Alumni Where Are They Now? - Dr. Adam Paikai '66
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.” (Click here to learn more about Granger Middle School service learning).
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.)
Featured alumnus: Michael "Kalai" Balutski '83
Michael “Kalai” Balutski is a 1983 Damien Memorial graduate, and continues to meet up with his fellow alumni from one of the more active classes to ever come out of Damien. Kalai said recently that he and more than a few of his fellow ’83 classmates gets together several times annually, capping off each year with a family luncheon at Christmas time. Kalai had no problems dropping names.
Some of the ’83 Alumni who participates regularly in these gatherings include Brad Buffett, Rodney Kaanoi, Joey Aukai, Hayden Schmidt, John Lee, Paul Vargas, Arthur Takabayashi, Mark Flores, Edgar Ibarra, Kyle Nishimura, Kimo Ahnew, Shawn Coen, Dudley Munar, Darryl Iseri, and Armando Santana.
Kalai reminisced that Rodney Kaanoi ‘83, Mark Flores ‘83 and Hollinger Abbey ‘83 have had sons graduate from Damien, and confirmed that Brad Buffett ‘83 is brother to Kim Buffett, Crimestoppers’ HPD Sgt., who currently has two children enrolled at Damien: Skyler Capllonch ’16 and Shelby Capllonch ’19.
Kalai conveyed that he understood the need and the benefits of Damien going co-ed, but stated, “We have life long friends because of our bonding in high school; there were no girls to show off to or impress. You could be yourself and we were.”
Back in the day, many of the aforementioned ‘83 graduates hung out with each other even when school was not in session. "I will always remember the weekends and summers we all spent during our high school years,” beamed Kalai. “There was something fun always going on. We were very Kolohe.”
When asked jokingly if he was Filipino-Polish, Kalai explained, “I am Hawaiian-Polish on my dad’s side; the “Balut” in Balutski is pronounced Ballot according to the (Polish) Aunties but we always pronounced it like the Filipino egg.”
While at Damien, Kalai participated in Football and Track & Field, and fondly remembers his teacher Rufus Roberts and teacher/football coach Peter Hata.
Kalai said the biggest lessons he learned while at Damien were to be disciplined and to be accountable for one’s actions. Kalai said that these lessons helped him at the time in his life when he needed them most.
“Damien is a big part of who I am today,” said Kalai. “My dad was a disciplinarian, and always pushed us with responsibilities. During my tenure at Damien, I was responsible to pay half of my tuition by working in the summer. When you’re making such sacrifices like paying tuition, you don’t take your schooling for granted.”
After graduating from Damien, Kalai enrolled at Solano Community College in Fairfield, California. Kalai played football at Solano with Brad Buffet, Rodney Kaanoi, and 1982 Damien graduate Raphael Tovio, but after one season Kalai did not return. Kalai would get married a year later and soon after two daughters followed: Brandi, now 31, and Brittney, 27, who now has an eight-year-old son Kae’o.
Kalai had applied his life lessons acquired at Damien, and from his father. He did not take things for granted, and worked hard through the years and today is a self-employed Licensed General Contractor. “When I am not building for someone else, I am usually working on my own personal projects.”
Kalai’s current and second wife, Germaine, is from Kahaluu and is a Delta Airlines Flight Attendant who is currently based out of Honolulu, but still picks up trips to work out of Salt Lake City, Utah where she was based for many years. Kalai still owns two homes in Utah, one with a purported state-of-the-art home theater, and he flies back there every other month to visit and host family and friends.
This June, Kalai will be hosting 40+ football players who will be participating in the Polynesian Football Camp held annually in Utah by Damien graduates, Ana Tuiasosopo ’81 and Tuata Mauga ’81. Kalai will be hosting dinners, “the notable thing this year is that [Tuiasosopo] has 15 boys from Damien” who will be participating in this year’s camp.
Kalai’s support for Damien is ceaseless and his list of Damien graduates he socializes with is endless. Damien Memorial School fundraiser was held at Tropics Bar and hosted by Brad Buffet ‘83 recently on April 16th and yes, Kalai participated…and yes, he probably knew everyone there…and yes, he is still Kolohe.
