The philosophy of Happy Valley School, now known as Besant Hill School of Happy Valley, is drawn from the vision of our founders, who believed that the environment which encourages the fullest development of student potential is one that affords the opportunity to explore creative as well as intellectual abilities. We believe in working together in a spirit of cooperation, not conformity, seeking to cultivate and express what is excellent in each student. Intellectual curiosity and a spirit of inquiry are the activating factors in the educational process, while active participation in school community builds caring and responsible individuals, promoting lives of integrity, awareness, and purpose.
The History of Happy Valley
The Happy Valley Foundation was established in 1927 by Dr. Annie Besant, one of the great women of the 20th Century. Dr. Besant, president of the worldwide Theosophical Society for more than twenty-five years, was a renowned social activist who generated significant social and humanitarian reforms in Britain and lent strong support to India’s independence movement.
In 1926, on a journey to the Ojai Valley with J. Krishnamurti, D. Rajagopal, Rosalind Williams (Rajagopal), and Fritz Kunz, Annie Besant visited a vast area of pristine land. She envisioned this site as a place to establish an educational center that would nurture spiritual, artistic, and intellectual growth as well as physical and mental well-being. She also knew that sustainable worldwide improvement in the human condition begins with the individual. In 1927, she raised funds to secure nearly 520 acres in the Upper Ojai Valley. She appointed trustees to further her vision of a non-sectarian foundation, “without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color,” that she named Happy Valley Foundation.
During WWII an unusual coalition of idealists, including Robert Logan, Louis Zalk, J. Krishnamurti, the Rajagopals, Aldous Huxley, and Dr. Guido Ferrando, gathered in Ojai. Recognizing the prescience of Annie Besant’s educational concepts, they incorporated these into the core philosophy of the Happy Valley School (now called the Besant Hill School of Happy Valley).
Annie Besant saw this land as a place where her ideals could be given form through activities in which the multiple aspects of culture would find expression. This has been realized with the creation of the Happy Valley Cultural Center.
By the 2006-2007 school year, applications and admissions, the lifeblood of any school, were dropping at an alarming rate. The feedback was: unfortunately, the adjective “Happy” suggested images of a drug rehab, or a troubled teens facility, or an elementary school. The HVS administration and the HVF board deeply understood and shared the alumni’s individual and heartfelt attachment to the name “Happy Valley School.” It was indeed painful to believe that market image might trump a 60-year tradition. Yet even more painful was the reality that many children were missing a Happy Valley School education because the name deterred families from investigating the school.
Effective July 1, 2007, the change to “Besant Hill School of Happy Valley” was made after a HVF Board driven initiative sought input from over 700 alumni, parents, and long time friends. The selection highlighted the truly remarkable visionary and public servant, Annie Besant, who raised the funds for the 1927 purchase of the 520 acres in Upper Ojai, and who firmly believed this breathtaking land would be the cradle of and model for the “new civilization of education,” where improvement in human history begins with the individual who knows how to think, rather than what to think, and with a culture embracing interrelationship: self to self, to mankind, to the earth, and to scientific progress.
This name selection was deemed to authentically reflect and honor our history, our past and the principles formulated by the founders. It was felt that by honoring Annie we not only honor her but also honor and reaffirm a future she predicted, which today’s administration and board are committed to fulfill. The selection was felt to be a win-win for both our alumni and our prospective students and families.
The land itself, the 520 acres owned by the Happy Valley Foundation, is and will forever be known as the Happy Valley.
Dr. Annie Besant
“What, after all, is the object of education? To train the body in health, vigor and grace, so that it may express the emotions in beauty and the mind with accuracy and strength.”
“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
Our purpose is to teach our students to wish to go on educating themselves. And for our graduates our valedictory wishes can be summed up in a single phrase: May you go on Learning! (Aún Aprendo – I am Still Learning)
Commencement Address, 1951
Dr. Guido Ferrando
“The Happy Valley must be a nursery for that true peace, which can only come through understanding, government, and will, through sympathy and not through domination…”
“We do not believe in education for a common mediocrity, nor even for a common excellence. We seek instead to cultivate in each person that excellence which is uniquely theirs.”
“Don’t work too hard nor worry too much…”
“You are so busy running around, you never stop to think about matters that are important. Why waste your mind on such twaddle? Why don’t you drive up to Ojai, and sit down under the walnut trees and spend time dealing with things which matter…life, beauty, the hereafter? You will get an entirely different view of life.”
Besant Hill School of Happy Valley
8585 Ojai Santa Paula Rd
Ojai, CA 93023
Tel: (805) 646-4343
Fax: (805) 646-4371