Lives of Passion and Purpose: How four Punahou alumni are thriving — physically, mentally, professionally — well into their 80s.
Story by Camila Chaudron ’08
Photos by Kathleen Connelly
Defining success in education is difficult: What does success look like for our students? How can educators optimize success in the classroom? Punahou parents, teachers, administrators and students are continually re-examining notions of success to create healthier, more balanced learning environments. Yet narrowing down the meaning of success always begets more questions than answers.
One way to measure a school’s success is through its alumni. What types of skills do Punahou alumni possess? What values do they hold dear? What are their attitudes toward learning? How have they fared in life? How have they defined and generated success?
More and more, society is again turning its attention toward its elders for answers to life’s big questions. Just recently, scrolling through my Facebook feed, I stumbled upon a video of a gymnast in her 90s who can land flips most teens would never dream of attempting; the story of an environmental scientist, well past retirement age, who discovered a more efficient method for growing coral reefs; and a New York Times feature on a grandmother who still runs competitively. Clearly, the AARP campaign to #DisruptAging is onto something.
And yet, you don’t have to look far to see Punahou alumni of the same caliber. From a surfing ophthalmologist to a long-distance runner, and from a practicing lawyer to a big-time hiker, the four alumni featured here are all in their 80s and still pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
By refocusing on the more experienced and resilient among us, these profiles can serve as case studies in how the School’s alumni have achieved their own definitions of success, and embody the Aims of a Punahou Education by living lives of passion and purpose.
See related profiles about Peg Deschwanden ’48 Foster, Beadie Kanahele ’47 Dawson and Kit Smith ’52.
Malcolm Ing ’52
It’s a late weekday afternoon and Dr. Malcolm Ing ’52 is busy at work in his office. He is still updating patient profiles when we meet for a chat to reflect on his life and his long career as an ophthalmologist. Cloaked in a crisp white laboratory coat, Ing strides agilely across the clinic. His office looks out over a gorgeous panorama of swaying palm trees, the cool blue waters of Ala Moana Beach Park stretching out into the distance. On the wall facing the beachfront hangs a large photograph of a surfer gliding across a perfectly breaking wave; a beautiful wood-paneled surfboard hangs in the anteroom, imbuing the modern facility with a classic surf aesthetic.
By almost every measure, Ing has achieved success and could happily live out a quiet retirement with his wife. “But why would I want to stop?” he recalls telling Harvard University classmates at their recent 60th alumni reunion. And indeed, Ing remains very much in motion. At 82, he is a practicing surgeon, researcher and Ophthalmology Chair at John A. Burns School of Medicine at University of Hawai‘i.
Ing’s persistence and drive have kept him on the cutting edge of innovation throughout his long career. The eye doctor, who has performed corrective surgeries on over 6,000 patients, recently learned and became certified to operate using the latest laser technology, which he uses to treat patients with glaucoma. He was also the featured keynote speaker at the 2015 International Ophthalmology Conference, presenting a rare 20-year follow-up study on best practices for treating childhood vision impairments.
Ing hadn’t always dreamed of becoming a doctor. When he was a student at Punahou, he liked his science teachers, but he was more interested in visual arts and had hoped to become a painter. However, his father, a physician, convinced young Malcolm to study pre-med as an undergraduate. Now Ing sees his work as a doctor as his unique brand of artistry. “Ironically, surgery is a form of art,” Ing says, and it’s a form of art that can change lives. Ing’s pioneering research work in the field of childhood visual development has helped countless children born with strabismus (cross-eye) regain control of their vision.
Surfing is another art form that Ing practices regularly. At least twice a week, the fit octogenarian paddles out to local breaks like Bowls or Kewalos on his 8-foot-6 fiberglass longboard, taking time to immerse himself in the restorative energy of the ocean. “If you’re going to be successful, it’s your responsibility to keep yourself in good health,” Ing says of the importance of work-life balance.
Not to be outdone, Ing also competes in local surf competitions, entering what he jokingly calls the “Medicare Division.” But that doesn’t stop Ing from charging big waves – in early March, he and his friends paddled into high surf at Hale‘iwa. “It was 8 to 10 feet and glassy – enough to make the hair on your head rise!” The photograph of that graceful surfer hanging on his office wall? “That’s me,” he says with pride. Surf is clearly more than an aesthetic; for Ing, surfing is an important lifestyle choice.
“Your body is your temple,” he reflects, taking a serious tone. This philosophy has worked well for Ing, who employs a very active approach to maintaining both his physical and mental health. He doesn’t smoke, is careful to minimize sun exposure, and eats a balanced diet. After all, the doctor says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Live in the Moment
Punahou alumni are arguably one of the strongest testaments to the enduring legacy of passion and purpose that spring forth from Ka Punahou.
As to the question of how to make success possible, we need only to listen to the advice of these inspirational octogenarians: “Plan ahead,” says Ing. “Keep on moving,” recommends Foster. “Listen, forgive, and pay it forward,” advises Dawson. And finally, “live in the moment,” Smith says with earnest. You never know how life will turn out, so do your best and “carpe diem.”
Camila Chaudron ’08 is an English teacher in the Academy.