Son's death inspires developer to build Ko Olina school


POSTED: Thursday, August 20, 2009

In 1998 developer Jeffrey Stone lost his newborn son; the same year, he purchased the Ko Olina Resort & Marina.

These events were linked in “;a very important memory”; that inspired the development of The Stone Family Early Education Center of Seagull Schools at Ko Olina Resort, he said.

Ground was broken yesterday for the center on a $2 million acre of land that Stone personally donated for the seventh school to be built by Seagull statewide. Gov. Linda Lingle, Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Councilman Todd Apo attended the ceremony.

When his son, Conner Jeffrey Stone, died, “;I realized how fragile children really were, something we often take for granted — how special they are, especially at that age. I was introduced to (Seagull Schools founder) Chuck Larson and it made me try to think of what I could do for his legacy,”; Stone said.

A playground will be dedicated to Conner, and Stone hopes the school will become the cornerstone for top-quality early childhood education that will improve the lives of resort employees and other Leeward families.

“;I feel committed to well-being through education and a strong family life. This is a community that is growing, very Hawaiian in nature and one that needs a lift,”; he said.

The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation awarded a $1.3 million grant to Seagull for construction of the $2.1 million project, according to Cheryl Campbell, Seagull's chief financial officer. Contributions also came from several other foundations, the Kalaeloa Partners and Tesoro Petroleum.

The first phase of the school will provide classrooms for up to 150 children and is scheduled for completion by Hawaiian Dredging in January. A second phase will serve 60 more and include an administration building, depending on need.

Stone said the school will benefit children of all races and family income levels, citing the availability of Seagull scholarships and subsidies for his employees' children.

Stone, also president and chief executive officer of The Resort Group development company, added that his future plans include a gift of 66 acres this year for the development of a $100 million campus for students up to age 20 in partnership with the Kamehameha Schools.