Donor Stories

Glen Kitahara – Opening the Door to Giving

By Catherine Black '94
Many on campus are familiar with Glen Kitahara's quick smile and friendly banter – whether he is driving by in a golf cart or working on a classroom or office in his capacity as one of the nine carpenters in the Physical Plant maintenance shop.
Kitahara's warmth and humor make him an easy person to connect with, which is what happened four years ago when he was assigned to fix a faulty door in the Sullivan Administration building. After recalibrating its closing mechanism to prevent slamming, Kitahara returned to check on the door every month or so, making him a regular visitor to the Annual Giving office.
"Patti (Horii '84 Oshiro) and Jill (Higashi) were in there and I'd always stop and make wala'au (small-talk)," he remembers. "And since I'm always hungry, they'd offer me some of the snacks that they keep by the door." One day he asked Oshiro what she was working on and she explained the Punahou Annual Fund program to him, asking whether he'd be interested in making a gift.

"Well, I figured since I'm always eating their snacks, why not give something back?" he jokes. After they calculated what the biweekly paycheck deduction for a $200 annual gift would be, he realized it would only come out to about $8. "I said, 'I can do that – the School has been generous with me and $8 a paycheck won't do me any harm.'"

Kitahara chose to support Punahou's financial aid program. As part of the team that constructs Carnival each year, Kitahara knows how important financial aid dollars are to the Punahou community. "I'd like to think that, by giving back to the School, I can help at least one student attend this wonderful institution," he explains.

Kitahara is one of the founding members of the Heart of Punahou Employees (HOPE) committee, which formed this academic year to strengthen faculty and staff philanthropy. His natural generosity and good humor have made him a valued member of the campus family, which he joined 12 years ago. Previously, he worked as a construction carpenter, following his father into the trade.

"My dad was the neighborhood handyman in the subdivision where we lived in Kalihi, which is where he grew up," Kitahara remembers. "He was a farm boy in that area. He had to wake up early to feed the chickens and dogs, and he learned how to build houses from scratch."

Kitahara would tag along with his father to make the neighborhood rounds, learning plumbing, carpentry, roofing and general maintenance along the way – all skills that he would later bring to Punahou. Kitahara feels grateful for the sense of community he has found here and is happy to give back to the School – even if "it all started with some snacks."