Donor Stories

Lesley Brey '77 – Generations of Learning and Giving

By Susan Nakamura
Lesley Brey's daughter came home one afternoon with an anxious look on her face and asked, "Mom, were you a bad student when you were at Punahou?" Brey's Punahou years flashed through her mind. She recalled the mostly good grades, a great group of friends and, then, that night they "broke" into the ROTC building.
The Gift of a Punahou Education

One of the hallmarks of a great school is the capacity to attract extraordinary and deserving students, welcoming them into its learning community, regardless of their families' financial circumstances. Punahou's commitment to supporting access for bright children who can thrive in its learning environments is highlighted in the stories of several alumni who got their start with the help of financial aid and continue to utilize their skills, wisdom and passion to transform the world around them. Their experiences vary in career, location and age, but they share a tremendous sense of gratitude for the enduring gift of their Punahou education.

The School's celebration of the 175th anniversary of its founding reaffirms its commitment to serve a broader public purpose, enabling alumni to pay it forward so that Punahou School may continue to provide opportunities for the generations to come.

Lesley Brey's daughter came home one afternoon with an anxious look on her face and asked, "Mom, were you a bad student when you were at Punahou?" Brey's Punahou years flashed through her mind. She recalled the mostly good grades, a great group of friends and, then, that night they "broke" into the ROTC building. Her daughter added, "I'm worried because all of the teachers and staff know you." With a relieved chuckle, Brey replied, "Ahhhh, I was a scholarship kid and worked throughout campus. When you work in the infirmary, all the libraries, the AV production center and Castle and Academy offices, there are bound to be a few people who still remember!"

Brey entered Punahou as a fourth-grader in 1968, along with her brothers, Fred Ferguson-Brey '75 and Robert Brey '79. That year, their mother, Lois Bruce '52, a former Castle Hall boarder from Maui, decided to move back home from New York. "I don't know whether my mother thought about tuition, but she made all of us apply for Punahou," recalls Brey. Fortunately, all three were accepted and received financial aid.

Brey recalls some interesting times in the fourth and fifth grades. The Lacoste polo shirt with the iconic crocodile was the brand in those days. To ensure she had the proper logo, her mother went to thrift stores to find shirts with crocodiles, took them off and sewed them on Brey's handmade outfits. "As a kid, when you feel you're not part of the 'in' crowd, you wonder if you're somehow inadequate," notes Brey. Those feelings quickly dissipated though, as she made a close group of friends and focused on her zest for learning, especially math and science.
One Academy friend was Randy Kam '76, a fellow rifle team member and financial aid recipient. "Even when an errant basketball toss in the family living room broke an antique Chinese vase, his family didn't kick me out," Brey says with a playful grin. Kam and Brey started dating while attending graduate schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and celebrated 29 years of marriage this year. They have two children, Arlen '05 and Peter '08, who are third-generation Punahou alumni on both sides of their family.

In 1981, the family established the Robert P. Bruce Scholarship Fund for students interested in engineering. The fund, named for Brey's civil engineer grandfather, is special to Brey since she holds a graduate degree in engineering from Stanford and often encourages young people to pursue this career path.

Reflecting back on her years at Punahou, a grateful Brey says, "Maybe I didn't have the 'right' clothes, but I don't think that challenge was any different from every kid as they figured out how to fit in. I wouldn't change a thing. The Punahou experience was empowering and gave me the life skills I still use today."
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