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Vo lume 21, No. 6 Volume 21, No. 2

Thursday, April 26, 2012 Wednesday, October 24, 2007


San Rafael, CA 94901 San Rafael, CA 94901








April 26, 2012

Back to where it all began with GLADY THACHER Glady Thacher shuts her eyes as she racks her mind for dates and names, the skin around them squeezing into little lines of determined concentration. She sits like this, eyes closed but connected, for the several minutes it takes her to give me a comprehensive overview of how Marin Academy was started. Forty years later, she can still tell me the name of her daughter’s art teacher (it’s Rob), what the first graduating class was like, and what her high school experience was like compared to that of an MA student’s. All of this with her eyes closed. It is when she finds a natural stopping point, when she feels she has exhausted a certain topic, that her eyes burst open. Revealed are bright blue marbles, young and vibrant. They stay open to make sure I have just understood everything she has said – patient and invigorating all at once. And then, the second

we’ve moved onto the next question, they are closed again. I imagine that Glady’s contemplative yet energized spirit must have been what MA was like in its first years, which makes sense – Glady was there from its very conception. Jim Thacher, Glady’s late husband, was the head of the Board of Trustees at Marin Country Day School and sought to create a high school that would allow MCDS students to continue their education. According to what Glady calls “serendipity,” the San Rafael Military Academy closed in the early 70s and Jim, along with a few other MCDS parents, negotiated to create a secondary school where the military academy had been. And thus Marin Academy was born, with Jim Thacher as its head chair. “The negotiations were pretty easy, which meant that everybody wanted it to be a school,” Glady tells me. “They didn’t have much money, but the deal was made, and Marin Academy started with Jim and some of the other founders. So its precepts, its very nature, the essence of the kind of teaching, the kind of school it would be, was based on an enlightened belief that students needed a rounded education that was academic, yes, but also included the arts, an acquaintance with the outdoors, and a certain kind of moral compass. Along with being educated, every young person needs to establish a kind of good citizenship and flexibility: an independent mind. [MA] has always been true to this more holistic idea of encouraging every growing feature of students who enter the ninth grade to the finish.” I’m slightly taken aback

by Glady’s increasingly apparent eloquence and passion for the place I have called high school for the past three years. It was perceptible when I first saw her waltz through the BBLC and tell me, excitedly, that she felt honored to be interviewed, but it is even more apparent now in the warm conference room as she reminisces about the early, unconstructed years. There were obstacles in the beginning, too, of course. She relays the struggle of finding funding, the question of how the campus and school would grow, the challenge

the head of school, and the faculty. But Glady believes that at its heart, MA hasn’t changed. “It holds its original content, its original character,” she says. Though her own deep connection to and understanding of the school is undeniable, she mentions several times that she wishes Jim were still alive and able to tell me about his own MA experience. Much of the school’s “original content” seems to have been shaped by him. “Jim’s role was appreciated by all,” Glady says, smiling just a bit. “He would get up and he’d talk to the students, and he didn’t have a readymade speech, but he kept at it. The authenticity of his deep feeling for the school began to move everyone. It drew from him something that he didn’t speak about often. Either outside underneath the redwood tree or seeing Sarah graduate as our first grandchild, I’m very aware of Jim’s presence.” She opens her eyes after saying this, revealing all of her love for her husband and what he has created. Although I can’t fathom what Marin Academy was like 40 years ago, it is as if Glady embodies what it was, what it is, and what it will continue to be. Many of her hopes for the school’s future seem like logical continuations of its rich past. “[I hope] they can keep it as free and open as possible, that faculty coming in can soak up who was there before them, and that students are able to pay attention to what’s going on in the world,” Glady says. “I know [the emphasis on the outdoors] is expensive, and takes a lot of faculty time, but I think

The seed of an idea and the agreement of the type of school [MA would be], like any institution, is rather organic. of hiring new and enthusiastic faculty. The “preeminent” one, she says, was acquiring a strong parent body that would support the school. Despite the difficulties, the first class graduated in 1974. I ask her to think back to the class, and she takes a moment or two and begins. “When I think back to that class and that graduation, they were all such individuals. There were some kids interested in art. It wasn’t institutional at that time. It was a very proud moment – four years and then you graduate. And there was a real closeness among the faculty and the outdoor program particularly, and the music program. There wasn’t too much of a hierarchy. Yes,” she finishes, opening her eyes, “it was very individual.” She would see her daughter graduate the next year in 1975, and her granddaughter, Sarah Thacher, graduate in 2010. I can only imagine the extensive amount of change the school would go through between these two milestones. Glady tells me the “seed of an idea and the agreement of the type of school [MA would be], like any institution, is rather organic.” In other words, the school changes continually with the student body,

always pushing that allows students to come alive with an idea or passion.” I can’t help but feel – I don’t know how else to say it – connected as our interview winds down. I am pleasantly surprised when she kisses my cheeks as she says goodbye, as if she’s my own grandmother, and happy when I get home and have a thank you email from her (with “Sent from my iPhone” in the closing). Closing the message, I feel fortunate to have met the person who embodies the MA I have experienced for the past three years. Forty years may be a long time, but Glady’s love for the school is as fervent as ever. Writing and Photography by Lena Felton


April 26, 2012



MA archives

How long did you work at MA? Twelve years: 1972 - 1984. Was there any moment where you wanted to leave or considered leaving? Good heavens no! I had the most amazing experience as a headmaster. I was given the unique chance to put together a school that really spoke to young people. What has been the biggest challenge you have ever incurred here? Well, there are always many challenges that come along with leading a school. I suppose our greatest challenge was starting a school within the context of the end of the Vietnam War. Kids were turned off to almost everything and college students were hardly going to classes, yet we found very quickly that young people were ready to accept that challenge and the school was something special for them (at least I hope so). Coffee or tea? I don’t drink either. I like milk. I’m a milk man. I drink a lot of milk. What is your favorite dish in the café? In the earlier years of the school, we had a wonderful chef who perished in an automobile accident ... Bob cooked the most marvelous sauerkraut. Who was your celebrity idol growing up? Well, I grew up in the 30’s, and all of my idols were athletes. I had a deep love for the Brooklyn Dodgers; in fact, I can tell you today who each player was, what position they played, and what their batting average was. What is your favorite spot on campus? Once in a while I liked to sit on the front steps of Foster Hall because the students and faculty would stop by and just talk on a nice warm day. Chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry ice cream? Strawberry. My favorite is coffee-flavored ice cream, though. I love ice cream. What would you most like to change about yourself? Too late for that. Kidding! I have an Irish temper, which I inherited from my grandmother and my father. What has been the best decision you have made while acting as Head of School? Talking at length with Jim Thacher and the Board of Trustees in 1971 with regards to moving the school forward. The worst decision? I made thousands of them. The older I get the more I look back and say, “Oh Bill, you could have done that so much better!” What do you miss most about MA? The contact with people and the students. Going to games. Interview conducted by Sam Pritzker

