By Catherine Black ’94
How Dana Haimoff ’87 entered Punahou is a telling illustration of the independence and drive that would make her one of the most successful women in private equity investing today. “I was at another school but really wanted to go to Punahou for high school,” she remembers, “so I went to my headmaster and asked if he would write me a letter to help me get in.” He did, and although Punahou had not initially accepted her application, she received a response from the admissions office saying that if she attended summer school and passed an introductory science course with a B or higher, she could enroll.
“Looking back, I probably only took advantage of half the things I could have at Punahou, but what I appreciate so much about it was the fact that you were encouraged to pursue anything you were interested in. Punahou really opens you up to a love of learning that then accompanies you throughout your life,” she says.
While Haimoff’s older brother, Damon ’85, got involved with ITV and was “the guy who always had a camera on his shoulder” (he went on to found one of the country’s leading providers of live broadcast services), she glimpsed her own professional future during a semester-long internship with Alexander & Baldwin. “I worked in the mailroom and purchasing, but pushing the mail cart around all five floors was a great way to learn about the company’s different groups – strategy, finance, property development – things I didn’t fully appreciate until I got to college and was studying business, but realized I had already learned so much about during my senior year at Punahou,” she says.
That taste of professional life in the real world of bustling downtown Honolulu eventually put Haimoff on a path to investment banking, first with Merrill Lynch in New York and later at J.P. Morgan, where she currently handles private equity funds as a managing director in the company’s London office. She met her husband in England, and the two were married at Punahou’s Thurston Memorial Chapel in 2005 in a ceremony officiated by former Punahou chaplain, John Heidel.
While Haimoff now lives on the other side of the globe, her loyalty to Punahou runs deep. She co-hosted the inaugural gathering of the Punahou Alumni Association in Europe, and helped to organize the School’s 175th anniversary celebration kickoff in London in July 2015. Though she holds degrees from Skidmore College and Columbia University, Punahou is the school she feels most inspired to give back to, and in 2012 she established a generous endowed financial aid fund in honor of her children – Dakota, Calvin and Sierra – to celebrate her 25th Reunion.
“I feel I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am without a Punahou education, but more importantly this is where I think I can have the most impact because this is where it starts. Getting a solid foundation is so important for children in their early developmental stages,” she says.
Haimoff is also a passionate advocate of supporting financial aid because, “Especially today, when there’s a growing separation in the U.S. economy between the haves and the have-nots, it can be so hard to give your child a great education. To me financial aid is about giving someone an opportunity who wouldn’t necessarily have the chance, but who’s highly talented. Because the thing about talent and passion and drive is that these things don’t necessarily come with affluence.”