Donor Stories

Richard F. Regan – The Spirit of Optimis,

By Carlyn Tani '69
Richard F. Regan taught U.S. History in the Academy for six years, from 1963 – 1969, and made history come alive with his captivating humor, intellect and passion. In 2000, after three decades on the continental U.S., Regan returned to Hawai'i and to the Punahou community, reconnecting with many of his former students and colleagues.
He also established an endowed scholarship fund at Punahou School that supports students who aspire to serve their communities. The fund, named in memory of his late partner, Peter J. Hanley, honors both Regan's indelible influence as a teacher and the couple's belief that young people can propel positive change in the world.

Regan arrived at Punahou fresh out of Teachers College, Columbia University. Several years earlier, he had served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy, where a posting at Hickam Air Force Base introduced him to the Islands. The Minnesota native and Yale University graduate excelled as a teacher at Punahou. "He was one of the best teachers I ever had," says Carmel Davis '68, who remembers Regan's effortless rapport with students. "He made it fun to be in class and he was truly interested in what you thought."

The late 1960s was a turbulent time for America and for many schools. Echoing the youth-led rebellion sweeping the country, high-school students at Punahou mounted their own demands for change. Regan recalls faculty committee meetings devoted to debating the proper length of girls' skirts ("a theological question," he quips) and whether boys could wear shorts to school. Students also voiced rebellion in classes. "That was a period when students talked back but I loved it because that meant they were engaged," he says.

In 1969, Regan left the Islands to discover his identity as a gay man. He settled in San Francisco, where he met Peter Hanley, an international tax attorney who became his life partner for the next 32 years. The couple shared a love of politics, a pointed sense of humor and the passionate belief that "the improvement of humankind depends on identifying and bringing forth the talents of the young in the presence of good values, among which are respect for diverse insights, compassion and an unwavering commitment to the truth." Hanley passed away in 2010 but the endowed fund's enduring purpose carries forward his spirit of optimism.

For Regan, the journey has come full circle. He enjoys the decades-long friendships he developed at Punahou, which ultimately beckoned him home. He finds inspiration in Yale's motto, Lux et Veritas (Light and Truth), which evokes a fundamental human endeavor. "Illumination is also spiritual and emotional," he says, "so if the purpose of life is to find knowledge and love, then I suppose I remained true to the quest." Now, the Richard F. Regan and Peter J. Hanley Endowed Scholarship Fund ensures that current and future students at Punahou will be able to forge their own lives of light and truth.