Donor Stories

The Eldridge Family – Still 'At Home' at Punahou

It was the middle of eighth grade when Chris Eldridge '87 came to Punahou. Even as the new kid on the block, he felt right at home." I played baseball," he says, "and with my last name, even though we weren't related to the other Eldredges, I was taken right in." And campus still feels like home to him.
Today, Chris is a local businessman and co-founder of Koa Capital Partners. He and his wife, Wana'ao Watson '89 Eldridge, a realtor with Choi International, have two young children at Punahou. They are leaders of a peer group of involved parents who support the School's fundraising efforts, Carnival duties and reunion organizing.
"We jumped into it because of our love of the School and the mark that Punahou is making on education in general in the larger community," says Chris of his commitment to volunteer activities like the Parent Advancement Council or the O-Men's annual trip to Kona, where members pick thousands of pounds of produce for one of Carnival's most popular booths.

"Our participation as parents matters for a lot of the grants and programs the School applies for," says Chris. "Everyone's participation will continue to help that, and it means everyone gets phenomenal value."
Wana'ao, a member of a legendary musical family known for popularizing slack-key guitar, feels boundless gratitude to Punahou "for opening huge doors of opportunity for me." She too is involved in parent fundraising efforts. "This is so important for our entire community's future," she says.

Before entering sixth grade at Punahou, Wana'ao had been homeschooled for a year and had also bounced among public schools while her family moved throughout the Islands for her father's job as an archeologist. "It changed my life and gave me the foundation to set lofty goals for myself," she says of Punahou. "I feel so very, very lucky."

For both Eldridges there's great comfort being back at the school where they excelled in sports. Her skills in tennis, track and cross-country landed her in the Punahou Athletic Hall of Fame two years ago, while his participation in football and baseball is still a source of pride.

"We were two classes apart," he says, "and while we knew of each other, we didn't actually know one another until we both happened to move back to Hawai'i in 1996."

Almost immediately they were reunited with Punahou friends and back on campus helping out. Today, they recognize how important parent efforts are in generating support for programs and for School priorities like financial aid.

The couple is also proud of Punahou's outreach throughout the community for programs that welcome public school students and teachers, both during the academic year and over the summer. "Punahou should be commended and encouraged to continue to grow that," says Chris.

While they both enjoy the campus' evolution since their own school days, they also love how much hasn't changed. "It still has the same feel," Chris says fondly, "and the memories don't seem so long ago. You still see some of the same faces. My kids have Bobby Smith for PE – he was my junior varsity football coach and he still looks the same!"