Donor Stories

An Education With Impact

Karl Heyer IV '76 understands how important a solid education can be – he's seen it play out time and again in his professional life, and in the lives of his three children, Karl '12, Kelley '14 and Maile '17.
"What I like best about my work is the beginning and the end," says Heyer, the real estate developer behind luxury high-rises such as the Hawaiki and Hokua towers. He adds that the complex process of conceiving, designing, building and selling these types of projects integrates a variety of skills.

"On the front end, the disciplines of design, finance, marketing and legal all get overlapped into one model. So you get to create and then you have the challenge of making sure it actually works. You can't pretend – this isn't a report. You have to make sure you can pull it off."

Communication and advocacy skills are also needed to work with a diverse team of professionals. "When you get everyone in there, from the interior-design guys to the construction guys, there can be huge differences in opinion. So you really need to be passionate and informed about your position and able to articulate where you are."

Many of these skills, says Heyer, can be traced back in some way to his formative years as a Punahou student.

"Whether you're a great student or an OK student, there's a structure in the learning here that has benefited me throughout my life. Often times, I look back and say 'thank God for the foundation I got at Punahou.' Because whether by hook, crook or osmosis, if you get through it, you get an education. And it's the benefit of a broad-based liberal arts education from a diverse set of classes to athletics and the arts."

His own children, he says, are an example of this. His eldest son, Karl, just graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Southern California. His middle daughter, Kelley, gravitated toward the theatrical arts at Punahou and continues to do so at the University of Hartford. His youngest daughter, Maile, is passionate about cheerleading. "You have three different personality paths that each have taken but that are all offered in the same school," he says.

Perhaps the most important lesson that Heyer sees in a Punahou education is the independence and self-direction it nurtures. "No one's going to do it for you other than you. Because of the opportunities that others give you, there's a responsibility to do your best because they've trusted you."

This past year, Heyer celebrated his 40th Class Reunion and, fittingly, chose to make a gift to the facilities for Punahou's 2 – 5 community. Instead of a naming opportunity, he wanted his generous gift to be recognized in the form of a wooden bench outside the principal's office with a very simple name: "The Bench." His inspiration was the many hours he and other young rascals spent on the "intimidatingly high and very visible" bench outside the principal's office in Castle Hall. While detention benches are a thing of the past, "I want this bench to be used, to be a part of students' memories," he says.

At its heart, Heyer says that his gift stems from the gratitude he and his family feel toward Punahou. "What is going to change someone? If you give them the ability to raise themselves up in life, it starts with education. And if you look at the alumni who have historically come out of Punahou, you can't deny the fact that this school has had an impact."