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Meet Gary Krahn: New La Jolla Country Day School chief to focus on grooming leaders

As La Jolla Country Day School’s (LJCDS) new head of school, Gary Krahn, Ph.D. said he plans to help shape the leaders of tomorrow. To do that, under his guidance, the school will focus on individualized learning and giving students the opportunity to better understand the world around them, as it is and as it will be.

“We are trying to create a developmental model where students become the best versions of themselves,” Krahn said. “They will know how to ask questions, want to make the world a better place and have the tools to do it.” The new head of school took the helm July 1, and welcomed students on their first day back, Aug. 24.

Head of La Jolla Country Day School Gary Krahn.
Head of La Jolla Country Day School Gary Krahn.

Of his selection as LJCDS 12th head of school, “Dr. Krahn overwhelmingly emerged as the committee’s first choice,” said board president Manish Parikh said in a press release. “What one doesn’t see in his resume are his warmth and approachability: evident during even a brief conversation.”

That resume includes years of experience in developing leadership skills, chiefly in his 30 years in the United States military. Krahn, a San Diego native, received his undergraduate education at United States Military Academy West Point in New York. During his subsequent service with the Army in the Light Infantry Division (which included deployments around the world) he quickly rose through the ranks. By the time he was 22 years old, he was responsible for 150 soldiers ages 17-50.

Toward the end of his time in the military, West Point offered Krahn the opportunity to earn an advanced degree so he could teach at his Alma Mater. He chose mathematical sciences as his field. In 2004, Krahn helped establish the National Military Academy of Afghanistan in Kabul by hiring the initial 51 faculty members and developing the curriculum. He continued to teach until his retirement as Brigadier General in 2006.

That year, he moved to Fort Worth, Texas to become head of school of Trinity Valley School, where he served for nine years.

When the chance to teach at La Jolla Country Day arose, he said, “I realized it was time to come home.” Krahn takes over for Dr. Judy Fox, LJCDS’s interim head of school, who replaced Christopher Schuck. “Education is going to go through enormous changes in the next decade, and to be part of that at such an amazing school is a dream come true,” he said. “If you look at how education started, we were tutored by the wise sages of the community. But learning is an individual experience, each person learns differently and at a different speed. Yet education across the country is lockstep and mass-produced — it’s not customized.”

Arguing that the future of education, like the future of medicine, will take a more individualized approach, he said LJCDS will use available technology (and adjust as technology improves) to best mold young minds and help students find what they can do to contribute to society as leaders. To better understand what the future will look like, he compiled a board of advisors consisting of technical directors from national agencies, engineers, inventors, conflict resolution strategists, professors, researchers and more. “They tell me where the world is going,” he said. “How do I anticipate and respond to a rapidly changing world when I’m here every day? I need a team to help us stay connected with the world we are trying to prepare the kids for.”

Additionally, he said engaging with different cultures will be key. “That’s an essential part of being an educated person. If you are the one in the room who can see the world through different lenses, you will be the leader in that room,” he said. “Leaders inspire people to do something extraordinary. I’ve come to understand that leadership is ultimately about creating transformational change without creating too much anxiety.”

In addition to seeing the world through the Army, Krahn and his wife Paula (nee Davis) got to see the country during their 17 moves across the United States. “That’s just military life,” he said. But with family in San Diego and the Bay Area, the Krahns are happy to be back.

Krahn and Paula grew up just a few houses apart near San Diego State University, but didn’t connect until they attended Crawford High School. “I had a crush on her in the ninth grade, but she told me she didn’t know I existed until 10th grade,” he said with a smile and a blush. “She was the only girl I ever dated. When I went off to West Point, we knew we would get connected again,” he said. The two wed after his 1977 graduation.

They have two daughters, Carolyn and Kelly, who both work in the computer technologies field, and live in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Besides running LJCDS, Krahn said his “big job” is convincing Kelly, her husband and two daughters to move to San Diego. “I want my granddaughters, Reese and Avery, to go to the best school in the world and I’m convinced it is La Jolla Country Day,” he said. “Mark my words, I’ll get them here somehow!”

Learning Lunches

■ From innovations in technology to questions about human dignity and child advocacy, Gary Krahn will offer Wednesday lunches to inform parents and the community of the latest education topics around the world, as well as at La Jolla Country Day School.

■ Free and open to the public at 9490 Genesee Ave.

■ Schedule: 12:15 p.m. Sept. 30, Oct. 7,14, 21 and 28; Nov. 4 and 18; Dec. 2, 9, and 16. RSVP: ljcds.org