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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, August 30, 2001

Hawaii Prep headmaster ready to move on

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

WAIMEA, Hawai'i — In his 23 years at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, John Colson has done it all.

He arrived as a teacher, coach and counselor in 1979 and later served as athletic director before becoming headmaster in 1991.

Colson informed the HPA Board of Governors last summer that he would step down at the end of the 2001-2002 school year.

In a recent Advertiser interview, Colson said he will move to California to help launch the high school portion of a private school near Lake Tahoe that will focus on teaching challenged youth.

His adopted son will be reaching high school by then and will require the kind of attention such a school will provide.

"This is strictly a personal decision," Colson said.

His announcement was not quickly accepted, said attorney Randy Vitousek of Waimea, himself an HPA graduate and now chair of the search committee for a headmaster.

Vitousek said the governors first tried to talk Colson out of leaving but respected his decision by accepting his resignation with regret.

HPA is a private school established after World War II by the Episcopal Church, becoming independent along the way.

While it started as a boarding school for boys only, it now has a mix of day students and boarders — boys and girls. It offers a rigorous college preparatory program with an emphasis on participating in all extracurricular activities, from music and acting to athletics. Each student is required to be involved in a sports program every quarter.

Most faculty teach and coach, as has Colson, who still works as an assistant girls' basketball coach.

The quiet Colson took HPA from "a small country school into one of the finest independent educational institutions in the state," said Michael Fujimoto, an alumni and chairman of the governors.

Among the noted products is Vitousek's brother, Peter, a Stanford University researcher. He was singled out by Time magazine recently as one of "America's Best" 18 minds.

During Colson's tenure, the school raised $10 million in a drive to create "a legacy for the new millennium."

Among new projects will be a science and technology center, a faculty development center and a new home for the Institute of English Studies.

Hawaii Prep has long mixed sports and academics. Gordon Bryson, its upper school or high school principal, in the same year was chosen Big Island football coach of the year and statewide English teacher of the year.

The student body comes from throughout Hawai'i, including sons and daughters of Parker Ranch employees, as well as 18 other states and 14 other countries.