If there is one alumnus who is the epitome of an MA soul, it is Lila Glaser. As a member of the school’s second graduating class, Glaser was one of the first students to become a Cum Laude society member in 1976 and carry the values of the school beyond the once center-of-campus circle. As if the fact that both her sisters, Bonnie Glaser and Jillian Rhine, and niece and nephew Maya (‘12) and Daniel Rhine (‘08), attended MA is not enough, Glaser explains that, “everything [she has] done with [her] life has been influenced by Marin Academy.” And indeed, Glaser’s curriculum vitae depicts the open-mindedness and passion for learning that she claims came solely from her time in high school. After suffering through the unstructured, uninspiring teaching at Mill Valley Middle School, Glaser was thrilled to find enthusiastic teachers and an enriching list of courses at MA. She went on to get a B.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University, while simultaneously teaching undergraduate courses at the college and for the M.B.A. program at the Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. After this, Glaser received a law degree from the University of California Berkeley and even went back to the University of Austin Texas to get an undergraduate engineering degree. Now she is a professor at the University of Nevada, a practicing patent attorney, economic consultant, and also a private pilot. Glaser attributes her ability to dip her toes into many projects and take risks to her experience at MA. She reminisces about “going on outings almost every weekend like they were homework,” sleeping in hand-constructed igloos, and camping under the leadership of outings director John Morris, who also taught classes in existentialist literature. That, in fact, is one class Glaser would happily take again if given the chance, explaining that “[they] talked a lot about self-reliance and then went out and did it on the weekends.” Such trips taken on minicourses only further encouraged Glaser’s love for the mountains like those in her current home of Nevada. One year, she was even able to create her own minicourse and take a week-long seminar on flying planes which inspired her to become a pilot later on. While Glaser might not have had as many AP credits as her fellow Yale undergraduates (MA only offered a Calculus AP at the time), she repeatedly describes that becoming “self-aware” at MA was the best thing that could have happened to her. Glaser has continued to see this quality develop in both her niece and nephew over the years, so for those who always lament over losing the “Old MA,” here is Glaser’s piece of advice: “not much has changed about the school, except for maybe the new buildings and theatre; the tree is still there after all.” Written by Neha Budhraja




It’s a beautiful day, so at his suggestion, John Hicks and I are sitting outside his classroom on the shaded cement, and John is telling me what he loves about chemistry. “What I love about chemistry and about science is I sort of see it as the systematic interrogation of nature,” he says. “It lets you figure out why things work the way they work, and I think that’s fascinating. I think that’s amazing, to be able to look at the sky and see it as being this beautiful blue color and having an idea of what’s going on there, or taking a photograph and understanding what you’re really doing when you’re changing the white balances. That’s just amazing stuff.” Fascinating. Amazing. Beautiful. John is nothing if not enthusiastic; these are words that permeate his vocabulary both in our conversation and in my happy memories of sophomore chemistry. In fact, John’s enthusiasm is so great that it is hard to imagine a topic that would bore him. Even my dullest questions are met with a grin or hearty laugh, as if instead of having asked him how he began his career at Marin Academy, I had presented him with a large piece of birthday cake. This is exactly how I remember John as a teacher. I was hesitant about chemistry until I set foot in the classroom and fell victim to his infectious cheer. John had seemed so sure that significant figures were the most enthralling thing in the vast world of science that soon I believed it too. Sig figs were fascinating, they were amazing, they were beautiful, as were many things that, without John’s influence, I might have thought of as anything but. SCUBA, for example, is something I had never found intriguing. I have a fear of deep water - who knows what kinds of terrifying things lurk in the thousands of miles beneath you? Actually, John does, having reached his 200th outing some time last year. “SCUBA is my passion,” he says. “It goes back to that idea of science; it’s a systematic interrogation of nature. The reason I love SCUBA is that living underwater

April 26, 2012

Olivia Lloyd

with your tank on your back is just an entirely different world than the one we have to deal with. There’s no gravity, so you can fly; you can see all these unworldly creatures that almost no one ever ever sees. And it’s just the boundless, non-ending awe of basically seeing something that you’ve never ever seen before, and may never ever see again, every time you get in the water. Every time. It’s just amazing.” By the time John finishes I’m convinced that SCUBA is my passion as well. But beyond John’s tangible passions for science and SCUBA, he also likes people. At his core, John is a people-person, and this has inspired his long career as a science teacher perhaps as much as science itself. “I’ve found that being a teacher has less to do about the subject that you teach and more about the fact that you’re teaching people,” he explains. “It’s more of an art that deals with personal interactions. I was offered a position in industry that paid

a lot more than what teaching did and it was actually one of the easiest decisions of my life not to take the job for PG&E, because what I really liked was the interaction with people. Kids are people.” “Really?” I ask. John laughs and continues, “They really are. Not everyone accepts that, but I know it’s true.” He pauses for a second and adds, “Teachers are people too.” John’s time at MA began in the spring of 1978 when he taught for six months as a substitute. “I really liked it,” he says. “It was amazing because I’d never been in a place where everybody ate in the same cafeteria, and met at lunch everyday.” At Novato High School, John’s alma mater, his graduating class alone had over 600 students. “The way I saw a lot of bigger schools is that instead of a community, it was a business,” John says. “And the business was for students to get educated and teachers to teach,

and that was sort of the way it was. But this place had a lot more soul to it. This was the first real opportunity that I ever had to see a school as a community, and that’s a huge difference.” When he heard that there was a job opening in the fall, he applied and was hired full-time. At the time, there were only 180 students in the entire school, and John taught all the chemistry and physics courses. “I often saw kids two times in their career,” he says. “Now there are times when students will go and give their senior speeches, and I’ll have had no interactions with them in the four years they’ve been here. And that saddens me in a lot of ways because it was so nice to know everyone.” Throughout 35 years of the school’s growth and change, John has been here – even through “the crazy days,” when John and his carpool buddy of over 25 years, Glenn Stanfield, were up at four and on the road by five every morning.

“Those days, we would go to bed at about eight o’clock,” John remembers. “When my kids were growing up, they would read me a story and put me to bed, because I would go to bed before them.” Now, John gets up at the “not bad” (his description) hour of five in the morning to make the 35 mile commute from Rohnert Park, near Santa Rosa. “At this point we figure that we’ve driven more than once around the circumference of the Earth,” he says cheerfully. “I mean it’s just crazy. Crazy stuff. We make jokes all the time that our wives are going to get jealous of the other person because probably, Glenn and I have spent more time with each other than most people do with their spouses.” As for his carpool buddy, John smiles and says simply, “We’re just good friends. Glenn and I have grown up together, at Marin Academy. Jim Baldwin was hired in the fall, Glenn was hired in the spring, and I was hired next fall. Neither of us had children, I wasn’t married, I hadn’t met my wife yet … so I grew up here.” I do some mental math and figure that John has been at MA for approximately twice as long as I’ve been alive. I have to ask: What has inspired you to stay at one place for 35 years? “There’s a really positive energy here in which everybody is sort of looking at ways that they can reinforce and help each other out,” he says. “And I love that it’s never been adversarial. The other thing I really really appreciate is that it’s not always easy, but in the end people are really accepted and celebrated for who they are.” It’s a beautiful summary of the school I’ve come to love, and I’m just glad John is a part of it – like MA, John Hicks is a really positive energy who is always looking for ways to reinforce and help the community out. Our conversation reaches a natural end, and I thank John for his time. “You’re welcome. That was nice,” he smiles. “A lot of good years.” Written by Julia Irwin


April 26, 2012

Rebecca Sylla Rebecca Sylla was nine years old when she first learned about MA. So when she first walked through the doors as a student, she was no stranger to the community. But her familiarity with the campus did nothing to lessen the novelty of her first class. “When I stepped into the doors to Jim [Baldwin’s] English class … it was like a set of lights being turned on in the room that I had never experienced,” Sylla said. Her other favorite teachers include: John Hicks (“He made learning fun, he made me smile thinking about chemistry”), Bo Leonhart (“The first time I thought: ‘Wow! Math is fun!’”), Glenn Stanfield (“He was excited about learning; his energy came through in the classroom”) and Rick Clark (“I remember him as a friend, not just a teacher”). To Sylla, the school stood out from the rest. “There was no high school like Marin Academy … here was a school that encouraged you to

think outside yourself,” Sylla said, me, I pursue it, and if it doesn’t “to also not just accept things as work out, that’s okay, chart a new they are presented to you, but to course.” really think about your interpretation of history, or current events, or art in a way that was somewhat unconventional.” Sylla now works with nonprofits to create videos for their development purposes. She says her main career is in film and video, though she “veered off” into software marketing for some time. “One of the things that MA taught me was to always seek out new opportuniAnnie Warner ties,” she said. “If If she could only watch one director’s something interests

films? Alfred Hitchcock’s.

