Jon Wimbish is Head of the Middle School at Harvard-Westlake. In this episode, Jon takes us back to March 2020 and the week that changed everything—from on Tuesday, March 10, telling the middle school faculty, “so there’s this thing called Zoom”—to the school’s entire mode of instruction being shifted to Zoom just six days later. What did those days in between look like? How did the school’s unsung heroes, like Mike Grier and Jeff Snapp, enable the school to pivot, on a dime, in such a fundamental way? Jon also speaks about growing up in Huntington Beach; a three-sport athlete at Huntington Beach High, Jon was recruited to Princeton for football before eventually finding his way to volleyball. A constant for Jon, however, was the presence of brilliant English teachers, whom Jon credits as inspiring him toward a career in the same vein. Jon cites Harry Gordon of Huntington Beach High School, Larry Danson of Princeton University, Paul Thomas of Costa Mesa Church of Christ, and most importantly, Mark Wimbish of Narbonne High School, as profound influences.
Chris Jones, or “CJ” to his colleagues, is Head of the Upper School Deans at Harvard-Westlake. In this episode, CJ speaks about how the college admission process changes in a pandemic. For example, how do students choose colleges when they are unable to tour campuses in person? And what impact might “test-optional” policies have on the way applications are evaluated? Is “test-optional” here to stay? CJ also talks about growing up on the south side of Chicago and being the only boy in his neighborhood to attend and graduate from college. Despite losing his father at age seven, CJ cites the many inspiring figures who appeared at critical times throughout his life to guide him in the direction of education. Among them were paternal grandmother Annie Lee Jones, Father Thomas Swade of LINK Unlimited Scholars, Arthur Reliford of St. Ignatius College Prep, and Kevin Brown of Williams College. In turn, CJ has made his life’s work becoming that same type of example and guide for others.
During her groundbreaking career in entertainment, Stacey Snider became Chair of three major movie studios—Universal (1999-2006), DreamWorks (2006-2014), and 20th Century Fox (2014-2018). In this episode, Stacey shares how attending a Philadelphia-area Quaker school instilled in her a spirit of egalitarianism, which, ironically, helped her to navigate a famously hierarchical industry. In describing her path to leadership, Stacey offers a master class in how to manage power, ego, the creative process, and creative people—so many of them men—where Stacey, often the only woman in the room, had to apply subtle and imaginative strategies to gain respect and then influence. Stacey’s list of mentors is also prodigious, from Marc Platt to Ron Meyer to Barry Diller to Steven Spielberg. Stacey took something from each of them and then applied it the craft of shepherding great films—the most meaningful to her being Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. In addition to her many bosses and mentors in the film industry, Stacey cites educators Mr. Dorrance and Mr. Ely from Friends Central School and Professor Dortmund from the University of Pennsylvania as profound influences.
Over 27 years at Harvard-Westlake, Ed Hu has assumed many roles, from college counseling to advancement to currently as its Head of External Relations. In this episode, Ed speaks about growing up in Bucks County, PA, as the child of Chinese immigrants, and how working in his family restaurant, Hu’s Chinese Kitchen, forever impacted Ed’s appreciation for the interchangeability of work life and personal life. Ed also discusses Harvard-Westlake’s fascinating and evolving relationship with China, how Brown University helped Ed set an entirely new course for his academic and professional life, and how moving to Los Angeles in 1987 empowered Ed to finally “come out,” in his words, as both an Asian American man and a gay man. Ed cites Pam Cressman of Holicong Junior High School and Ted Sizer of Brown University as profound educational influences.