Donor Stories

Meleana Carr '05 and Claire Schiff '05 Thompson – A Home of the Heart

When Claire Schiff '05 Thompson walks across the Punahou campus, she still feels her heart tug. Just seeing the picnic table and bench near Old School Hall where she and friends gathered through their Academy years brings a flood of memories.
"I think Punahou gives you a second family," says Thompson, now a project engineer with Nordic PCL. "It's that 'home away from home' feeling. I didn't necessarily realize it at the time, but the School gave me opportunities I would not have had anywhere else."
That's part of the reason Thompson and one of her best friends, Meleana Carr '05, co-chaired their 10th Reunion Committee. The pull of Punahou is still there, and both were back on campus often as they planned and arranged events for this past summer. They also coordinated the class gift, and both have already been making regular donations.

"I feel all of this is part of saying 'thank you,'" says Carr, now a preschool teacher at Parents and Children Together's Head Start in Kalihi. "There's no other place like it with all the opportunities provided to you."
The two women, together with their reunion committee, launched an initiative for the Class of 2005 – "10 for 10." They encouraged their classmates to make a pledge commitment of $10 monthly over five years to emphasize the importance of developing a pattern of giving while also strengthening alumni support during nonreunion years. Their goal was to raise $65,000, or just a bit more than the class before them.

"You always have to try to out-do the class before you," chuckles Thompson, who joined the Punahou Alumni Association board last September. "Most of us are pretty young so big chunks of money are hard, but $10 a month is easier. It's just foregoing a little something every month."

The co-chairs reached out through social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram "to let classmates know what we're trying to do," says Thompson, who has made an annual donation to her family's endowed fund since she graduated.

Both women have been encouraged by their mothers – who are best friends – to follow in their footsteps by getting deeply involved in reunion planning. "Our moms were always committee members at their reunions," says Carr, "and always encouraged us to participate." Thompson's mother is Punahou Director of Advancement Operations Lissa Lam '72 Schiff, and her sister and grandfather also attended the School.

For Carr, who is in the midst of completing a master's degree in teaching at Chaminade University, the connection to her high school alma mater is very significant. She remembers weeping when the letter arrived in the mail announcing that she'd been accepted at Punahou for seventh grade. Like Thompson, her mother, Connie Ostrem '72 Carr, and both her older brothers attended Punahou.

"It's in my blood," says Carr, who is back on campus regularly as the conditioning coach for girls paddling, as well as vice president of the nonprofit Na Wahine Pa'ani o Punahou, which supports the Punahou girls athletics programs.

"I don't think you realize how much Punahou gives you until you leave. I want to give back because it gave so much to me."