Maria Bennett

An alumnus, former MAPA inquiry, which is what science is ence wasn’t the only passion she president and parent of senior all about,” Bennett said. “It really pursued after high school. Rosario Bennett and freshman gave me confidence, especially “I’m also an artist,” she said, Philip Bennett, Maria Bennett being a female. It felt good to be “so I guess those two things [art can still remember her first day at smart in science.” and biology] clicked for me.” MA. “It was wonderful Outings were another … walking in and seememorable part of her ing all those backpacks high school experience. thrown down made it “One of my favorite seem like a very safe, things about MA was welcoming place.” And the Outings, being able though the campus may to have that connection have changed over the with teachers outside of years, the backpacks the campus.” are certainly still here. And no high school Thinking back to her experience is complete time in the bag-lined without car woes, alhalls, she said it was though she never had to Maria Bennett park in Cake Art. extremely to choose her Nicasio, 2012 by Maria Bennett favorite teacher. “My dad drove the most “Barney Stout was my Biol“My interest was in pre-mRNA decrepit Dodge car. It was so emogy teacher,” Bennett said, “and splicing, I was looking at identify- barrassing, and my family still I actually went into science. I ing the components of something teases me that I would make my became a cell biologist.” She said called the spliceosome,” she ex- dad drop me off not on Cottage Avscience at Marin Academy “defi- plained. “It was really fast paced enue, but down on Fifth, because nitely” prepared her for a career and very independent. The thing I I was so embarrassed about our in science, “mainly in giving me liked about it was that it certainly old Dodge (a ’67 Dart), which of confidence, and enjoying the art of wasn’t a nine-to-five job.” Sci- course now is a cool car.”

Catherine Hunter

The student body and faculty in 1974. As a member of the first graduating class Catherine Hunter was one of the students that formed the foundation of Marin Academy. “There were probably no more than 16 kids in the class,” she says, “about that many teachers as well. So, we were a brand new school sort of trying to find, you know, who we were and … the soul of the school.” Our conversation is punctuated by “you knows” and short bursts of light laughter as she recounts to me the various ups and downs of MA’s early days, an endless series of quirky anecdotes and nostalgic musings. “Let me do the lowlights first,” she laughed. “I have more to say about the highlights.” She tells me that her class never had any dances or proms, nor did it have the advanced art facilities of today’s campus. “The art department was the building behind the pool which is now a maintenance building,” she said. “We called it the Art Barn.” The theatre was in a similar state. “The old theatre building was just one story, it was really pathetic, and the theater [productions] were on some sort of podunk little stage.” Her next story, she tells me, is the most ridiculous. “Get this,” she exclaims, “they allowed smoking … they had this sort of tiny room next to the teacher’s lounge which they called the ‘Butt Hut.’” She explains that at the time, it was a definite highlight, though the novelty faded after high school. And though the pool was exactly the same during her time, the use of it differed slightly. “We used to swim in the pool at lunchtime. Are you guys allowed to do that?” Other attractions included on-campus tennis courts: four of them occupying what is now the faculty parking and new

MA Archives

gym. After MA she went on to Boston University for a year and “almost died it was so cold,” and then transferred to UC Berkeley. Her post-college career began in politics. “I actually worked for Ted Kennedy when he ran for president on the advance team, and we were sent all over the country and it was insane,” she says. “We had to work with the press and the secret service and the campaign.” She later worked for the Movie Channel and Showtime before becoming a producer. A typical day now? Jampacked. “I eat all my meals at my computer. I start the minute Cora and Frances leave the house, and I plow through all these emails and phone calls organizing shoots and making schedules and figuring out budgets … I have to kind of time my calls between chewing, but I usually work from home until we’re shooting, and then I’m on location, or we’re editing or audio mixing then I’m at the studio.” And yet she still makes time to be involved in the school, professing that it was “totally [her] dream” to have her kids go to MA, and that she “did everything [she] possibly could to make sure that [her] kids could have an MA experience.” “It’s been really fun, I mean, so much has changed and matured since I was there,” she says. “It’s truly a community, and that includes the faculty and the teachers and the parents, and it’s a really fun community.”

Written by Annie Warner


April 26, 2012

The Office at MA: Our own Jim and Pam Jim Baldwin How did you start teaching at MA? I applied for a one year position. My expectation was that I was coming in to teach the ‘77-’78 school year and that’s it, teaching English classes and coaching soccer. During the year the music teacher quit, and so I agreed to meet with the musicians; I was sort of their baby-sitter more than teacher. I loved music, too, and so it was fun. And at the end of the year, there was a full-time English position open, and I got the job. Wow, amazing. How long have you been at MA? What has inspired you to stay? Well, this is year 35 for me. And it’s a hard act to follow. People are always commiserating with me, “Oh you poor saint, you’re working with teenagers, isn’t that really hard, how do you do it, year after year,” and then I come to school and I have students saying thank you after class, and holding the door for me, and I for them, and it’s a very civil place. I’m with people who I’m honored to be with, and delighted to be with day in and day out. I was coming to school last week realizing I was excited to come to school. After 35 years at the same place, I was excited, not just okay with it, but excited, so that’s why I stay. How does MA compare to your high school? It’s sort of apples and oranges. Mine was an all boys boarding school, and it was 1963 when I went to high school. There was a dress code and a haircut code; we had required chapel. So the differences are profound. I was at the dance, Friday night, watching a couple of groups of students, mixed gender, and it was clear that they were all friends. And I didn’t have any friendships with the opposite sex when I was in high school. There was a girls’ school five miles away, and there was a social program. The only way we could get to know other people over there was at a mixer, where you had to dance with someone and figure out if you even liked them or not. Consequently, the relationships you developed with the opposite sex were just ridiculous. I had no experience of talking in a friendly way with a young woman when I went to college. And I’m always grateful looking around at kids around campus, and friendships. What a thing to think that we’re teaching that people are civil to each other here. Tell me about your involvement with Lit Fest. My very good friend, Joe Coulson, had started a program like that in a school in Southern California, so when he came to work here he wanted to start something like that. Then, because we were friends, I was like his riding shotgun assistant for whatever we were doing. We started by being able to offer a few workshops, and the head of school made us promise that they wouldn’t interfere with classes because he didn’t want to interrupt the school day with any nonsense called Literary Festival. Over the years, it sort of became more and more accepted as an important and valuable part of a student’s year at MA. After the fifth year, Joe left and I carried on as the leader of the literary festival without him, and I’ve done so ever since. For a while it was only me, and then fortunately came the need to get somebody to be the other leader. For the last few years, Trixie’s been doing it and is just a fabulous co-leader; we really work well together so it’s fun doing it with her. 

Pam Maffei How did you start teaching at MA? I’m from the Bay Area. I went to graduate school in New York City, intending to come back and teach public school, so I was gone from the Bay Area for eight years, but missed my family. I decided I really wanted to leave New York and come back here. I did a little job search at that point, and got one hit, and that was Marin Academy. And then I interviewed here, spoke to a lot of people … I was very dressed up. I had a silk long sleeved blouse, big wide belt, wool skirt, pumps, and the reason I remember it is the academic dean at the time, Ray Boring, took one look at me and said, “Honey, you’re a little dressed up for Marin Academy. You should know that.” And so, I met them, and had, I thought, a pretty good set of interviews, and then heard back they were not going to hire me. They called me back five days later, and said they thought they were going to go with somebody local, and Ray Boring was extremely apologetic. So I was really disappointed, but all my friends in New York were really happy I wasn’t leaving, and then I get a call 24 hours later from Ray Boring. He said, “Okay, they changed their minds,” and I’m really glad they did. So that’s how I got here, to MA. Did you always want to be a teacher, and if so, why? It’s funny, there was a time in college where I was fortunate enough to get an internship in Washington, D.C. and it was really exciting. And everyone that was working there all wanted to go to law school. That was the thing. Go to law school. So I thought, “Oh, law school!” I went to Washington, and there were lawyers working around me, and I got to know what lawyers actually study and I decided I didn’t want to study that. So, there was a moment, when I thought, “Mmm, law school … nah. I wanted to study American history, and literature, and I want to explore my passion for that.” It was a little momentary blip, “Maybe I don’t want to teach … nah.” How did you get into history?   I thought I was going to be an art major. I went to Berkeley, and started out as an art major. But it was interesting; I had a series of art classes and art teachers that were not all that inspiring compared to the art instruction I had in middle school. And at the same time, I had these brilliant professors in political science, history, and English. By the time I was a junior, it was clear that I no longer wanted to be an art major and I wanted to be whatever I could be to study American stuff. At that time they didn’t have a real American studies major, so I had an independent study major, and a traditional major in political science. I would never have thought I’d be teaching Middle East studies, teaching about the Russian Revolution, China, you know; I’m doing all these things and not teaching U.S. history. It’s just bizarre to me, but I’m perfectly happy. Written by Julia Irwin Photo by Chase Porter


