuali‘i,” the historic home of Charles Montague Cooke (1893).
Also a strong trustee advocate for sustainability, Cooke was an important voice in the pursuit of Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for Case Middle School. When it was time to plan for the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood, she supported Pierre Omidyar’s ’84 push for LEED Platinum certification.
At the “O” in Life awards ceremony on May 8, 2014, Cooke exhorted Punahou’s leadership to make a concerted effort to protect its historic heritage in coming years. She noted that this should include taking a qualified look at the future of iconic buildings such as Castle Hall, which may be impacted by the completion of the Junior School renovations envisioned as part of the School’s campus master planning efforts.
Alumni Reunion also holds a special place in Cooke’s heart. She served as the Reunion Chair for her 50th Reunion in 2004, and at the 2014 Lu‘au, she and her classmates celebrated their 60th Reunion.
These are among the many reasons that the Punahou Alumni Association is honored to recognize Cooke’s contributions with the “O” in Life award this year.