Featured alumnus: Raymond Espiritu '89
Raymond Esiritu, a 1989 graduate of Damien Memorial School who is currently a software developer at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Maryland, a not-for-profit, university-affiliated research center and defense contractor.
Bio: After graduating from Damien, Raymond attended Yale University and received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and then a Master's at George Washington University in Aerospace Engineering through a program called Joint Institute for the Advancement of Flight Sciences (JIAFS), a partnership between George Washington University and NASA.
After college, Raymond's first job was to work on an air Force satellite. After that he worked on other satellite programs with various other companies, including Motorola where he helped develop their Iridium satellite constellation, and, at NASA in the advanced Component Technologies (ACT) program.
Raymond received an offer from Lockheed Martin to work in California, but during this time Raymond was dating the woman who was to become his wife, so he made the "right choice" and remained on the East Coast.
Recently, Raymond received a NASA Certificate of Appreciation for his work on Balloon Observation Platform for Planetary Sciences (BOPS), where he studied several comets and asteroids using a telescope suspended from a high altitude balloon. Raymond is also an author of several published papers in the scientific community.
Raymond is a third degree black belt in the Japanese martial art of Naginata and used to compete in national tournaments. Currently, he participates in jodo, an "old school" form of martial arts.
Raymond lives in Virginia with his wife and two daughters.
We caught up with Raymond recently and he was kind enough to answer a few of our questions:
Q: What extra-curricular activities did you participate in and what kind of academic recognition did you receive while at Damien?
A: “I was in the marching band, JROTC, JV cross-country, and the Strategy Society. I was in the honors class and was ranked at #4 for GPA the whole time I was there. It was pretty hard trying to crack the top three.”
Q: Who are some of your classmates at Damien?
A: “Most of the people I knew at Damien were in my honors class or in band. I also knew folks who I had gone to elementary school with before going to Damien. Among them were Jae Kwak, Aaron Mattis, Artin Toorinjian, Casey Asato, Nate Jones, Philipp Battalia, Eric Enrico, and Rudy Tulonghari.”
Q: What is your most vivid memory or memories while at Damien?
A: “My most vivid memories were of early morning band practice. We started at 7:00 a.m., so we had to be at Damien long before regular classes started. That was one of my favorite classes, because it led to the band bonding together when we were on field trips and played in parades.”
Q: Damien’s football team has recently won the ILH Division II title; how was the football team back in 1989?
A: “When I was in high school I do not recall our football team being very good. Since I was in the marching band we played at the football games and I recall our team being trounced most of the time. In fact, I think our band was the highlight of most games.
Q: “For the football team now though?
A: I just want to say ‘GO MONARCHS!’
Q: While at NASA, did you work on the Mars Exploration Program?
A: “Unfortunately, I did not work on any Mars missions. I worked on MESSENGER, which was the NASA mission to Mercury. That was a long mission. I was on it from launch to the end of the mission over a period of ten years. I was in charge of developing software that would unpack telemetry from all the spacecraft instruments and turn them into data files that scientists could use in their analysis.
“I currently work at the Applied Physics Lab, which does a lot of work with NASA and works on several NASA missions. I am currently involved in software development to support an instrument on OSIRIS-Rex, which is a NASA mission launching in September 2016 and will visit the asteroid Bennu...”
Q: Was there any teacher/counselor/staff member at Damien that would serve as a mentor, or is there any lesson or experience you had garnered from your Damien education that has helped you in your professional career?
A: “Not as mentors per se, but I do remember teachers who motivated me and inspired me to learn and excel..
...the one that stands out in my mind was a Christian Brother who volunteered to teach calculus during summer school after-hours to anyone who wanted to learn. I was going to be taking calculus during the fall so I decided to take the class. I was one of only two people, and the Christian Brother had so much faith that we could learn calculus. He took the doubt I had in myself and somehow turned it into confidence that I could do it. Senior year calculus ended being an easy A
(This) one Christian brother...his influence kept me up late at night during college and graduate school as I banged my head against the wall trying to solve some tough math and physics problems.”
Q: What do you think about Damien going co-educational?
A: “I think it is inevitable due to the economy. But I also believe it is a chance for Damien to do better by its female students just like they do the male ones, and hold them to the same standards and inspire them the same way then I believe female alumni will graduate thinking they can do or be anything they want. That should be an integral goal for a coed Damien.