April 26, 2012

Derek Anderson Sitting across the table from Derek Anderson in his office, my eyes continue to wander along the walls. A collage of smiling faces, former students and familiar teachers, beam back at me from behind Derek’s head. Derek smiles back at me as well, with a grin that lasts the entire interview. Beginning at his first teaching job in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Derek shares with me the journey that lead him to become Marin Academy’s own Derek the Librarian. “My first teaching job was in a boarding school in Tennessee, but I was born in San Francisco and grew up in the west. I will always be grateful for the experience I had in Tennessee, but I really wanted to come back to the West Coast. I kind of got lucky, the right place

at the right time almost, and was appointed as MA’s first college counselor.” Derek laughs and tells me how embarrassed he is, admitting that this was 23 long years ago. I laugh along with him, but the part I am most surprised about is his former job. Knowing Derek only as the librarian, it is difficult for me to picture him in any other role. When I ask how he became librarian, his tone becomes a bit less enthusiastic. “I was looking for a job change. I had done college counseling for 15 years total and was kind of bored with it. I wanted something new and the librarian’s

job came open. Again, it was just the right place at the right time.” His smile widens as he says this, his whole face lighting up. Derek’s enthusiasm is a trait that I have always admired. I thought back to my junior year when I needed information on a man named Peter Henry Emerson for a photography project. Derek searched the entire library for any books that could be of use, helped me navigate the various databases, and even found information about Emerson on his own time that he later offered to me. While I know Derek as the genuine, passionate, endearing,

Avery Hale

Anne Maurice An air of creativity is easily recognizable, wafting through Anne Maurice’s crowded office. Various photographs and ceramics pieces are scattered throughout the tiny room, each hand-crafted by current and former students. Anne sits next to me, explaining her role as an art teacher, a role she has held for 28 years. “I always knew I wanted to be an artist.” She smiles as she said it, as if confessing her passion for art for the first time. “My grandmother was an artist and I was always interested in art, so when I went to college and took my first ceramics class I just fell in love with the clay.” In addition to teaching the Ceramics 200, 300, and 400 classes, Anne will usually also teach two sections of visual arts. With her role as a teacher balanced with her own personal ventures as an artist

and her job as Department Chair, Anne has a lot on her plate. “I think the biggest struggle for all of us in the arts is that we’re all practicing artists, so finding the time to do your own work is so hard, especially with me being the department chair. I have all the administrative stuff to deal with. It would be great to have a better balance between my personal and professional growth as an artist.” While Anne is kept busy at school, she has found time throughout the years to explore several areas around the world to further her knowledge of artistic techniques, pottery in particular. Having heard of some of her travels, I tell Anne to tell me about Greece. Her face lights up with excitement. “Basically since I was about 18 I started backpacking with my friends through Europe and we had

and supportive librarian, others know him as the World History Teacher. But Derek has worn many “hats,” as he likes to refer to his various jobs, throughout his time at MA. In addition to college counselor, librarian, and World History teacher, Derek even acted as interim Head of School for one semester, and as Assistant to the Head of School for an entire year. I then proceed to (apparently) ask Derek a librarian’s least favorite question. I ask innocently, “do you have a favorite book?” He looks at me for a few moments with a puzzled look, his brow furrowed and his grin fading. “Wow,” he says, almost offended. “That’s awful. It’s too hard of a question.” We discuss his background in European history, and I continue

to question him about the various roles he has held throughout his time as an educator. Towards the end of our conversation, I ask Derek where he sees himself going in the future. “I’ve worn lots of hats and I made a pretty conscious decision to leave administrative work and I don’t regret that decision. I’m really happy with what I’m doing and where I am now. But I also think there is a habit of me getting bored with things and wanting a change.” He chuckles a bit as he says this, as if we were sharing some fort of inside joke. “So ten years down the road, who knows … We’ll see.” Our conversation lasts no more than 15 minutes, and yet as Derek closed the door behind me and I walked out into the busy library, I felt that I had a new understaning for someone that I previously knew as only the librarian.

all been in art classes together in undergrad and so we would go to Italy and Spain and France and go to all the museums and we were always so excited to see the real work that we had studied in art history. Greece was a proposal I made for the EE Ford Fellowship, and that was about five years ago.” Anne explains her journey through Greece, where she shadowed an authentic fifth generation Greek potter. She tells me the stories as if it were yesterday, describing the man in vivid detail, and recalling the hens and sheep that lived there, and the way the man and his family made their own honey and olive oil. “They have an incredible work ethic. They start at about 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning and stop for about two or three hours for lunch, then work until 9:00 at night. Every day. Towards the end I would sit out with his mother and a good Greek friend from London and we would all carve into the pots as the sun was setting.”

Anne continues on to speak enthusiastically about her other various travels and artistic explorations, explaining how each journey has influenced her as an artist and as a teacher. “Everything that I do, all my travels, I bring back to the class and teach the kids how to do it. I’ve been to China before and for about five years I did an entire unit on Chinese pottery and I taught the students about all of the techniques from each of the different dynasties. There is always an art historical component in it, and more importantly it gives the students a global perspective in clay and how that kind of fits in to what we’re doing.” The word I would use to best describe Anne would be passionate. From her stories about life in Greece to her recollection of her time spent as an art student, her zeal for pottery, teaching, and learning, became exceptionally clear to me

Written by Avery Hale Illustrations by Anna Kelly

Written by Avery Hale


April 26, 2012

At MA February 1978 - Present

GLENN STANFIELD Since starting at MA in 1978, Glenn Stanfield has become a quintessential part of the Spanish department. But Stanfield’s contributions don’t end there. He has led numerous outings and minicourses, and these are the memories he truly seems to relish when we sit down to chat in his high-ceilinged room in Foster. “I’m pretty sure that Glenn got the job not because of my Spanish but because my resume shared that I had experience in outings, summer camps with kids, and I was an athlete,” he explains (and yes, he does occasionally speak in third person). “I used to take outings fishing, hiking, camping, snowboarding, downhill bicycling, SCUBA diving with John, whale watching, and kayaking. And I love them.” WHALE WATCHING ON THE BAJA PENINSULA “I’ve taken two minicourses down to the Baja Peninsula to see the whales. Pretty special. One moment that truly stuck out for me: I was sitting in a boat and we knew that the whales were around, so I decided to look over the side of the boat, and there was this big female cow about two feet under the surface of the water and this big huge eye was just staring at me. It was a wonderful moment. That was cool … Just wow, seeing that creature. There was an intelligence in there that I felt that was pretty special.” BLISTERED HIKE IN THE SIERRA “John Hicks and I, over 25 years ago, did an orientation outing. Orientation outings back then were up in the Sierras. This particular one was a six-mile hike. We hiked in, and I felt myself getting blisters on the way in. I was wearing a bad pair of boots. During the middle of the night I couldn’t stand it anymore, they were just hurting so bad. I checked them out, and I had quarter-sized holes in my heel so that I couldn’t sleep. So I got a cooking pot, filled it with icy cold river water, unzipped my sleeping bag, covered up most of me with the bag with my feet extended over a log into this cooking pot, and slept that way. The next day when we were leaving, I had to hike six miles with flip-flops because I just could not put my boots on. Something not to do on an outing, oh boy.” FIRST SCUBA DIVE “I remember the first time SCUBA diving with John Hicks. I was just learning. My first time diving with him, we were swimming around and he motioned me over and pointed. As anyone who has dived with John, they know he can be rather demonstrative underwater, which is cool, so he got me to put my head down there to look at what he was pointing at. There was an octopus. He tells the story of how Glenn reacted to this octopus, eyes wide open and ‘ahhh’ [laughs].” Written by Lena Felton

