The Legacy of a princess

Kamehameha Schools was founded by the will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha the Great.

Pauahi Legacy
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HomeI MUA Newsroom Founder’s Day inspires us to emulate the foresight and generosity of Princess Pauahi
Founder's Day Falls on Tuesday, December 19. This year, let us be inspired by Pauahi's selfless leadership – deeply rooted in her Hawaiian and Christian values – and try to instill those values in ourselves, our families and our communities.
Founder’s Day inspires us to emulate the foresight and generosity of Princess Pauahi

Kamehameha Schools founder Ke Ali‘i Bernice Pauahi Bishop cared deeply for her people, her lands, and her culture. It is her lasting legacy that we will celebrate on the day of her birth – December 19.

This year, let us be inspired by her selfless leadership – deeply rooted in Hawaiian and Christian values – and try to instill those values in ourselves, our families and our communities.

To understand the magnitude of Pauahi’s generosity and to appreciate the gift of education she bequeathed to her people, here is a glimpse of the state of her homeland during her lifetime.

What motivated Pauahi to create Kamehameha Schools?

Dr. George Kanahele – 1948 KS alumnus and author of “Pauahi” – succinctly describes our princess’ world when she penned her will. Kanahele writes:

“It is necessary to keep in mind the general despair of the Hawaiian people when she was writing her will, for if any people needed help in 1883-1884, it was nā kānaka Hawai‘i. First of all, Hawaiians faced the threat of physical extinction. In 1831 when Pauahi was born, there had been 124,500 Hawaiians, and now there were 40,000 left.

“Economically, they had lost or sold their lands, had been driven out of the traditional occupations, and had been forced to compete on uneven terms.

“Socially, the family system had broken down, drunkenness, crime, juvenile delinquency multiplied with absentee fathers, divorce, and orphans. It is no wonder that psychologically many Hawaiians were now cripples having lost much of their sense of identity and self-esteem.

“Culturally, the once strong fabric of religious beliefs and symbols, of music and the hula, of crafts and games – all came unraveled. By 1883 even the language was slowly dying being replaced by English.”


Our beloved Pauahi was a visionary. In the midst of the despair that plagued her people in the nineteenth century, she knew that future Hawaiians, by working hard and having the proper tools and guidance, would be able to retain their proud heritage. She believed in giving successive generations a means to becoming people who exhibited the same kind of honor and courage as did her great grandfather, Kamehameha I.

Ke Ali‘i Pauahi’s gift to her people was much more than just a school. The opportunity to learn and become educated offered them the autonomy to choose how they could best contribute as a good and industrious citizens of the world.

Today, nā pua a Pauahi are thriving – improving the world as leaders grounded in their Hawaiian identity – and uplifting our communities as educators, doctors, legislators, innovators, ecologists, cultural practitioners, artists and so much more!

Kamehameha employee ‘ohana members both past and present have honored Pauahi by perpetuating her legacy of education and mālama ‘āina by inviting like-minded community partners to the table to help us build a strong and vibrant lāhui.

This Founder’s Day, let us honor our princess by imparting kind and generous gestures of our own. Each of us has the power within us to do great things and to inspire great change. Together we can create a bright future with boundless possibilities!

To view more Founder's Day photos, see our photo gallery, "Founder’s Day through the years."

Kamehameha Schools founder Ke Ali‘i Bernice Pauahi Bishop cared deeply for her people, her lands, and her culture. It is her lasting legacy that we will celebrate on her birthday, December 19. This Founder’s Day, let us be inspired by Pauahi's selfless leadership – deeply rooted in her Hawaiian and Christian values – and instill those values in ourselves, our families and our communities. Each of us has the power within us to do great things and to inspire great change. Together we can create a bright future with boundless possibilities. Mahalo e Pauahi! I Mua Kamehameha!

What Does Founder’s Day Mean to You?
Kamehameha Schools alumni share sentiments about their beloved Princess as the KS ʻohana prepares to celebrate her day of birth.

“For me, Founder’s Day is a special day to reflect and give thanks to Ke Aliʻi Bernice Pauahi Bishop for all she has done for me and my ʻohana. On this day, I am reminded that I’m part of her legacy and need to graciously live each day serving and loving others.”

- Debbie Lau Okamura KSK’72

“On Founder’s Day, we show our respect to Ke Ali‘i Bernice Pauahi Bishop for her vision of creating Kamehameha Schools, and I am thankful for the opportunity to have attended. It is also a time to reconnect with alumni and sing songs honoring our princess.”

- Mark Crabbe KSK’80

“Founder’s Day is a time to pause from the hustle, and honor Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Both of my parents are class of 1972 graduates and met in their junior year at Kamehameha Schools. Furthermore, my wife and I are also alumni, so if it wasn’t for the aloha of Princess Pauahi my family – or myself for that matter – would probably not exist. So I have a lot to mahalo Pauahi for!

- Daniel Ikaika Ito KSK’99

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