Q: Was lunch really all that bad back in the day?
A: “I recall the fries being good. That was probably it.
For more on Raymond Espiritu and his work on the MESSENGER space program, see: http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/who_we_are/member_focus_070810.html
Catching up with: The Honorable Lanson K. Kupau '82
The Honorable Lanson K. Kupau, a 1982 Damien graduate, is currently a sitting judge in Hawaii's First Circuit District Court (Oahu).
He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from University of Hawaii at Manoa and later went on to receive his Juris Doctor degree from California Western School of Law in 1992.
He served as an enlisted member of the Hawaii Air National Guard where he earned Honor Graduate recognition and received an honorable discharge at the rank of sergeant in 1989.
Judge Kupau began his legal career as a deputy at the Office of the Public Defender where he practiced criminal defense from 1992 to 1994. He entered private practice in 1995 while at Reinwald, O'Connor, and Playdon and specialized in general litigation, criminal and insurance defense, personal injury and medical malpractice. In 1999, Judge Kupau joined Kobayashi, Sugita, and Goda, where he continued to practice general litigation, with an emphasis on commercial litigation and insurance regulatory issues. He also practiced for law firms Rush Moore LLP, and Bronster Hoshibata and presided at District Court as a per diem judge.
In April 2011 Judge Kupau was appointed First Circuit District Court judge by Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald and was confirmed by the Hawaii State Senate shortly thereafter. Judge Kupau currently presides over Family Court matters in the juvenile division and is assigned cases where the juveniles live in the Ewa to Waianae geographic district. He also assists with the Juvenile Drug Court, a specialty court.
Judge Kupau currently lives in Kaneohe and has three children, one in high school and two away at college.
The Honorable Judge took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions:
1. What is your most memorable moment while a student at Damien?
"The brotherhood among my classmates which has lasted over 30 years. The fact that DMS has had a long and well deserved history and tradition of producing Gentlemen."
2. What was your favorite grindz at the cafeteria? Or if there weren't any what was the worst?
"The lunches weren't memorable but from what I can remember I think they were all pretty bad (unless you cut and went to Kenny's Drive Inn at Kam Shopping Center...wow...that's back in the day)".
3. How have you remained in good shape after all these years?
"I work out at the gym at 5 a.m. everyday alternating between weight training and cardio, and hiking & swimming on the weekends. I'm addicted to McDonald's caramel frappes so I try to watch what I eat."
4. Is that really you performing on the local commercial karaoke DVD?
"Yes, unfortunately, that is me or at least, the former me, at about 50 lbs. less with more hair. The director needed models for a video shoot and I volunteered (no money). I think the director used that footage for several videos from what I hear. I still get calls or texts from friends at 1 or 2 a.m., "Eh, that's you on the Good Time Together song yeah?" My 15 minutes."
5. What is your favorite professional sports team? Why?
"San Francisco 49ers - 5 rings - Joe Montana (Brady who?)" - boom Kanani!
"Chicago Bulls - 6 rings - Michael Jordan "- really?...no, really?
"New York Yankees - 27 rings - Derek Jeter" - ...mic drop (silence)
6. What is your opinion that Damien has gone co-educational?
"Fantastic. Long overdue. We don't live or work in a single gender world and need to know how to work with, communicate and socialize with the opposite sex. No better environment than in a Christian based school like DMS. Now and in years to come, DMS will see that it was one of the best decisions ever made. Having intelligent and strong young women at DMS can only enrich the overall educational experience."
7. Was there a great life lesson you learned while at Damien?
"Yes, Viriliter Age - Act Manfully. It wasn't only a saying but a way of life for any Damien Man. It meant that no matter what the circumstance, always be a gentleman and be proud of who you are and where you came from. Now it has been translated to mean Act Courageously, which to me means the same thing...have the courage to set yourself apart to be a gentleman or lady in all situations. Never let anyone out class a Damien student."
8. Do you have a specific philosophy or goal on how you will proceed over a juvenile case in court?
"Yes, Treat each child as you would your own with discipline and compassion. Every child's success is important to our community and we need to have accountability with a focus on how to help a child succeed. The failure of any child is unacceptable as there is a ripple effect for us all.