Approx. 50 Students a Year Cost: Priceless


How long did you work at MA? 10 years: 1984 - 1994. Who was your favorite person you met here, or the person who had the most impact on you? I started the senior speech program, and seniors balked big time at having to speak at assembly in front of their peers. Jimmy just smiled and said he’d be the very first, that he felt privileged to be able to talk to all the faculty and students about something that mattered to him. He silenced his grousing peers with his good attitude and can-do mentality. I don’t remember what he spoke about, but it was good, and the audience erupted with applause and appreciation. I learned a lot about courage from him. Who was your celebrity idol growing up? I grew up in Minnesota and loved playing hockey (I was a goalie) more than life. The great goalie Jaques Plante was my hero. He WAS a celebrity in Minnesota and Canada. If you weren’t from there, you never heard of him. Then you worshiped Elvis Presley. My older brother collected all his records way back when (and sometimes let me play them), and he was so good and so different and adults saw him as so raunchy, that our mother stormed my brother’s room one day, and broke every one of those records. Chocolate, Vanilla, or Strawberry ice cream? Chocolate, as long as it has Heathbar mixed in and is rich enough to give me a stomachache for the rest of the day. What was the best decision you ever made while acting as Head of School of MA? I know this will sound weird, but a few years into my tenure, it was clear that MA couldn’t compete with Branson, University or other schools. They had more money — period. So, we decided to jack up the tuition to pay for stronger, richer programs; to renovate the campus; and to offer more aid, bringing in the first kids from the East Bay. It was the beginning of transforming a struggling school into one of the top secondary MA archives schools in the Bay Area, as it is today. We desperately needed that tuition money and we used it wisely. If you could have any job besides being an educator, what would it be? I’d work as Chief of Innovation for Apple or Google. What do you miss most about MA? The great assemblies, full of fun and filled with a sense of community. I remember once when someone ordered an exotic dancer to appear at assembly as a sort of “birthday-gram” for a student turning 18. She arrived pretty skimpily clad, and of course I had to get VERY angry. Had to uphold the standards, and all that. But: you never knew what was going to happen in assemblies in those years, only that it would be interesting, often challenging, sometimes profound. That’s the MA I miss. Interview conducted by Max Weiss


April 26, 2012


Elba Morales

Marilou Graham

Business Office Assistant

Photo courtesy of Peter Nachtrieb

Not many students can say that they were a part of an MA comedy sketch club, experienced the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake on campus, or had former science teacher Diana Cunningham live in their parents’ garage. But such is the case for Peter Nachtrieb, class of ‘92, a successful playwright and actor who pursued his passion for theatre while at MA. Nachtrieb took theatre with Phoebe Moyer and was immediately “sucked in” to the world of acting after being cast in two student-directed plays as a freshman. One of these was “Waiting for Godot,” a play now read by current theatre students in David Sinaiko’s class. Back then, the theatre was an old storage room from the Military Academy days, with the top floor as a space for set storage and old shoes and props. Nonetheless, being constantly surrounded by such creative and dynamic people was inspiring, and it was the four-person comedy sketch group that performed in front of the entire school and at Gala (MA’s old talent show) that played a large role in developing Nachtrieb’s interest in writing fiction. “I would write comedy sketches with the group and we would make announcements at assembly that were comical in nature, and that was one of my earliest writing experiences that kind of stuck with me,” said Nachtieb. Apart from acting, Nachtrieb was student body president during his senior year and took classes in the then brand-new Thatcher Hall of Science that he would take again if given the chance. Some of these include Foundations of Science with Mark Stefanski (also in his first years at MA) and Physics with John Hicks. Although he did note that he would never want to take Chemistry again. As many current students can relate, Nachtrieb also suffered the annoyance of having different cafeteria services for all four years of high school. He recalls having “junky” food freshmen year with lunch trays and chicken nuggets, no food service provided by the school for his sophomore and junior years, and a random service his senior year that would only serve food once or twice a week. This resulted in a lot of off-campus venturing to many restaurants that freshmen still frequent to this day. “People went to the bagel store all the time; that was like the big restaurant,” Nachtrieb said. “Then Confucius had the $2.50 special so there was always that, but food was always kind of a problem during my time.” Written by Neha Budhraja

Marilou Graham can often be seen walking downstairs from the third floor of Foster Hall heading to the weight room, or tucked in her cozy office working on MA’s finances. While Graham is in her office she manages all the financial aspects that relate to the day-to-day running of the school. She assembles both current students and incoming freshmen contracts, processes cash advances for minicourse, manages students’ accounts, and pays the utility bills and contractors who work on campus. There was a time, however, in which Graham did not work on the thrid floor. In her 14 years at MA, Graham has witnessed and been a part of the school’s many changes, but one of the major ones has been the move of the business office from the Administration Building (the precursor to the BBLC) to Foster Hall. While the business office was in the Administration Building, it shared the space with the school’s library, the bookstore, and a couple of classrooms. Originally, there was no room to relocate to the third floor in Foster Hall because the space was being used for storage. In addition, Foster Hall was also home to the school’s cafeteria and a few classrooms. The remodeling of the Administration Building caused the business office to relocate, and from there it wasn’t long until Graham came to enjoy her designated spot on the third floor. Though she is busy working behind the scenes, she manages to have some “me” time. If she’s not at school working out, she’s at home gardening, cooking and planning her annual family camping trip. Throughout Graham’s time at MA she has played a key role to the many transitions the school has experienced and continues to be essential in the school’s success.

Elba Morales

Mickey Morris

Director of Operations & Outside Services When Mickey Morris first set foot on campus, the school had 220 students and student dormitories. Although the dormitories were vacant, they still sat in what we now know as the circle. In the 33 years since Morris has been at the school he has seen the dormitories vanish, multiple new buildings constructed, and Foster Hall remodeled. In his first years, Morris lived on campus in an apartment on the third floor of Foster Hall, right across from the janitor’s apartment. He then moved off campus but kept an office in the back of the maintenance building. His final move brought him to the second floor of Foster Hall. Today, Morris absolutely loves his office; he enjoys the mountaintops he is able to see from his windows. Currently, Morris is taking on new projects on campus such as conserving energy and improving the school’s sustainability. Morris enjoys the variety that his job provides, as every day is a different day. His tasks range from running the buildings, to meeting with the outside services, to the not-so-easy feat of making sure that the school and its facilities are functioning to perfection. When Morris isn’t making sure that the buildings are clean, running, and student friendly, he is woodturning. Wood working is a passion of his and some of his pieces have even become family heirlooms. Morris even made a full size rocket for his first grandson, which has been passed down through his family. In the last 33 years the school has seen many changes, and Mickey has been one of the lesser known but very important forces,behind that positive change.

