Marines and Sailors trained for what has been referred to as the toughest marine offensive of WWII. 1,300 miles northeast of Guadalcanal, the Japanese had constructed a centralized stronghold force in a 20-island group called Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands.
The Marines would reconstitute at Camp Tarawa at Waimea, on the Island of Hawaiʻi. Originally an Army camp named Camp Waimea, when the population in town was about 400, it became the largest Marine training facility in the Pacific following the battle of Tarawa.
Huge tent cities were built on Parker Ranch land; the public school and the hotel across the road from it were turned into a 400-bed hospital. At first the school children attended classes in garages and on lanais, but by fall of 1944, Waimea School was housed in new buildings built by Seabees on the property behind St. James’ church.
Over 50,000-servicemen trained there between 1942 and 1945; it closed in November 1945. The new roads, reservoirs and buildings were left to the town. The public school children returned to Waimea School, and the buildings behind St. James’ stood empty … but not for long.
At the end of World War II, the Right Reverend Harry S Kennedy arrived. He was a builder of congregations and of schools, and when he saw the empty buildings at St. James’, he immediately saw possibilities.
March 12, 1949, Bishop Kennedy and a group of local businessmen turned the buildings into a church-sponsored boarding school for boys, Hawaiʻi Episcopal Academy. The Episcopal priest was both headmaster of the school and vicar of St. James’ Mission.
The early school struggled with facilities and financing. A turning point came in 1954, when James Monroe Taylor left Choate School in Connecticut to become HPA headmaster.
Three years later, substantial financial pledges came in and the church surrendered its direction to a new governing board. The school was then independently incorporated and the name changed to Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy.
In January 1958, the board of governors purchased 55-acres of land in the foothills mauka of the Kawaihae-Kohala junction and announced plans to build a campus there. Within a year, two dorms opened on the new campus and another was cut and moved from the town campus.
Old Air Force buses driven by faculty members made daily runs between the new campus, where boarders ate and slept, and the old campus, where classes were held. The last class to graduate on the town campus was the Class of 1959.
Honolulu architect Vladimir N Ossipoff was retained to design the campus buildings – five classroom buildings, two residence halls, a chapel, a library, an administration building and a dining commons.
In 1976, HPA acquired the buildings of the former Waimea Village Inn in town. Growing out of the “Little School” founded in 1958 by Mrs T to accommodate children of HPA faculty in the lower grades, the Village Campus today houses HPA’s Lower and Middle Schools, encompassing kindergarten through eighth grade.
In the 1980s, 30-acres of Parker Ranch land were added to the Upper Campus. Besides the Village Campus, the school added the Institute for English Studies and a campus in Kailua-Kona for grades K-5. (The Kona campus became the independent Hualālai Academy, but it closed effective May 30, 2014.)
Building projects expanding the HPA facilities included Atherton House, the headmaster’s residence, Gates Performing Arts Center, Dowsett Pool, Gerry Clark Art Center, Davenport Music Center, Kō Kākou Student Union, faculty housing and the Energy Lab.
Starting with five boarding students in a World War II building, today, there are 600 students (approximate annual enrollment) – 200 in Lower and Middle Schools (100% day students) – 400 in Upper School (50% day, 50% boarding) ; Boarding students: 60% U.S., 40% international.
HPA is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and is a member of 12 educational organizations including the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, College Entrance Examination Board, Council for Spiritual and Ethical Education, Cum Laude Society, National Association of College Admission Counselors, Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, and National Association of Independent Schools. (Information here from HPA and St James.)
I am one of the fortunate boys-turned-to-young-men under the leadership and guidance of headmaster Jim Taylor.