Donor Stories

Julia Smyth Desha – A 47-Year Old Gift Comes to Punahou

Julia Smyth Desha was the widow of Kamehameha School graduate David Lester Desha, who attended Punahou (called Oahu College at the time) from 1905 - 1907. David went on to work as treasurer for the Kamehameha Finance Company and became a successful Honolulu businessman. Julia was born in Kona and was a dedicated social worker for Palama Settlement.
The Deshas were kind and caring people who devoted much of their lives to the support and advancement of the Hawaiian community. David's success in business enabled him to support numerous students at Kamehameha Schools who would not have otherwise been able to afford the full costs of attending.
Shortly after her husband passed away, Julia sowed the seeds for future philanthropic contributions through her 1967 estate plan. When she passed away 12 years later at the age of 86, the income from her estate funded a trust that would provide income to her family for 34 years. When her last named beneficiary, step-daughter Miriam Desha Dowson, died at the age of 92 in November 2013, the trust terminated and Punahou School received the remainder in 2014 - a bequest of more than $500,000.

The beauty of this planned gift is the impact it has had and will continue to have on so many generations. For more than three decades, Julia's trust provided income for the named beneficiaries in her family. Now, her generous bequest is advancing the art of teaching through faculty professional development; creating innovative learning environments including the construction of a new neighborhood for students in grades 2 - 5; and supporting extraordinary students through financial aid for qualified applicants whose families would not otherwise be able to afford a Punahou tuition.

110 years after David Lester Desha studied at Oahu College, his widow's bequest is helping Punahou to fulfill its aspirations as a global thought leader in 21st-century education.