Bernice Pauahi Bishop, a daughter of Hawaiian royalty, was offered the throne of her Pacific land in 1872 but refused it, preferring to pursue good works through her private means and devout Christian faith. She inherited ancestral land that eventually made her the largest property owner in the islands, and her husband, Charles, was very successful in business. They both put much of their energy and wealth into helping others, and drew up wills to make sure their estates would also eventually be devoted to worthy causes.
With the lion’s share of her bequest, Bernice established the Kamehameha Schools to provide native Hawaiians with “a good education…and also instruction in morals and in such useful knowledge as may tend to make good and industrious men and women.” After her death from breast cancer Charles set to work making her schools a reality. A boys’ facility opened in 1887, following by a girls’ counterpart. Today the Kamehameha Schools remain the state’s largest private landowner, controlling 365,000 acres. The organization’s total endowment of $9 billion makes it one of the best-financed charities in the nation, allowing it to educate more than 7,000 children every year at almost no charge to their families.
- Bernice Pauahi Bishop profile in the Philanthropy Hall of Fame, philanthropyroundtable.org/almanac/hall_of_fame/bernice_pauahi_bishop
- Bernice Bishop’s will, ksbe.edu/about_us/about_pauahi/will