The Sage Foundation has pledged a lead gift of $2 million in support of Ojai Valley School and its plans to rebuild after the devastating Thomas Fire. It is the largest gift in school history and is designated to support construction of the new Student Commons dining and library complex at the high school campus.
The contribution will be given over a two-year period and comes with an added challenge from alumnus and foundation president Ed Littlefield Jr.
“The Sage Foundation is offering a dollar-for-dollar matching challenge grant, up to $1 million, to inspire your network of supporters,” Littlefield wrote in a letter to school President/CEO Michael Hall-Mounsey – who accepted the challenge while announcing the gift during the school’s fall Family Weekend.
“Ed, we accept your challenge!” he said to applause from more than 300 students, parents, faculty and friends gathered under a canopy of lights Friday evening on the field at the Upper Campus. “We can raise $1 million in the coming year, and Ed, through his Foundation, will match that amount. That will complete our campaign. So tonight, the clock starts ticking!”
The gift is especially timely as Ojai Valley School is poised to begin construction on the most ambitious building project in school history – a $16-million improvement plan that replaces buildings lost in the Thomas Fire with new classrooms, science and technology labs, a makerspace for engineering and robotics, a new girls’ dormitory, and the Student Commons.
The Commons, a two-story dining hall, library, and student center, will create for the first time a place for the entire student body to gather for meals and special events. The Commons will include a kitchen and servery, indoor and outdoor dining areas, and a mezzanine student lounge. It will also include a second-story library and business center with expansive views of the Ojai Valley.
The rebuild will provide students with spacious academic and residential facilities that will support a burgeoning science and technology curriculum. It will also feature environmental sustainability features, including solar power and a lithium-battery energy storage system, that will dramatically eliminate CO2 emissions and ensure the campus can function in the event of power outages.
The buildings are all designed by Los Angeles architect Frederick Fisher and Partners, whose work is featured at USC, Caltech, Princeton, LACMA and other academic and arts institutions. The designs are architecturally aligned with the rest of the mid-century campus and feature stunning west-facing views of the Ojai Valley.
The 195-acre Upper Campus, located in the east end of the Ojai Valley at the end of Reeves Road, was severely damaged during the December 2017 Thomas Fire. The Lucila Arango Science and Technology Center and the Grace Hobson Smith Girl’s Dorm were completely destroyed. Damage to the headmaster’s residence and adjacent ceramics studio forced both to be torn down.
Littlefield was among the first alumni to offer support after the fire.
A philanthropist and musician, Littlefield hosted a benefit concert last fall with his band, Marley’s Ghost at the Upper Campus. His family established an endowment for the school many years ago and he has been a generous donor to OVS and arts institutions near his home in Washington over many years.
“Ed was an early leader in support of the Student Commons,” Hall-Mounsey said. “His contributions then and now will directly benefit students for years to come. We are deeply grateful of his support and generosity.”