Donor Stories

Lisa Gainsley '04 – Leading the Way Far From Home

There's nothing like the sweet smell of plump malasadas sizzling on the stove. Or noodles frying. Or teri chicken being readied for skewers! 
In fact, there's nothing like the memory of a Punahou Carnival.

And so, a year ago, a group of Punahou alumni – all working in New York City – created their very own Punahou Carnival on a February day in the Big Apple, dishing up their favorite delicacies to 100 homesick alumni gathered in the roomy apartment of Allen Murabayashi '90.

Not only was it a way to connect with home, it was a way to connect to the growing network of Punahou graduates who populate the East Coast.

Lisa Gainsley '04 was one of the ringleaders of this gargantuan effort, along with Murabayashi whom she'd met during a dinner for Punahou donors who live and work on the East Coast. Gainsley had become a donor early in her career as an investment banker with Deutsche Bank after graduating from Georgetown University in 2008.

"My parents and family in Hawai'i have been very good about giving back to the local community, and when you're exposed to that, you realize it's not very difficult to give a portion of your income to something you believe in and that had such a big impact on your life," says Gainsley.

She vividly recalls the yellow manila envelope from Punahou arriving in the mail with news of her acceptance in 4th grade. "I remember being ecstatic. My oldest brother, Jonathan '95, was there, and I always looked up to him, so of course, I wanted to follow in his footsteps and attend Punahou."

The Punahou memories are so powerful she took them to college with her, becoming a key figure in Georgetown's Hawai'i Club, including helping with one of the largest lu'au on the East Coast, with over 400 attendees. The Georgetown cafeteria gamely tackled lomi lomi salmon and kalua pig, and Gainsley taught hula – thanks to her years of experience at Holoku.

Now working in commercial real estate lending with Starwood Mortgage Capital, Gainsley is continuing that tradition of recreating Punahou memories. With coordination through Punahou School's alumni team, she and Murabayashi have spearheaded the new Punahou Alumni Association of New York (PAANY) to support both social events and career advancement.

"It's a resource network," says Gainsley. "You have alumni who have paved the way in their careers out here and you have junior alums just coming into the city who are either looking for jobs or are curious about certain industries and hungry to be here. We want to pair those two groups together."

Meanwhile, back to that New York City Punahou Carnival. Gainsley and Murabayashi have now thrown two. While the first, in 2013, drew 100 alumni and friends, the second, this past February, drew 150.

"There's an automatic bond that happens with people in New York if you're from Punahou or Hawai'i," she says. "People from Hawai'i and Punahou want to help you, and want to be connected, because you share so many fond memories. It's hugely comforting."