BHS was founded by a community of educators and philosophers who were convinced of the need for new approaches to education. They envisioned an educational climate that would foster the overall intellectual and emotional development of each student in every aspect of daily life. A community whose members would be held together by an ethical and profoundly spiritual bond, regardless of individual backgrounds and beliefs.
Dr. Annie Besant
Dr. Annie Besant was a political activist in the early part of the century. She was involved in helping to establish the first trade unions in London and was also very instrumental in the struggle for independence in India. She was president of the international Theosophical Society based in Adyar, Chennai, India for 26 years.
In 1927, Dr. Besant purchased the land where the Besant Hill School now exists for the purpose of creating an educational community where "students and teachers were to be unfettered in their research and educational experiments." She envisioned a community that would foster the development of individuals to pursue the task of practical and effective social change.
Click to watch a documentary about Annie Besant.
Dr. Guido Ferrando
The Besant Hill School opened its doors in the fall of 1946 under the direction of Dr. Guido Ferrando, a retired philosophy professor from Vassar. Ferrando believed strongly in the Socratic method of teaching, encouraging small classes arranged in circles to allow an open flow of questions and discussion between students and teachers.
He viewed education as a process of inquiry where students learn how to think, not what to think, and develop the ability to integrate subjects and cultures into a worldview.
Famed English novelist and social critic, Aldous Huxley is probably best known for his classic science fiction work Brave New World.
Huxley served as a trustee of Besant Hill School for fifteen years and was instrumental in developing the school's educational philosophy, the balance between academics and creative expression, as well as the principle of respecting the unique potential of each student.
Internationally renowned as one of the great teachers and philosophers of our time, J. Krishnamurti avidly believed that education should prepare individuals to understand and face human problems, be free from prejudice and fear, and should emphasize cooperation and inquiry over dogma.
A prominent theosophist from Philadelphia and close friend of Krishnamurti, Robert Logan was a great contributor to the Happy Valley School. He and his wife Sara shared an unwavering devotion to Annie Besant and eagerly supported her vision for Happy Valley, to create a community of people who would help to move mankind beyond the present age of violence and materialism. Together with Louis Zalk, he was a key finacial underpinning for the school and, upon his death in 1965, he left a third of his estate to Happy Valley.
One of the original founders of the school and acting director for over 20 years, Rosalind Rajagopal emphasized non-competitiveness in the classroom. She advocated tolerance and encouraged each student to maintain their independent spirit while living in the context of an international community. Rosalind was instrumental in helping to instill in the school a spirit of living and learning with affection.
Louis Zalk was a businessman from Duluth, Minnesota, whose path converged into a partnership and friendship with other founders of the school based on the ideals and activities that bound them together for the rest of their lives. A key link was the joint esteem for education as the best alleviation for society’s ills, especially in the eyes of those committed to nonviolence. Louis was descended from a rabbinical family that, much like the families of Krishnamurti and Rajagopal, sought spiritual as well as sociological strength through learning.