“Mid-Pacific Institute is unqualifiedly Christian. It is the fruitage of missionary enterprise and cherishes the legacy which the mission fathers and mothers have passed on to it.”
“Even possible educational advantage such as good teachers, supervised study, small classes, and an uplifting home environment, are afforded its pupils but its real claim for its right to exist and receive the support of its friends is the emphasis it places upon Christian character-building.”
“The land, buildings and endowment are the gifts of Christian men and women; the love, vision and faith which gave it birth are Christian; its purpose and ideals are Christian. Many of the students come from non-Christian homes and their first introduction to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ is received here.”
“All students attend Sunday School and Church services in the city churches. Daily chapel services are held in each department while live Christian Endeavor and Mission societies give the students ample opportunity for self-expression.”
“Mid-Pacific Institute owes its birth to the vision, enthusiasm and tireless energy of Francis W Damon. With an abiding faith in the need of such an institution he persistently and patiently urged its claims until others caught his spirit and in 1905 the Hawaiian Board of Missions sanctioned it and appointed the first Board of Managers.”
“Unlike most institutions Mid-Pacific came into life full-grown, for it was made up of schools which had already made valuable contributions to the education of Hawaii’s youth – Kawaiahaʻo Seminary for girls and Mills School for boys.”
“Mills School came into being through the efforts of Mr. Damon, who was then Superintendent of Chinese work for the Hawaiian Board, to make it possible for worthy Chinese boys from the country districts to find both a school and a home.” (John Hopwood, Mid-Pacific President, April 1923)
Kawaiaha‘o Female Seminary
In 1863, missionaries Mr. and Mrs. Luther Gulick started a boarding school for girls in Kaʻū. This was continued at Waiohinu for two years, but was moved to Oʻahu. The Gulicks’ school was established “to teach the principles of Christianity, domestic science, and the ways and usages of western civilization.”
Mrs. Gulick felt that her opportunity had come. No one else could begin the school. She had been longing for more missionary work to do, and now the door was open. She writes: “Opened school this morning with eight scholars.” (The Friend)
In 1867, the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society (HMCS – an organization consisting of the children of the missionaries and adopted supporters) decided to support a girls’ boarding school. An early advertisement (April 13, 1867) notes it was called Honolulu Female Academy.
It started with boarders and day students, but after 1871 it has been exclusively a boarding school. “Under her patient energy and tact, with the help of her assistants, it prospered greatly, and became a success.” (Coan)
At first the school was designed to prepare Hawaiian girls to become ‘suitable’ wives for men who were at the same time preparing to become missionaries and work in the South Seas.
This objective took the back seat to industrial education as new industrial departments were added. This included sewing, washing and ironing, dressmaking, domestic arts and nursing.
Kawaiahaʻo Seminary continued to grow over the years and the student body was drawn from all over the islands and from all racial groups; some of the scholars included members of the royal family. (Attendance averaged over a hundred per year, with the largest number of pupils appears to have been in 1889, when 144 names were on the rolls.)
Mills School for Boys (Mills Institute)
Mills School for Boys was started as a small downtown missionary school in 1892, by Mr. and Mrs. Francis W Damon (descendant of missionary Rev Samuel C Damon), who took into their home a number of Chinese boys with the aim of giving them a Christian education.
Frank Damon, who was born in Hawai‘i, toured the world with Henry Carter, and married Mary Happer, a missionary’s daughter, who had been born and reared in Kuangzhou, China, and spoke fluent Cantonese. Frank Damon was appointed by the Hawaiian Evangelical Association as the superintendent of Chinese work in 1881. (Fan)
“(S)ix Chinese youths fired with the passion for knowledge, knocked at the door of the Damon home in Honolulu and asked to be taken in and taught. A room was found, instruction began, the six multiplied slowly until they have become more than four hundred who have found Mills a blessed home of light and truth.”
“The influence of this school upon our Territory can never be told. Its graduates are found in all walks of life, occupying positions of influence here, on the Pacific coast and in China.” (The Friend, October 1905)
Bringing The Two Together
Kawaiahaʻo Seminary and Mills School had much in common – they were home schools; founded by missionary couples; and had boarding of students.
With these commonalities, in 1905, a merger of the two was suggested, forming a co-educational institution in the same facility.
In order to accommodate a combined school, the Hawaiian Board of Foreign Missions purchased the Kidwell estate, about 35-acres of land in Mānoa valley.
Through gifts by GN Wilcox, JB Atherton and others, on May 31, 1906, a ceremony was held in Mānoa Valley for the new school campus – just above what is now the University of Hawaiʻi (the UH campus was not started in the Mānoa location until 1912.)
By 1908, the first building was completed, and the school was officially operated as Mid-Pacific Institute, consisting of Kawaiahaʻo School for Girls and Damon School for Boys.
Initially, while the two schools moved to the same campus, they essentially went their separate ways there for years; they had different curricula, different academic standards and different policies.
Finally, in the fall of 1922, a new coeducational plan went into effect – likewise, ‘Mills’ and ‘Kawaiahaʻo’ were dropped, and by June 1923, Mid-Pacific became the common, shared name.
In November 2003, the school decided to terminate its on-campus dormitory (which had existed since 1908). Epiphany School, established in 1937 as a small mission school by the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, merged with Mid-Pacific Institute in 2004.