Harman Patil (Editor)

The Thacher School

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Type  Private, Boarding, Day
Head of School  Michael K. Mulligan
Enrollment  260
Mascot  Toad
Number of students  260
Established  1889
Faculty  60
Phone  +1 805-640-3201
Founder  Sherman Day Thacher
Religious affiliation(s)  No religious affiliation
Address  Los Padres National Forest, 5025 Thacher Rd, Ojai, CA 93023, USA
Similar  Cate School, The Webb Schools, The Hotchkiss School, St Paul's School, Ojai Valley School

The Thacher School is a highly selective, co-educational, independent boarding school located on 427 acres (1.5 km²) of hillside overlooking the Ojai Valley in Ojai, California, United States. Founded in 1889 as a boys' school, it is now the oldest co-ed boarding school in California. Girls were first admitted in 1977. The first co-ed graduating class was the class of 1978. The student body numbers 235, and it boasts a 12% acceptance rate.


the thacher school by lisa eisner

Notable programs

At the heart of Thacher’s founding philosophy is a belief that students benefit from taking on real responsibility and positive risks. This philosophy is evident in equestrian and outdoor programs that set Thacher apart from other boarding schools. All students are required to ride and care for a horse during their first year. An annual gymkhana event gives students an opportunity to demonstrate their horsemanship in competition with each other. Throughout the year, students are encouraged to take weekend camping trips into the local mountains. And each fall and spring the whole school breaks into small groups for week-long trips that may include backpacking, rock climbing, cycling, sailing, horse camping, canyoneering, backcountry skiing and kayaking.

On November 8, 2004, the San Jose Mercury News reported that the school received its largest alumni donation ever from Owen Jameson. The $10 million gift was part of the $82 million Campaign For Thacher, concluded in 2007, that sought to improve Thacher's financial aid program, facilities, and raise faculty salaries and endowment. Jameson's donation was specifically directed towards expanding Thacher's scholarship opportunities for youths from minority or low-income families.

History and culture

Sherman Day Thacher did not arrive on the Casa de Piedra ranch with the intent of creating a school. The son of Yale professor Thomas and Elizabeth Thacher, he elected to move to California to care for his brother who needed the "fresh air" cure for his tuberculosis. While spending time on the ranch, Thacher was contacted by an old Yale colleague who had a son that desperately wanted to go to Yale but needed tutoring before he would be prepared to attend. Thacher accepted the offer and tutored his colleague's son in both academics and maturity with his unique method of blending studies with outdoor living and horsemanship. Soon other friends were sending their sons out to California to receive Thacher's instruction and a school was born. Though it began as a feeder school to Yale, students were also attracted by the "emphasis on the lessons of the outdoors, hiking and rafting and riding on horseback" and "nearly every boy has a horse of his own and takes full care of it".

Campus and facilities

The campus, nestled in the foothills in the northeast corner of the Ojai Valley, about 85 miles north of Los Angeles, was originally the Casa de Piedra ranch. Buildings reflect a variety of architectural styles, including California Craftsman and Spanish Colonial Revival. An $82-million capital campaign that concluded in 2007 was responsible for adding a new performing arts center and a student commons - both designed by Barton Phelps & Associates, two new dormitories, faculty housing, and numerous other improvements. Residential areas are organized to support a tight-knit campus community where faculty members and their families live and work in close proximity to students. In addition to the normal boarding school mix of athletic facilities (gymnasium, tennis courts, track, three fields, fitness center, and pool, although the pool is not used for athletic events), the campus has extensive barns, pastures, arenas, and fields for equestrian use, including a network of trails that links campus to the adjacent Los Padres National Forest.

Despite the recent campus developments, Thacher still retains its casual ranch appearance with its unassuming style of architecture, choosing to defer to the Ojai Valley's natural beauty.

The school also maintains base camps in the Sespe Wilderness and the Eastern Sierra's Golden Trout Wilderness, which it uses for back country trips, educational programs and alumni retreats.

Mascot and traditions

While The Thacher School's symbol has always been that of the Pegasus, its mascot is the toad. In 1962 Nick Thacher, CdeP 1963, and grandson of Sherman Day Thacher, spearheaded the movement to name the school's athletic teams the Toads. He said that "unlike the insecure schools whose machismo necessitates their adopting hopelessly arrogant nomenclature such as 'Tigers' and 'Lions' and 'Spartans,' [we] felt no necessity to advertise arrogance or virility. Instead 'Toads' seemed appropriate because the nature of such beasts is one of humility and quiet persistence." In an older admissions video, a Thacher student was quoted as saying, "They may be toads, but they play like princes," in reference to the boys basketball team. The "Teacher on Active Duty"—whose job it is to stay on top of things each day—is also conveniently known as the "TOAD."

Notable alumni

  • Phil Angelides 31st California State Treasurer
  • Riley P. Bechtel, Bechtel CEO
  • Brian T. Bennett, journalist
  • Laurel Braitman, science historian, writer, and TED Fellow
  • Rukmini Maria Callimachi, journalist and poet
  • Donald Cooksey, physicist
  • Jennifer Crittenden, television writer (Simpsons, Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld)
  • Paul B. Fay, Jr., businessman and adviser to President John F. Kennedy
  • Sidney D. Gamble, renowned photographer and sociologist of early 20th Century China
  • James Newton Howard, composer
  • Ye Htoon, Burmese lawyer and political dissident
  • Howard Hughes, aviator and industrialist. Thacher was the second prep school that he attended. He enrolled when he and his parents moved to California, and he was still at Thacher when his mother died.
  • Roger Kent, Naval officer and political advisor
  • Sherman Kent, intelligence analyst
  • D. Andrew Kille, writer, teacher, and scholar of psychological biblical criticism
  • Michael E. Knight, actor (All My Children)
  • Sara Konrad, Olympian: the first American woman to compete in two different disciplines at the same Winter Olympics (United States at the 2006 Winter Olympics).
  • John Lenczowski, founder and president of The Institute of World Politics
  • Norman Livermore, environmentalist, lumberman and official serving under Governor Ronald Reagan.
  • J.P. Manoux, actor (Aaron Stone)
  • John Wescott Myers, World War II test pilot
  • Wheeler J. North. marine biologist
  • Leland Orser, actor (Taken)
  • Clay Pell
  • Joely Richardson, actress (Nip Tuck)
  • Matt Shakman, director
  • Adam Silberberg, surfer
  • Jonathan Tucker, actor (Justified)
  • Charles L. Tutt, III, engineer and hotelier
  • Terdema Ussery, Dallas Mavericks president and CEO
  • Thornton Wilder, one of Thacher's most notable alumni, playwright and author. He began writing plays while at Thacher. Wilder later went on to write the classic American play, Our Town.
  • Barry Wood, College Football Hall of Fame inductee
  • Noah Wyle, television actor (ER)
  • References

    The Thacher School Wikipedia