Written by Elba Morales


April 26, 2012

Foster: the people of the third floor

Mike Joyce

Chief Financial Officer

Vicki Buder

Elisabeth Hodges

Director of Individual Giving

Stewardship and Events Coordinator

l’s accountant … I do “I am basically the schoo al with the endowment, payroll, I do benefits, I de ets. We have a year-end all the department budg in the summer, and that’s financial statement audit boe like my baby.” -Ken Elling

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re, p he ily.” u e r we’ fam ause n little c e B w “ ur o are o


“We had to move the safe up to the third floor, once this was all refurbished…we hired a guy ... he had a little stair walker that he put under the safe and it would lift it one step at a time. Then he’d get to the landing and he’d have to like move it around and turn, and as he was going up, it ran out of batteries, so it was stuck there. So he had to run out and go get new batteries, replace the batteries, and just continue on.” -Ken Ellingboe

Marilou Graham

Business Office Assistant

Beth Sherman

Director of Alumni Relations

Ken Ellingboe Controller

Meg Wilson

Director of Institutional Advancement

Katie Pfeiffer

Director of Communications

Robbie Gutierrez

Database Coordinator

FAST FACTS “There was a little rickety sort of staircase that came up the back, and you weren’t supposed to come up here, but when you got here, it was really rustic. It was like an attic of an old house and it was all painted sort of grey, and the parents kept a lot of supplies up here … People lived here way back when!” -Elisabeth Hodges

“My role is deve lopment, so fu ndraising, and this year, mostly annual funds.” -Vicki Buder

Average number of daily trips up the stairs by individuals of the third floor crew: 5 Student visitors per week: 0-2 Number of stairs: 57-8 (depending on route) Number of Advancement Office meetings per week: 1 “I think the hope is ... this building might become more of a student center ... It would really center the school back around the circle.”

-Meg Wilson

“There’s a different focus up here ... ‘down the hill,’ that’s what we call you, is about the dayto-day. . .We’re thinking much bigger picture, about sort of the community as a whole and programs and initiatives.” -Beth Sherman

Interviews conducted & photographs taken by Olivia Lloyd


April 26, 2012


MA archives

How long did you work at MA? I worked at MA for 11 years, each one completely fulfilling. What is your favorite moment from your time here? There are so many. Here’s one ... when we opened the gym, we had a free-throw contest for every grade and for a faculty group.  The prize was a pizza lunch for the whole class.  We had just gotten started and from mid-court Tom Woodward hit the mark! Nothing but net!  The faculty won!  We really had a great time with that one. What was the biggest challenge you faced here? I think it may be that since we restored and built so much of the campus during my time there, that folks consider that the work of my time when really ... it was Crossroads, faculty salaries, financial aid, our critical work on diversity and endowment. I’m not sure that really counts as a challenge while I was there, but it certainly is one that I think about a lot. Coffee or tea? Both!  But coffee in the morning, and we still have our beans from Graffio sent to us from San Rafael ... all the way here to NYC! What was your favorite dish in the cafeteria? I wasn’t actually there for the kitchen we built before I left ... but I was a fan of any and all pasta! If you could have one actor/actress portray you in a film, who would it be? I couldn’t even begin to imagine, but when I was little, I would pretend to be Judy Garland from “The Wizard of Oz”... I wasn’t very good!  I also tried to be Tina Turner with the same result! What would you most like to change about MA? Not a darn thing. What do you always want to stay the same about MA? The humor, the zest, the moral compass ... so many things! What do you most admire about yourself? My luck to be a teacher, all my professional life. What was the best decision you ever made while acting as Head of School of MA? To teach while I lead, and to celebrate the faculty at every chance I could. The worst decision? Sometimes following the “letter of the law” instead of doing what I knew was right. Favorite spot in San Rafael? San Rafael Theater with the Film Festival. If you could have any job besides being an educator, what would it be? I couldn’t even imagine, but sometimes I dream of owning a small bookstore. What do you miss most about MA? Everything, Max, everything! Interview conducted by Max Weiss


How long did you work at MA? For six years, 1989-1995.  I was first Assistant Head, then Associate Head, and in my last year (1994-95), Acting Head. Was there any moment where you wanted to leave or considered leaving? During my first year, the student government continued an old MA tradition of raising funds through a student auction, the highlight of which seemed to be “Slave Day”! The services of willing students were auctioned off as fundraisers.  I had no idea what the event was about, but one morning that first fall, I drove up to campus and saw some boys in “drag” (very dramatic drag!) standing on the street corner, being offered “for sale”! I couldn’t believe my eyes!  I was shocked and horribly offended — on behalf of those who truly had once been slaves (or still were in distant parts of the world) and on behalf of women, who were being publicly mocked by the drag costumes.  I wondered whether I had left my respectable East Coast school to work in a completely alien MA archives environment. I think I screamed at then-Head Bruce Shaw — or so he used to say thereafter. Happily, “Slave Day” soon disappeared from MA’s traditions. What was the biggest challenge you faced here? When Bruce Shaw hired me as Assistant Head in 1989, he asked me to give particular attention to strengthening academic rigor ... Trying to preserve the warmth and friendliness of the school community, while  boosting the level of challenge across the curriculum and introducing more honors and AP courses presented a considerable challenge to my own administrative abilities. What was your favorite dish in the cafeteria? I always ate yogurt for lunch. If you could have one actress portray you in a film, who would it be? It goes without saying — Meryl Streep! What do you most admire about yourself? You know, dear editors, the older one grows, the less one admires various aspects of oneself and the more one wishes one could have learned more, behaved  more generously, worked harder, accomplished more. What was the best decision you ever made while acting as Head of School of MA? I’m of divided mind, trying to choose  between two with very different  kinds of decisions: either 1.) to move ahead with planning the new gym (even though I knew I would not be at MA when plans were completed and construction started); or 2.) to prepare the school for the transition to new leadership. After ten years with Bruce (five of them with Bruce and Evelyn), and a final year just with Evelyn, the transition was complex and required daily care and feeding. If you could have any job besides being an educator, what would it be? An opera diva! What do you miss most about MA? The friends I made there.  Even after all these years, I remain in touch with many of them and see them from time to time. Over the long haul and beyond any accomplishments, friendships really matter! Interview conducted by Max Weiss


RON PARIS & ALEJANDRO HIGAREDA Consider the people essential to running Marin Academy. You probably think of people like Head of School Travis Brownley, Dean of Students Lynne Hansen, Chief Financial Officer Mike Joyce, and our inspiring teachers. But what about what goes on behind the scenes? Ron and Alejandro play integral roles on campus, but their work is largely underappreciated. Each day, Alejandro and Ron arrive on campus before teachers and students, and stay until after classes, events, and sports games finish. Ron and Alejandro are committed to keeping the school clean, safe, and beautiful. Here are 5 things you should know about Ron and Alejandro’s work here.


Both Alejandro and Ron have seen the school change in many ways during their time here. When I asked Alejandro if he had a favorite moment or story from his time here, he said, “Not really, it’s just flown by. Actually there is one: the whole school in general! It constantly reminds me of why I’m still here.”


“We pare [the plants], clean, set up for events ... We try to keep the school looking good and make sure it’s safe and try to keep everybody happy.”

Ron Paris



April 26, 2012

“I’m the Operations Supervisor, so I’ve got three other guys that I supervise, kind of direct. I keep them busy throughout the day. And then just oversee any outside contractors and vendors.”

Alejandro Higareda

“There was this time we got a cart ... It had a bad handbrake and we hadn’t gotten it fixed yet. An alarm went off, so I had to rush over to the Foster Hall building to read the board to see where the problem was. A couple of students had opened the valve that drains the water from the overhead sprinklers, and it set off an alarm ... All the students and faculty were out on the field waiting to find out what was going on. The cart was parked on the side of Foster Hall, and I was talking to Mickey [Morris], my boss ... all of a sudden his eyes started popping out because the cart had slowly rolled backwards ... the cart just rolled down the hill ... and bounced on the side of [a tree], and then it hit one of poles that are on the building for the overhang, and just went up in the air and bounced ... It just scared everybody to death and the cart was destroyed.”


Ron Paris


Lightbulbs changed each week: 25-40 Special Events each week: 4 Golfcart laps around campus each day: 200

Alejandro has been at MA for 16 years. His brother Leo works here as well. Alejandro said, “I would like to stay here as long as I can. It’s definitely ... a good environment, the people are great! And it’s a challenge. Everyday is a challenge.” But Alejandro said that he enjoys that challenge.

