In recognition of the school’s centennial, the Founder’s Alumni Award was created in 2011 to honor an Ojai Valley School alum whose achievements exemplify the values endorsed in the school’s motto, Integer Vitae, meaning wholeness of life, symmetry of life, soundness of life, therefore, poise and strength of life. Past Recipients of the Founder’s Alumni Award include:
2017 – The Cass Sisters: Liza (L61), Nicholas Cass (L58), and Julie Two Suess (L60)
The Cass sisters, who believed in the school’s principles of developing character and strength to accomplish “nothing less than your best,” established the Salimbaceous Trust as a legacy of their mother, Gina Kruzic Wilcox, who in her lifetime anonymously financed several young women who had “dreams, schemes, and promise of achieving their goals.”
For two decades, the Salimbaceous Trust provided anonymous grants to help OVS girls pursue their passions and talents. The Cass sisters believed that too often money stood in the way of girls achieving their potential, so each year they funded grants intended to help girls make their dreams a reality. They named it Salimbaceous, a word coined to describe the coming together of people and resources to keep young women on track.
The grants allowed numerous middle and high school girls, who were nominated by the faculty to be recipients of the awards, to pursue their passions in art, music, literature, technology, and science.
2011 – Michael D, Hermes (L53)
For 34 years he served as president and chief executive officer of Ojai Valley School and was instrumental in leading the school through a period of fiscal uncertainty to an era of growth and prosperity. Over the years he served as the OVS president, Hermes was also active in a number of community organizations, serving on the boards of the Tri-Counties Comprehensive Health Planning Council, the Ojai Land Conservancy, the United Way, the Ojai Valley Hospital Foundation, and the Ventura County Symphony. He was also a staunch supporter of the Keep the Sespe Wild group.
2012 – Barbara B. Smith (L35)
Valedictorian of her Nordhoff class, she received her bachelor’s from Pomona College, and her Master’s degree from Eastman School of Music. She was later awarded an Honorary Doctoral degree from Pomona College. Barbara has established non-western music endowments at many schools, OVS among them, to ensure the music curriculum was broadened to include the rich ethnic possibilities.
2013 – Woody Halsey II (L62)
In 1969 Woody graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Romance Languages. Following his freshman year at Princeton, he found himself off the west coast of France where he was to start a job as a summer camp counselor. At that point in his life he only spoke a few words of French, and to his dismay there was no summer camp counselor job waiting for him. He quickly had to contend with the unfamiliar land and ended up falling in love with French language, culture, and food.
In 1986 he joined School Year Abroad (SYA) as their first president. He has served as a teacher and vital member of the SYA community for 31 years. School Year Aboard is the only secondary-level program which allows students to live with a European or Asian family for an entire academic year while earning U.S. graduation credits and preparing for selective U.S. colleges and universities.
2014 – Varnnee Chearavanont Ross (L77, U81)
With a B.S and MFA degrees from Fordham University, Varnnee is the founder of Concordian International School. Concordian International is an independent Pre-k through 12 school located in Thailand. The school educates more than 580 students each year and is the only fully trilingual international school in Thailand using the International Baccalaureate program. Concordian International School offers full immersion in English, Chinese and Thai. It is also fully accredited by the International Baccalaureate Organization, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the Council of International Schools (CIS).
2015 – Beth Pfeiffer (L66, U69)
After graduating from the Upper Campus, Beth continued her studies at Wellesley College, where she completed her undergraduate degree in history. While working as a securities analyst in Boston, Beth earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. She eventually formed Gamewright, a company that made engaging print-based educational games and became a market leader. Beth’s volunteer involvement has been extensive: Among her service has been as a member of the Wellesley board of trustees for 15 years (Beth is now a member emerita); as a current trustee of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston; as a former member of the Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts board and of the board of overseers of WGBH. She has also mentored incarcerated prisoners in Boston University’s College Behind Bars degree program.
2016 – Spencer Garrett (L62, U65)
After graduating from the Upper Campus, Spencer attended Pomona College, earning a B.A. in Mathematics and Economics in 1969. Following 3 1/2 years in the Navy (including a tour and a half of duty in the Tonkin Gulf of Vietnam), he completed an MBA at Northwestern University and came back to Ventura, where he and his brother, Scott (U67), started developing the Pierpont Racquet Club, one of the first multi-purpose athletic facilities in the country. Spencer has done extensive volunteer work over the last several decades, including for the Ventura Boys and Girls Club, the United Way of Ventura County, the Interface Children and Family Services, the Ventura Music Festival, The Museum of Ventura County, and the International Health Racquet Sports Association. He agreed to join the OVS Board of Trustees in 2008 and, in the intervening years, has served ably on the building and grounds, audit, and executive committees.