Hope Staab, an influential member of the foreign-language teaching community in Hawaii who led Punahou School’s Wo International Center to become a model of global education, died of cancer Feb. 3, the school announced late Saturday.
She was 62.
“Over Hope’s 37 years at Punahou, she touched the lives of many students and colleagues, while also building an extraordinary global community of educators and friends,” Punahou School President Jim Scott said in a statement. “She was an inspiring teacher, a visionary leader and a true friend.”
In 2011 the National Association of Independent Schools honored Staab with its Global Citizen Award for her contributions to global education. Two years later the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council recognized the Wo International Center with its Paul S. Bachman Award for having “contributed significantly to the improvement of relations between the United States and its neighbors in Asia and the Pacific.”
Born in Taiwan, Hope Kuo, whose father was a doctor with the World Health Organization, grew up in Korea, Samoa and Fiji, and those early experiences shaped her lifelong empathy for other cultures.
“She really had a passion for other cultures,” said her brother Louis Kuo. “Her love of learning took her around the world, but she always looked for the commonalities among people.”
A neighbor in Korea was from Kansas, so she gravitated to the University of Kansas, where she received a double Bachelor of Arts degree in linguistics and East Asian studies. She then came to Hawaii to pursue her master’s degree in English as a second language at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
She later acquired a second master’s in Chinese linguistics from UH-Manoa.
In 1976, her first year teaching at Punahou, she launched the school’s Mandarin Chinese language program and started its global languages after-school and summer school programs, which continue to serve students from throughout the community. She served as head of the Foreign Languages Department from 1986 to 1991.
She was married for several years, beginning in 1976, to Chris Staab, a Punahou English teacher.
Hope Staab was named a Joseph Klingenstein Fellow in 1985-1986, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in 1987 and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in 1992. She served on the board of the Chinese Language Educators of Hawaii and of the national Chinese Language Teachers Association and, in 1992, was named Foreign Language Teacher of the Year by the Hawai‘i Association of Foreign Language Teachers.
Staab was appointed co-director of Wo International Center in 1995 and three years later became its director, a position she held for the next 15 years. Under her leadership the center expanded travel and study opportunities for students and teachers from Punahou and from the community; forged new partnerships with schools in China, Japan, Costa Rica and Ghana; and in 2010 launched the Student Global Leadership Institute, which each year convenes 79 students from eight countries to collaborate on global issues.
“She was a really loving mother and a mentor to so many people,” said daughter Janice Staab. “She really brought people together.”
Recalled daughter Malia Staab, “My mother always encouraged me to understand different cultures and that I should go to other places to see how their cultures are — what their good points are and what their bad points are; that we should not only understand our own culture; that we should have a global worldview.”
In addition to her daughters, Staab is survived by ex-husband Chris, mother T.H. Kuo, sisters Patricia Kuo and Betty Zito, brother Louis and nieces and nephews.
Memorial services will be held at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at Thurston Memorial Chapel on the Punahou campus, with a reception to follow in the courtyard. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Punahou School in memory of Hope Kuo Staab.