Donor Stories

Thurston '38 and Sharon Twigg-Smith – The Path That Always Leads Back to Punahou

From the day he signed over $10 from his very first U.S. Army paycheck in 1942 as his first donation, long-time Punahou trustee Thurston Twigg-Smith '38 has been the School's single most prolific donor. Every year since then he has given another gift to the School.
"When Rod McPhee took over as president, he and Twigg became good friends," remembers Sharon Twigg-Smith. "Starting in the late 1960s, they turned the concept of fund-raising into something new for Punahou. And interestingly, Twigg's gift to help build the gymnasium was the first million-dollar gift for Punahou, and the first million-dollar gift in the state of Hawai'i.

As a community leader for more than half a century, Twigg has played an integral role not just in the life of his beloved alma mater, but in the larger Hawai'i community. Among his many accomplishments, he led a daily newspaper, helped save the Honolulu Symphony, built a museum for contemporary art, and funded a pavilion for the performing arts at Punahou.

Together, he and his wife continue to play key roles in the school's future, and the future of its exceptional children. From the moment they both joined the school's welcoming campus – Twigg as a teenage student in 1935 and Sharon as a young mother in 1974 – Punahou has been an important part of their lives.

"Twigg feels a responsibility to his community that's partly generational, and partly a result of being a scholarship student," notes Sharon. "He transferred to Punahou in 10th grade on the advice of his maternal grandmother after being at Linekona and Roosevelt. Later it was a Punahou mentor who urged him to try for a scholarship at Yale.

"He feels a huge sense of gratitude that he was given those opportunities. He feels his three years at Punahou and four years at Yale had a lot to do with the man he became and the life he has had the good fortune to lead."

Because of that fortunate life journey, the Twigg-Smiths have chosen to give a generous portion of their estate to both Punahou and Yale upon their passing, with part of their Punahou bequest going toward an endowed fund to provide scholarships to outstanding students with financial need. In their commitment to Punahou, both Twigg-Smiths have taken a true hands-on approach. Over the past few years Sharon participated in the identification, documentation and now restoration of varied and valuable paintings donated to the School and displayed throughout its many buildings.

Meanwhile, Twigg has helped run many campaigns on campus, was always a trustee seated on the stage on the first day of school, and kept up with sports and other activities."It has been an important place for him all his life," said Sharon. "It's such a gift for any child to be able to go to Punahou, and the reason we wanted to establish a scholarship for deserving students.

"Coming from a public school education as I did, I knew nothing about this school when my son, Nate Smith '88, started kindergarten. I was amazed at all the advantages Punahou children are given. What a place! My son spent 13 years there and I always felt it was the most magical beginning to his life."

With their new endowed fund, the Twigg-Smiths hope to give other children that same magical start.