Historical Timeline of Our School

1946

Founding of “The Happy Valley School,” a co-educational boarding school, grades 10-12 with Rosalind Rajagopal as a School Board member and Vassar’s retired philosophy professor, Dr. Guido Ferrando, as the first Head of School (a position he held for the first three years of the school).

1947

Happy Valley School enrollment increases to 18 students, 10 teachers; mathematics teacher, David Young brings an exceptionally high level of folk dancing to the students and school community.

1948

First publication of “Out Of This Year,” a collection of prose, poetry, and artwork created by the students of Happy Valley School, the school’s “yearbook.”

1949

Dr. Ferrando resigns for health reasons. Rosalind Rajogapol is appointed “Acting Director” in spring 1950; eventually the “Acting” is dropped, and she serves for many years.

1950-51

Aldous Huxley gives commencement address titled “Aún Aprendo,” which means I am still learning. It becomes the school’s motto.

1957

Former faculty member Franklin Lacey went on to co-author the book for “The Music Man” with Meredith Wilson which opened on Broadway in 1957.  Lacey joined the Happy Valley Foundation Board in 1959.

1956-57

Beatrice Wood, renowned ceramicist begins lecturing and teaching.

1972

Architect Paul Hoag designs house for Rosalind Rajagopal’s lifetime use, and Beatrice Wood builds house adjacent to Rosalind’s. Both houses later become home to the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts with Rosalind’s living room renamed the Robert Logan Gallery.

1974

Austin Bee, HVS Business Manager and newly elected HV board member, helps establish the school on the Happy Valley land in Upper Ojai.

1979

Dennis Rice named Head of School and serves until 2004.

1990

Fire destroys dormitory spearheading a major fundraising initiative that results in the eventual successful construction of the Phoenix dormitory.

1995

Original walnut orchard succumbs to a confluence of ecological and economic problems necessitating their removal; the loss is mourned by all.

1996

New classrooms completed.

1998

Beatrice Wood dies leaving her folk art collection, private ceramic collection, and 1500 volume art book collection to the Happy Valley Foundation.

2000

Completion of the Zalk Theater; Happy Valley Cultural Center established.

2004

David Anderson named Interim Head of School.

2007

Happy Valley School renamed Besant Hill School of Happy Valley; new strategic plan initiated.

2010

The Beato Atelier, a new arts facility, is completed.

2011

Randy Bertin is named Head of School.

2012

”Portrait of a Graduate” established by faculty/staff curriculum committee.

2013

Construction of faculty/student housing, the Doornink Grove, begins; School’s Strategic Plan, “Our Common Purpose” begins.

2014

Doornink Grove completed along with many campus improvements.

2016

Swimming Pool project is completed and named Lee Sanders Aquatic Center in memory of beloved 1960s alumnus.

2017

Thomas Fire devastates much of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, including Lower Campus structures.

2018

Alex Smith is named CEO of Happy Valley Foundation and Besant Hill School.

2019

Portia Johnson is named Head of School.

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