A Lifetime of Caring

Lori Kam ’81 and Bob Harrison

Even now, 35 years after she graduated, Lori Kam ’81 Harrison’s voice wavers with emotion when she talks about Punahou. It’s not just memories of her days here, but the abiding friendships and connections that have meant so much to her through the years.

It’s not just the beauty of the Lily Pond or the sweeping views of mountains and sea, or the glorious moments of shared community at Flaming “P” celebrations, or learning how to waltz for the Holoku Pageant.

And it’s not just sharing conversations with classmates on Facebook, or helping to plan this year’s Class of 1981 Reunion (where her father, Wilfred ’46, her brother, Randy ’76, and her daughter, Nicole ’16, also celebrated with their classes), or seeing her children excel in their own right as Punahou students and graduates. It’s all of it.

“Bringing people back into Punahou has been a great joy,” she says. “One of my classmates, we play Scrabble on our phones. Another told me that people she never talked to before at school are now her friends, and she’s connected because of social media and Reunion. People just get so much support from one another.

“I get teary-eyed almost every single time I talk about Punahou. It was just everything. It’s family. It’s home.”

To honor this sense of family and home, Lori and her husband, Bob Harrison, chairman and CEO of First Hawaiian Bank, have created a fund to support professional development for Punahou faculty. Their commitment grew out of Lori’s deep feelings for her School, and for the extraordinary teaching their three children – Timothy ’07, Julie ’09 and Nicole ’16 – received.

“There is nothing more important to us than being able to continue this kind of experience for other children,” says Lori. “Because Punahou has such amazing teachers, we feel it has an obligation to foster their growth and also to take it out to the community. The dedication that faculty and staff have to the School and the students is so incredible.”

For Bob, who first arrived in Hawai‘i in the U.S. Navy in 1980 and met Lori afterward in college, supporting the School and its teachers is simply an extension of the connections the whole family has with Punahou.

“We wanted to contribute in some way and teacher professional development really jumped out for us because it has the most direct impact on the kids,” he says. “It’s just been a terrific experience watching our children pursue their own paths in a world-class environment. It makes you appreciate what a gift it is. And the fact that one of our own daughters has a calling to be a teacher has made it resonate even more.”

Both Bob and Lori studied at the University of Hawai‘i, meeting in a chemistry lab where Lori describes her future husband as the “go-to guy” for help with tough chem problems. They completed undergraduate work on the West Coast, then married and moved to Ithaca, New York, where Bob did graduate work at Cornell and Lori launched her nursing career before completing a masters at the University of Pennsylvania.

Returning home in 1990, she reconnected with her Punahou classmates. “Our class, in particular, has stayed cohesive and together,” she reflects. “Remember how Principal Win Healy always had an adjective for the graduating class? Ours was ‘The Caring Class.’ At our graduation I don’t know how many times we stood up and gave standing ovations, thanking, with enthusiastic applause, our parents, teachers, faculty, dean and friends. It was all so spontaneous and heartfelt.This was the way of our class, and this is the support we learned at Punahou.”