When Adam Paikai was an eighth-grader, he took the exam for entrance into Kamehameha Schools as this was his dream. However, his mother had other plans and had him also tested for a new Catholic school that was opening in Kalihi in the fall of 1962. Adam, or “Bulla” as classmates had called him, was accepted into both schools, and of course that new Catholic institution in Kalihi would be known as Damien Memorial School. “I had my heart set on enrolling in Kamehameha,” wrote Adam in a recent email to fellow ‘66 alumni. “But once I was accepted into Damien there was no other choice according to my mom.”
Adam wrote that the Brothers at Damien “had a tremendous impact in my life.” While in high school, Adam had thirteen siblings (which would later grow to sixteen!) and because his father had to work a lot of overtime to support his family, the Monks, who did all of the teaching and coaching at the school at the time, would be his predominant male role models.
The Monks made such an impact on his life that Adam applied to and was accepted into the Christian Brother Order out of high school where he would begin his formation in New Jersey and then in New York before settling down in Chicago where he taught at the Brother Rice High School after receiving his BA. He left the Order in 1972 to pursue his professional goals.
“I feel like a part of my professional career and success in the State of Illinois would not have happened had I not attended Damien...”
Adam has spent the majority of his life, thus far, in Illinois: he earned a BA in Social Studies Education at Lewis University in 1970 and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Illinois in 1976; married the love of his life, Cathy; reared two children, Sarah and Steve; held various positions in the school district and County, including principal; and earned a Doctorate in Education Administration from Northern Illinois University in 1996.
Adam opened up Granger Middle School as its principal and gained statewide and national attention with its Service Learning programs and spoke about them at national conferences. “What I learned about Service Learning from our days in high school I passed on to students that I served as principal at Granger Middle School.”
Adam retired from public education in 2005 and then worked a few years as an assistant principal at a Catholic high school, but health issues forced him to leave the position. Adam was diagnosed with kidney cancer, but he has obviously triumphed over his ailments more often than not and today spends most of his time babysitting his granddaughter, monitoring his health, supporting local sports high school teams, and enjoying retirement with his wife. But Adam just cannot stay away from educating as he teaches a graduate course each semester on Social Emotional Learning for the DuPage Regional Office of Education at Aurora University.
“It’s funny how life has many twists and turns and you end up where you are,” Adam laughed in an interview at the Walk of the Viriliter Age Pathway Ceremony last month. “I didn’t want to come to Damien, but look what happened.”
(To view Adam’s detailed bio through 2005: http://dmhs1966.tripod.com/id7.html, and to view a speech he prepared for the Volley 4 the Cure Fundraiser, chronicling his battle with cancer, click on the following: My name is Adam Paikai.