Written & Photographed by Olivia Lloyd


April 26, 2012


Lise Eisenberg

Photos c/o Eugenie Chan

While Eugenie Chan may not be a full-time English teacher anymore, she has continually contributed to the education of MA students since 1996. Now a substitute teacher, Eugenie is still fully involved in the community, with an unparalleled passion for teaching. While talking with Eugenie about her time spent at MA, her passion for education was clear from the beginning. “It’s just great because I love teaching and it’s a great way for me to keep being in the classroom and keep working with students because it’s so much fun. I can’t emphasize enough how great it is. I love the rapport, I love the relationship with the students, and I love what I learn and what is revealed in the classroom.” When I asked her to tell me about one of her favorite memories from a class that she has taught, she laughed, and immediately had several stories to share. “One fun memory I have was from a class about creative non fiction and we were doing a personal essay based on a childhood toy, so I had all the students bring a toy from childhood that they really liked. One student brought little balls that spark when you drop them, and another student brought in a lasso. I said, you all had a relationship with these toys because you played with them, so you have to get back into that.” She smiled as she told the story, her eyes lighting up as she recalled the fond memory. “They started playing with these toys and got really into it and I think the girl with the lasso actually lassoed me. So that was fun, but fun in the pursuit of serious work, and that’s something that is really great to have in a classroom.” In addition to teaching, one of Eugenie’s main focuses is the work she does as a playwright. While she is best known for her love of teaching English, she informed me that her background is actually more in theatre. She spends a majority of her time today working as a playwright, and is now the resident playwright at Cutting Ball Theatre in San Francisco. She also said, however, that financially it is difficult to work solely as a playwright, and that this is how she decided to come to MA. “Before I came to MA I was actually in graduate school at NYU and I was studying dramatic writing because I’m a playwright and right before that I worked as a literary manager in the Magic Theatre in San Francisco. I also taught in community college and at a university in Hong Kong. Right after grad school I realized to be a playwright you have to have another job as well, but I didn’t want to just do any day job, I really wanted a job that’s meaningful, so I decided to go back to teaching.” Eugenie went on to tell me that she ended up having an interview at MA where she accidentally burst into former head of school Bodie Brizendine’s office unannounced, and eventually became a full time teacher. “I remember thinking how it would be great to teach freshman English because I remember for me my freshman English class was the class that opened up a world of possibilities and it was so synchronicitous because that is exactly the position that MA had that was opening up.” While Eugenie has moved on to pursue other interests, her passion for teaching still remains and she continues to contribute to the community in any way possible. From Enlgish I to Classical Drama to Shakespeare, Eugenie has taught it all, and now as a substitute teacher she continues to instill that passion for learning in students even today.

Written by Avery Hale

Lena Felton

Want to make 130 of Lise’s famous cookies? Here’s how you do it: INGREDIENTS 3.75 lbs butter 4.6 lbs brown sugar 2.3 lbs white sugar 6.5 lbs flour 12 C chocolate chips 3 tsp vanilla

DIRECTIONS 1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl 2. Portion dough out on prepared pans using 1/4 C. scoop 3. Bake the cookies at 350o for nine minutes

Interview conducted by Marshall Levensohn

Photos By Olivia Lloyd


April 26, 2012

BRANDON NICHOLSON Interview conducted by Greig Stein

How long was your commute from Oakland?

Why did you choose to go to MA?

I’m from Oakland originally, and I had gone to Oakland public schools, since kindergarten through eighth grade. I ended up applying to a couple independent schools, to get some more opportunities. My mom and family were really interested in having me in an environment where I could focus on learning. For the longest time I actually thought I was going to University High School, and I really liked it there. At the last minute MA kind of swooped in. At the end of the day, it felt like a safe haven, even though it was far away and not extremely accessible. It felt like a place where I could really grow.

It could range anywhere from as short as 30 minutes, depending on who was driving the carpool, maybe even 27, 26, depending on whether they were speeding or whether there was no traffic. But when I started I actually didn’t necessarily have a carpool, I actually took BART and the bus some days, so I could spend as long as two to three hours traveling to school. Then eventually I was able to use the bus service, and that was more like an hour and a half, and then when I was able to carpool it could be much shorter. It was pretty wild, but I had to become a morning person, so it was good, it taught me to be good in the mornings. It took a few weeks of falling asleep in Chris Alexander’s English class, it was my first period, but eventually I worked.

What was your favorite thing about MA?

The sense of community. It’s tough growing up. In high school you’re learning to be critical about so many things, and at many times high school can be fractured. At the end of the day I really felt a strong sense of community, a strong sense of respect. Not necessarily everybody treating each other the best all the time, but I just always felt comfortable there, and that I could really grow. I felt like it was a place that was flexible and that valued people. Just being able to be part of a place that felt that way. There’s [sic] not too many places like that.

Did you ever get into any trouble at MA?

I did. I’m sure most of my classmates would laugh, because relatively speaking it wasn’t really much at all compared to some of the things we’d seen happen over the years. I was a super loyal fan and supporter and somewhat member of MA’s soccer, and for three years I was statistician for both men’s and women’s teams. Our senior year things got a little heated on the sidelines, and I got called into Lynne Hanson’s office, the Dean of Students at the time. I think after we left they started the ‘Honor the Game’ here, the positive coaching alliance. We were pretty riled up. We were trying to bring in some flavor because we always got smacked around. In the process I got in trouble for a little bit of heckling and giving some [to] the players on the other team, particularly Branson. We were also the first ones to bring plastic bottles with rocks to the games so we could make a lot of noise. But they eventually banned us for that.

What was your high school experience like?

Who was your favorite/ least favorite teacher?

I could honestly say I was fortunate to like all my teachers. For my least favorite at the time, Jim Morris was way up there, and I loved him and hated him all at the same time. He was my geometry teacher. His whole thing was teaching the principles of geometry, and have you think more about the principles and the theory than what you actually saw. He would draw a pentagon, and say ‘assume it’s a square,’ and you were like ‘I’m sorry?’ and he would say, “Look, I’m telling you, it has four sides of length X, and here’s the problem.” It was such a twisted thing to do, but it also made us really dig into the principles. I really liked him and he was a really cool guy, but at the time I was like “you can’t be serious.” Avery Hale

It was really important because of the opportunity I got and the level of support I got to come to the school in the first place ... to do whatever I could to give back, and really show my appreciation for the school and everyone there. So at the core of my experience was trying to focus on becoming the best possible MA citizen I could be, and doing whatever I could to become an asset to the school because I felt like I was taking so much away. I did play sports; at one point I played baseball, I also ran track and played basketball four years, and I was very much involved in student ambassador work and stuff in the admissions office ... I was with the Voice for all four years until I became a Co-Editor [-in-Chief] my senior year. My senior year I was student body president. I did my best to really have an impact on the school and hopefully leave my mark. I was fortunate enough when I graduated to receive the Headmaster’s Cup, so that was pretty nice. Also ... it was my idea to start what became a tradition, in terms of introducing the senior speech, when I became student body president my senior year. Since everyone put so much time into preparing their speech, we still sometimes didn’t know who that person was. I tried to do some fun facts about them, and embarrass them before they gave their speech. It made it feel more intimate, so I think Bodie started doing the same.


