Dr. Stan Fortuna, Jr. moving on as Headmaster of Kamehameha Keaau
How many hours a week would you be willing to work to succeed? Would you be willing to sacrifice 70 to 80 hours or more each week in order to achieve a better life?
That is exactly what Stan Fortuna, Jr. did to break the mold of growing up on a farm.
“My father had only a sixth grade education and my mom, who grew up on a farm, only had an eighth grade education,” Fortuna said.
But Fortuna’s parents wanted something more for their four children in order for them to have a better life.
“We were very poor growing up,” Fortuna said. “I never went on a vacation my entire life and I never had even one article of new clothing.”
Despite the tough beginnings Fortuna’s parents knew that if their children went to college things would be better for them.
“One of my sisters and I were the only 2 of their 4 children who attended college,” Fortuna said.
“In particular, since I came to Kamehameha to be the founding Headmaster, we created a brand new high school and have now graduated almost 1000 students from high school,” Fortuna said.
In the process 200 new jobs were created and an educational program that has resulted in two six year terms of accreditation, in part due to Fortuna’s leadership.
Much of Fortuna’s academic success can be attributed to his high level of determination and internal motivation which was instilled at an early age and can be seen in his physical stamina through running.
Fortuna is a determined individual that has completed 31 marathons (distance of 26.2 miles) since moving to Hawaii in July 2001.
If his marathon running impresses you as much as it does me, then look beyond the marathon to the ultra marathon (distances beyond 26 miles) and Fortuna has completed 18 in the past 11 years.
Still not impressed?
In 2002 Fortuna ran the Saddle Road 100K (62 miles) from Hilo to Waimea and won the race!
Add to his list of long distance races, Fortuna has finished seven races from Hilo Bay to Volcano Village, a distance of 31 miles.
Little wonder this high profile executive was placed in charge of a faculty and staff of 235 and educating over 1120 students.
Fortuna is quick to point out that nearly all Kamehameha students are accepted into post high school educational institutions.
“Our academic decathlon team won the State Title and went to compete in the Nationals, our girl’s basketball team won the state title, and our boy’s volleyball team just about won the state title over Punahou,” a very proud Fortuna said. “I cannot wait until next year for that one.”
Despite all the accolades and numerous advancements at the school, Fortuna, has decided to move on and June 30 will spend his last day as Headmaster.
“Something occurred in August 2011 and I just decided it was time to go,” Fortuna said.
Fortuna’s brother passed away unexpectedly and at the same time Sophia Terhorst, his granddaughter was battling Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
“Those two things impacted me greatly,” he said.
Fortuna doesn’t consider this a retirement, but a Pausing in his life where he will move onto other things.
Coming to Kamehameha was a blessing for Fortuna and he reflected upon his first coming to Hawaii.
“Kamehameha people and the people of Hawaii in general accepted me for who I was and serving in the leadership position for 11 years speaks for itself,” he said. “Who would have ever thought that a Polish Catholic guy from Michigan would succeed as Headmaster at Kamehameha Schools? An Hawaiian institution affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Among other things this speaks to the open-mindedness of our Kamehameha ‘Ohana.”
What Fortuna has learned through his Kamehameha experience will stay with him forever.
“The great respect we have here for our ancestors, our Kapuna, Our ‘Ohana,” Fortuna said. “This was one of my biggest learning’s of the last 11 years. I might miss this aspect the most, but of course, I will miss the hundreds of wonderful people that I have met and come to know and love. This is a difficult yet exciting time in my life.”
Through all his hard work over the past 11 years Fortuna managed to integrate a well balanced exercise routine.
“Staying in shape has been difficult with my job, especially maintaining consistency in training or eating,” Fortuna said. “I have been a regular jogger for close to 30 years and have worked out in a gym irregularly for much of that time.
Despite his busy schedule Fortuna logs 20 to 50 miles per week of running and some occasional cross training.
As for diet nothing came easily.
“I know what my diet should be, but I do have a weakness for Sausage McMuffins in the morning,” he said.
In his closing comments Fortuna wanted to leave with this:
“I believe that everyone can ‘make it’ in the world if they work very hard, and don’t depend upon others or the government to bail them out,” he said.
In his 11 years on the Big Island Dr. Stan Fortuna, Jr. has left multiple footprints in the hearts and minds of many of our youth. For this we are forever grateful.
And someday should you happen to see a retired teacher doing laps around Shower Drive in Hawaiian Paradise Park remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”