Founders & Philosophy

Our Founders

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.

Our Philosophy

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. 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.

Dr. Annie Besant

Dr. Annie Besant, the founding member of Besant Hill School of Happy Valley in Ojai, California. A prominent women’s rights activist, president of the Theosophical Society based in Adyar, Chennai, India for 26 years, she was president of the Indian National Congress and a Fabian socialist. She fought for the causes she thought were right, starting with freedom of thought, women’s rights, secularism, birth control, Fabian socialism and workers’ rights. In 1926, Dr. Annie Besant traveled to the United States with her protégé and adopted son, Jiddu Krishnamurti. Dr. Besant visited a vast area of pristine land in Ojai. 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, Dr. Besant purchased the land where the Besant Hill School of Happy Valley 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.

J. Krishnamurti

Founding member of Besant Hill School of Happy Valley in Ojai, California. Jiddu Krishnamurti was born on 11 May 1895 in Madanapalle, a small town in south India. He was adopted in his youth by Dr. Annie Besant, then president of the Theosophical Society. Dr. Besant and others proclaimed that Krishnamurti was to be a world teacher whose coming the Theosophists had predicted. He selected the Ojai Valley as a location for his teaching in the United States.
In 1929, however, Krishnamurti renounced the role that he was expected to play.  He resigned as figure head of the Theosophists, and cut all ties to any notion of a religious or spiritual organization. This was followed immediately by a “core” statement, summarized as “Truth Is A Pathless Land: man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the mirror of relationship, through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection.” For the rest of his long life, he taught not as an authority but as an investigator looking into life’s fundamental issues through questioning all assumptions, and challenging his listeners to do the same. His talks and dialogues have been compiled and published in more than sixty books and translated into as many different languages.

Rosalind Rajagopal

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.

Dr. Guido Ferrando

Happy Valley 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.

Aldous Huxley

English novelist, author of, “Brave New World”. Member of the Vedanta society, he was a regular contributor to the Southern California Vedanta journal, Vedanta and the West. Huxley wrote thirty-one books, sixty-five stories, and innumerable articles—Vedantic themes appearing in many of them. Even his novels were created as vehicles for expressing his philosophy. Krishnamurti and Huxley had met in California in early 1938 and became friends for life. They found themselves forced emigres and neighbors in California during the war as they were unable to leave America. The evidence of their subsequent work leaves no doubt that they influenced each other during the crucial period of the war. Huxley served as a trustee of Happy Valley 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.

Robert Logan

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.

Louis Zalk

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.