Spring 2009 - Department | Editor’s Note
My father graduated in 1953 with 67 male buddies. My husband received his diploma in 1979 along with 152 other boys. Then, in 1982, my brother belonged to the class that graduated 160 boys and just two girls.
Today, however, my daughters belong to the Class of 2010 and my sons to the Class of 2021. Their ‘Iolani is fully coeducational with an equal ratio of boys to girls. My own children and their classmates can’t fathom that a generation ago ‘Iolani excluded females.
High school memories are like home base. It doesn’t matter whether only boys, or boys and girls, inhabited that home. Each graduate and student has an ‘Iolani experience unique to his or her own life, yet somehow these experiences are connected.
My father reminisces about the old Nuuanu campus where wooden buildings, like Willis Hall and Iaukea Hall, with oiled floors and damp walls rattled in the winds from the Pali. He belonged to the last class to graduate from the pup-sized campus downstream from Kapena Falls.
The social scene was different for an all-male school in the 1940s and 50s, compared to a co-ed school today. Back then, those ‘Iolani boys toted dance cards to socials where they met pretty girls from St. Andrew’s Priory, Roosevelt, or McKinley. Some rascals even took the lei left on headstones at the nearby cemetery to give to their dates.
‘Iolani was still an all-boys institution when my husband and brother came through its ranks, though females on campus had become more prevalent.
Some girls took summer school at ‘Iolani. Others took ‘Iolani’s Advanced Placement courses. Girls from other schools graced campus during the carnival and Homecoming and were cast in ‘Iolani school musicals. Athletic and attractive ladies from ‘Iolani’s sister schools stepped in as cheer and song leaders. Social clubs gave the ‘Iolani guys lots of chances to meet their steadies.
Then along came September 4, 1979 – the first day that girls enrolled as full-time students. Leslie Wilcox was a cub reporter for KGMB when she called the event “historic” and a “new era.” News footage from back then reveals girls walking about campus in flocks, wearing dresses with hemlines at their knees, hair flipped back like Charlie’s Angels. In the hallways, boys in collared shirts looked on and hurriedly moved aside to let them pass.
Wilcox interviewed one of the first girls. New ninth grader Meri Mika Morisada ’83 sweetly and nervously explained that her older brother, an ‘Iolani student, gave her a bit of advice for her first day of school. He told her to be herself, because the boys were just as nervous as she was.
Today, Meri Mika Morisada is a pediatrician with a thriving private practice, married to an ‘Iolani math teacher, and a mother of two. Yes, those pioneer girls have grown up. They paved the way for successive girls, like my daughters.
Now preparations for the ‘Iolani graduation ceremony involve ordering blazers and holoku gowns. The gymnasium is shared by boys and girls teams. The Homecoming Court is presided over by a king and a queen from ‘Iolani’s student body. The school no longer puts out calls for outside girls to audition for school plays. ‘Iolani has plenty of girls from its own roll calls to choose from.
Next winter, spider silk biologist Dr. Cheryl Hayashi ’85 will return to campus to fulfill a teaching residency as the 2010 Keables Chair holder. Harold Keables taught in the Boys Only chapter of ‘Iolani’s history. What would he think of an alumna carrying on his legacy? He’d be proud.
If someone had told my father and his classmates back in 1953 that someday their males only ‘Iolani would open to girls, maybe even their own granddaughters, their reaction would have been, “No way.”
After all, boys will be boys and ‘Iolani chapters are still being written.
Comments from Readers
Here a remark to your last paragraph "No way"
I was just reading some of the articles in the Imua Iolani and came to realize that Iolani was just "Iolani" between 1949 and 1953. No specific activitis going on,, like Iolani today. No band like today. We had only 5 guys in the Iolani band playing at all football games, I am ashame now saying i was in the Iolani band. We had no band leader. We had to borrow a band leader from Central Intermediate school. Shame. Many activities going on with first place prizes. Did we have them than? No!
All I can say is we went to school and went home without partricipating in all diff activities that today's Iolanians are participating. many awards. Never heard of awards. Today. we or I do not read or hear about the '53 greads. Two only Clarence "China" Lee and Tamotsu Tanaka. Was not close to Tamotsu but seems like he did well for Iolani, So did China Lee. Still is helping with designing etc. I am proud of the present Iolani but all I can is I am happy I attended Iolani when I did and see the good present day and I know Iolani will be better in the future.