Ke Ali‘i Bernice Pauahi Bishop created Kamehameha Schools to instill in her people the tools needed to thrive in a rapidly changing world. After 129 years, Pauahi’s vision for a thriving lāhui continues to guide and inspire KS as it strives to ensure success for Native Hawaiian learners.
November 4 marks the official commemoration date of the founding of Kamehameha Schools.
In the fall of 1887, preparations for the school’s opening were nearly complete. A workshop, dining hall, and the first two dormitories had been built at the Kaiwi‘ula campus, where the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum stands today.
Principal William B. Oleson then extended an invitation to all Hawaiian boys over the age of 12 to take the admission test and on October 3, 37 thirty-seven boys arrived on campus to begin their schooling instruction. One month after welcoming its first students, the official dedication ceremony for the Kamehameha School for Boys was held on November 4, 1887.
The school’s English instructor Dr. Donald Kilolani Mitchell later wrote in his publication “Kū Kilakila ‘O Kamehameha: A Historical Account of the Campuses of the Kamehameha Schools” that:
King Kalākaua addressed the boys in Hawaiian and his remarks were then translated into English. He told the boys that ‘the name the school bears is the name of one who was famous first of all for habits of industry in the fields before he became famous as a warrior.’ He emphasized that it was not simply the work of the hands that would lead to success in life, but the intelligence for which His Majesty urged the boys to strive.
Queen Kapi‘olani and other members of the royal family were also in attendance that day, among other school and community leaders as well as nearby residents of Honolulu.
The Kamehameha School for Boys initially began as a three-year program, offering instruction in arithmetic, geometry, algebra, English language, original composition, bookkeeping, geography, freehand drawing, penmanship, vocal music, and “law of health and moral instruction.” Manual training courses were available in carpentry, blacksmithing, woodcutting, and agriculture.
In the early months of the school, Charles Reed Bishop noticed that many of the eligible boys who were applying for admission failed to pass the entrance examination. To address this problem, Mr. Bishop presented the Trustees with a plan to expand the school by providing additional boarding and educational opportunities to even younger students. He also hoped this would aid the underserved population of orphaned and homeless children.
Mr. Bishop erected the necessary facilities and provided for the initial operating costs at his own expense. This added branch of the Boys School became known as the Kamehameha Schools Preparatory Department, the precursor of today’s Kamehameha Elementary and Middle Schools.
October 31, 2016
On October 31, 1883, Ke Ali‘i Bernice Pauahi Bishop signed her last will and testament establishing within the thirteenth codicil the charitable trust, Kamehameha Schools.