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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 31, 2002

Gift helps open Iolani doors to all

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

During the past decade, million-dollar endowment gifts from the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation have enabled an increasing number of qualified, underprivileged children to get educations at private institutions in Hawai'i.

"One of their criteria is that we use the money for financial needibased scholarships, said Dr. Val Iwashita, headmaster at Iolani School, the latest Weinberg Foundation recipient. "These scholarships are not merit-based. That's something we want and need to do more of as much as possible."

A need-based gift, said Iwashita, reflects both the school's and the foundation's desire to allow students to attend Iolani "who wouldn't ordinarily even think about coming."

Other schools that have received the seven-figure gifts include Le Jardin, Variety and KCAA preschool.

At Punahou School, which received its $1 million grant from the foundation in 1995, the gift paved the way for underprivileged students to get full scholarships, which was previously almost unheard of at Punahou.

"It has had a big impact," said Curtis Hagen, Punahou director of admission and financial aid. "It has enabled us to provide full grants for kids, which we hadn't been able to do. It fits right into our commitment to make an education here possible for more kids than we could before."

As a consequence, Hagen said such financial aid packages are becoming more common at the school.

"Weinberg is unique in that it not only covers tuition, but it also covers all other education expenses as well. Since the time of the Weinberg grant our trustees have really supported financial aid, and now we have other grants that are very nearly full grants."

The Weinberg Foundation, one of America's largest charitable organizations, was founded in 1959. Because of Harry and Jeanette Weinbergs' connections to Hawai'i, a large portion of the millions the foundation gives away annually is distributed locally.

"The scholarship money is preserved, and the earnings are used to help children to meet fairly strict Weinberg Foundation qualifications for eligibility — meaning they have to be from a low-income family and so forth," said Robert Witt, executive director of the Hawai'i Association of Independent Schools.

"It's a good thing. It helps to level the playing field. We want families to feel that they do have some options in the matter of their child's education. We'd like to see the Weinberg Foundation make even more of these gifts in the future."

Iwashita said that students who apply to the school through the Weinberg Scholarships program are accepted on the same basis as any other applicant.

"They have to qualify," he said. "We will accept them without knowing whether or not they applied through a need-based scholarship. It's a blind admissions process."

Reach Will Hoover at 525-8038 or whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com