April 26, 2012

jason lee talks dodgeball, bodie, bblc When he picks up the phone, a muffled “Hello?” sounds through the roaring wind bouncing off the car windows. With conversational ease, nothing short of what you would expect from a recent Claremont McKenna graduate, Jason Lee recounts his favorite memories of Marin Academy while driving from Los Angeles to the Bay Area. Such a journey constitutes a typical weekday activity for Lee, alumnus of the class of 2007 and now executive recruiter, or headhunter, at search firm Isaacson, Miller. I was lucky to get a few moments of his time to ask some questions of this once Student Body President and MA dodgeball enthusiast.

mention the full house of students who wanted to watch. It was definitely one of the “funner” things at MA, and it was exciting, it was different. What was a lowlight from your time at MA? I was not the greatest student for the first three years [laughs]. It wasn’t until my senior year that I really got it together academically. It was an overwhelming experience at first, being around the kinds of students that there are at MA. There are just some very brilliant people that bring so much to the table. I thought I was out of my league, with kids speaking of things I wasn’t aware of and having a depth of knowledge that I wasn’t really aware of, so that was kind of a lowlight for me. You were student body president during Bodie’s last year as Head of School. How was that for you? Bodie was traveling a lot that year, so I ended up doing the overwhelming majority of senior

What was the highlight of your time at MA? During my sophomore year, a dodge-ball league was run through senate. We played in the old gym at lunch. There were 15 teams with like eight kids each, and not to

things done, and I felt very privileged to have that responsibility and just trust from an adult. Her leaving was the elephant in the room for a lot of the year and in the end it was sad but also exciting that the school was moving into a new chapter. What changes do you notice on campus from your more recent visits? The biggest change would have to be where people congregate. The main social center was the circle while I was there and now it seems to be that little space between the Photo courtesy of Jason Lee library building and the other, I don’t know what speech introductions and the orgayou call it … nizational nuts and bolts of things. The BBLC? Yeah that. That She put a tremendous amount of building, the downstairs of the faith in me and trusted me to get BBLC, used to be … a real dump

Written by Neha Budhraja

Aaron Gill’s Journey


1 5 6 3

4 7

Graphic by Greig Stein Logos courtesy of institution websites

[laughs]. It had a mildew kind of feel going on down there, a lot of moisture and darkness going on down there … What is one MA class you would take again if you had the chance? Umm, I would have to say AP Statistics with Kevin Rees [laughs]. Kevin is an interesting guy; I don’t really know how else to describe him other than that. His ability to connect with kids is very different than with other teachers. I would almost categorize it as quirky. What is one MA class that you wouldn’t take again? Geometry Honors with David LeCount. I don’t want to say anything bad about David LeCount because I feel he is really misunderstood as a teacher and really tries to instill independence in his students, but for me I was not prepared to make

Why did you choose to go to MA? I think my parents and I would give you different answers. For me, I was focused on being able to play boys’ volleyball. Do you have one story from MA that has stuck with you more than others? The sports experience at the time was very different. There wasn’t a whole lot of constant support from the school and community. If teams were playing well, they would get some support. It’s much better now. Who was your favorite teacher? I had Tom Woodward for a number of classes and I really enjoyed being in his classroom. Who was the toughest teacher you had? I had Jim Baldwin my senior year. I don’t know that he was the toughest teacher I had, but I remember in general I struggled with that. Would you have enjoyed a different school as much as MA? I think for me personally MA, or a small school, was a better choice because it was easier for me to develop the social skills in that small school. Favorite spot on campus? Mostly the gym. During lunch. We would shoot hoops. We didn’t go down to the field much, but the field was very different. It wasn’t the same draw then that it is now. Parking spot? I didn’t drive to school much, but the parking lot was a lot different, too. It was where the new gym is now. Did you ever get into any trouble? No. For the most part I didn’t. There was a minor academic incident when I was a freshman, but I learned my lesson very quickly, and we’ll leave it at that. Did you ever expect to return to MA to work? You know, I didn’t, but I was looking for a change from the college environment. If you had asked me six or seven years ago if I would be back in Marin, I wasn’t sure that I would be. What was your favorite cafeteria meal? The cafeteria was very different at the time. It was mostly one dish for the day with no salad bar. We ended up going a lot of times to the Marin Bagel Company when it was open. The cafeteria was a lot of just a burger or fried chicken. There wasn’t a whole lot of choice, from what I remember.

Interview conducted by Greig Stein



April 26, 2012

How long did you work at MA? One year: 2007 - 2008. What were your favorite memories or moments from your time here? The first was opening day of the school year when the seniors ceremoniously and creatively took over the Circle, and, in the midst of their revelry, found a red senior t-shirt for their new school head so that I felt connected to them from the start. Then, upon their graduation, they completed the circle by presenting me with an MA diploma that made me a true member of their class. What was the biggest challenge you ever incurred here? Trying to learn and understand the MA culture and the various ways that it was acted out on a daily basis. A school, especially one as constantly dynamic as MA, is a challenge for the uninitiated, new learner. Who was the favorite person you met here, or the person who had the most impact on you? I must divide my answer: Joe Harvey and Emma Franklin. As Academic Dean, Joe was my guide through the MA maze as I tried to discover how the school worked and how I could keep it moving forward in a transition year. We became great friends as we worked our way through the inevitable school challenges, trusted one another with open, often speculative discussions, and laughed together on a frequent and regular basis. Emma was the Senior Class President and instantly became a MA Archives sounding board and friend. Your celebrity idol growing up? Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox slugger – I lived only 19 miles from Fenway Park and went with my father to see the Sox beat the Yankees as often as I could get there. What do you always want to stay the same about MA? I loved the infectious spirit of the MA students. They seemed to generate endless energy for participating with one another in amazing, often selfless activities. Chocolate, Vanilla, or Strawberry ice cream? Chocolate – anything chocolate! What do you most admire about yourself? My father once told me that my most valuable asset was my curveball. What was the best decision you ever made while acting as Head of School of MA? I was once convinced to wear my tux to a school assembly – to promote a coming event – and the stunned but appreciative students thought I was suddenly transformed into James Bond … a bit of momentary magic that became an early link with the community. Favorite spot in San Rafael? A small second hand shop on 4th Street not far from the school. There, just before opening day, I saw a large clear glass container in the window, and it worked perfectly as a vessel for the many pieces of candy that students (and faculty) plucked out of it over my year. Chocolate led to many wonderful conversations. If you could have any job besides being an educator, what would it be? Pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. What do you miss most about MA? I now miss going on the campus and being greeted with “Dick!” Luckily so many faculty, staff and administration friends are still there that I feel very comfortable when I return. Interview conducted by Max Weiss


How long have you worked at MA? This is my fourth year. What is your favorite memory or moment from your time here? I loved watching the inauguration with everyone – seeing the first African American president elected in the history of our country. What has been the biggest challenge you have ever incurred here? The economic meltdown a month after I started working here — that was one of the hardest and certainly unexpected occurrences from my time here. I’m really proud, though, that we did not lose a single student because of economics or money — that was huge. Who has been the person who has had the most impact on you here at MA? That’s a tough one. All of the adults that work here are interesting and committed and loyal to the school and I love that. Also, trustees in a school often get glossed over, but I’ve had the opportunity to work with a really great Board of Trustees. Who was your celebrity idol growing up? Larry Bird — he was such a great basketball player. I also love Neil Patrick Harris and Meryl Streep; they’re fabulous. What would you most like to change about MA? Spring break. It comes far too late! Other than that, I just want MA to keep becoming its best possible self. What is your favorite spot on campus? The Circle; I wish I got to spend more time in the Circle. What do you most admire about yourself? My courage. What would you most like to change about yourself? I’m an extrovert so I tend to think out loud and I have to be careful about that. Chocolate, vanilla, or strawberr ice cream? Chocolate. Dark chocolate. What has been the best decision you have made while acting as Head of School? I think to strongly support the school’s movement towards interdisciplinary work — especially as it relates to the end of the year experiences. The worst decision? I don’t regret any of the decisions I’ve made. Favorite spot in San Rafael? I love sitting on the back deck of our house; it’s quiet, like being in a little forest glade. If you could have any job besides being an educator, what would it be? A professional basketball player who could dunk — that is the one thing in my life that I have not yet done. Interview conducted by Sam Pritzker

MA Archives

MA Voice: April 26, 2012  

MA Voice's special edition featuring voices from the last 40 years.

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