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Philanthropist Robert Midkiff, known for community service, dies

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  • Robert R. (Bob) Midkiff. BOE Islandwide. August 2004.

Robert Richards Midkiff, a philanthropist and business executive known for his community service and for pioneering profit-sharing in Hawaii, died Wednesday at 94.

“He did more than most people would accomplish in three lifetimes,” his daughter, Mary M. Fiedler, said Friday. “He was inspiring to be around, so cheerful, so optimistic, so resilient.”

Midkiff died at Kahala Nui, she said.

With deep roots in Hawaii, Midkiff held top positions in several companies, as owner and president of American Trust Co. of Hawaii, chairman of Bishop Trust Co. Ltd., and president of American Security Bank. But his contributions reached far beyond the world of finance.

He helped found the Friends of Iolani Palace, the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Downtown Improvement Association and the Waikiki Improvement Association. He served as president of the Hawaii Theatre, raising millions to restore that historic structure, and led the Good Beginnings Alliance, a nonprofit devoted to early childhood education.

He joined Scotty Koga to co-chair the committee that selected the design for the state Capitol, and helped spark the renaissance of downtown Honolulu.

“He got merchants together and was instrumental in creating the Financial Plaza of the Pacific,” Fiedler said. “He raised millions of dollars to restore the Hawaii Theatre and turn it into the cultural jewel it is now.”

Midkiff won the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Small Business Council of America in 2006, and the following year received another national honor, the Fred Rogers Leadership Award in Philanthropy for Children, Youth and Families.

He and his wife established the Bob ’38 and Evanita Sumner ’39 Midkiff Early Childhood Endowed Fund at Punahou School, where they and their children went to school.

He received his BA degree with high honors from Yale University in 1942, and completed Harvard’s Graduate School of Business Advanced Management Program in 1962. 

A U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant, he served during World War II on the staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific.

Evanita Midkiff died in 2011. Midkiff is survived by Fiedler and his other four children, Robert R. Midkiff, Jr., David W. Midkiff, Robin S. Midkiff and Shelley S. Midkiff; six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Services will be held Dec. 13 at 8 a.m. at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, followed by a reception at the Pacific Club.

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