Learning Commons Leaders: Marcia Reed ’54 Wythes

Two extraordinary alumni recently stepped forward to support the innovative vision behind the Junior School Learning Commons: Patrick Quilter ’64 and Marcia Reed ’54 Wythes. Both currently live in California, and they graduated from Punahou 10 years apart from one another. But more importantly, they share a deep sense of gratitude to the School for providing them with the personal and intellectual foundation that would shape their futures. Their generosity is in turn laying the foundation for this historic facility, which will be the creative and innovative heart of the Junior School when it opens in the fall of 2019.

Read additional stories in this feature about Pat Quilter ’64

Marcia Reed ’54 Wythes experienced Punahou at one of its most unusual historical moments and still credits the School with providing an outstanding education that continues to inspire her today. She arrived as a kindergartner in 1941, only months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor resulted in the Army Corps of Engineers’ takeover of campus for the duration of World War II. Wythes, who was born in Shanghai where her father worked for many years, quickly got used to attending classes first at a private home in Manoa, and then at the University of Hawai’i Teacher’s College through her third-grade year.

“It wasn’t a bad experience at that age,” she reflects. “There was a playground, sandboxes and swings.” One of her memories from that time was during lunch, when then-President John Fox came to visit the class. “I saw this girl run over to him and give him a big hug and he hugged right back, and that girl turned out to be his daughter, Mary Bell Fox ’54 Blackstone,” she says. Wythes and Blackstone soon developed a strong friendship that persists to this day, and long afternoons playing together at the President’s Home on Rocky Hill are among Wythes’ treasured memories from Punahou.

After attending the University of Washington and the University of Geneva in Switzerland, Wythes moved to California, where she met her now late husband, Paul. The two married in 1961 and eventually made their home in Atherton, where he founded one of the first venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. Nevertheless, thanks to longstanding friendships and regular visits to Hawai’i, her ties to Punahou have remained strong throughout the years.

Wythes has been a committed philanthropist in her community, as well as an active member of Punahou’s volunteer Bay Area Advancement Council. She created an endowed financial aid fund during her 50th Reunion in 2004, and recently made a leadership gift to support the Junior School Learning Commons.

“I’ve always had a really soft spot in my heart for Punahou, because it was such a big part of my life,” she says, noting that her teachers in particular were of the highest caliber. “I was inspired to make this gift because I asked myself, what is really important to me, what has meant a lot?”