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Historical society lecture goes ‘old school’ about La Jolla Country Day

BY RUTH VARONFAKIS

Contributor

The La Jolla Historical Society’s Winter 2010 lecture series concluded recently with a look back at the early days of what is now La Jolla Country Day School.

The series, “School Days: Celebrating the Past and Exploring the Future of La Jolla High Schools,” has also featured presentations on The Bishop’s School and La Jolla High School.

Cynthia Balmer Coleman, granddaughter of Louise Balmer, who is credited with founding the present-day school from its modest beginnings as The Balmer School, spoke wistfully of “the warm, cozy and gentle school” run by a visionary offering forward-thinking programs and nurturing homemade lunches in front of the fireplace.

The school, she said, began humbly enough in the Red Rest Cottage on Coast Boulevard with four students, before moving to the society’s Wisteria Cottage on Prospect Street thanks to Ellen and Roger Revelle, while adding four more students.

“Grandmother always wanted bigger and better, and looking around the La Jolla Country Day campus this evening? Wow,” she said. “She would be pleased.”

Popular English teacher Will Erickson kept the audience amused with vignettes about the days during the ‘60s and ‘70s when there was much “rambling and scrambling” to keep up with a cutting-edge curriculum for which Country Day is noted.

Christopher Schuck, head of the school, spoke of it as a complex place with a “full-spectrum approach to education,” acknowledging the need to adapt to a changing culture and economy.

He discussed the school’s international orientation with two-dozen foreign students attending this year from Europe, Africa and Asia. The school will soon introduce Arabic and Mandarin Chinese in its foreign language program.

Harking back to Coleman’s erstwhile comments about the early gentle days, Schuck told the audience of about 60 that Country Day now is a very different place. He emphasized “today’s school day is packed, our students are incredibly busy, and they lead full lives but with certain demands and expectations.”

As for the future, Schuck noted, “From four students to 1,080 students, we here at La Jolla Country Day live with the future every day — our students.”

All three lectures in the winter series, created and coordinated by Ruth Covell and Libby Carlson, were filmed by SDSU professor Rudy Vaca to include in the historical society’s ongoing oral history program.