Ke Ali'i Pauahi

Ke Ali'i Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop (1831-1884)
Founder of Kamehameha Schools

Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop was a visionary — a person of unusually keen foresight. She lived more than 175 years ago, and was a woman of intelligence and compassion who understood that her kuleana as a Hawaiian ali'i was to serve her people.

Pauahi Pākī was born December 19, 1831 in Honolulu, Hawai'i to High Chiefs Abner Pākī and Laura Kōnia Pākī. She was the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I, the warrior chief who united all the islands of Hawai'i under his rule in 1810.

Educated by American Protestant missionaries, Pauahi married a young American named Charles Reed Bishop from Glens Falls, New York. He was a widely respected and successful businessman who, through banking, real estate, and other investments, became one of the wealthiest and philanthropic men in the kingdom.

As the last royal descendant of the Kamehameha line, Pauahi inherited thousands of acres of land, much of it from the estate of her cousin Princess Ruth Ke'elikōlani. Her inheritance, about 9 percent of the island chain's total acreage, made Pauahi the largest landholder in the kingdom.

When Pauahi was born in 1831, the native population numbered about 124,000. When she wrote her will in 1883, only 44,000 Hawaiians remained. Pauahi witnessed great changes in the Hawaiian Kingdom, many of which contributed to the rapid decline of Native Hawaiians. She believed education could offer her people hope and a future, and that must certainly have influenced her decision to leave her entire estate for the education of Hawaii's children.

At the time of Pauahi's death on October 16, 1884, her estate comprised some 375,500 acres of land assessed at about $474,000. Today, Kamehameha Schools' endowment includes nearly 365,800 acres of Hawai'i land and combined with other assets is valued at more than $6 billion. Her endowment supports the largest independent pre-kindergarten through grade 12 school in the United States and an educational system that serves thousands of students throughout the state of Hawai'i.

Excerpted with permission from Kamehameha Schools (c) 1996-2010.