After 12 years at Phillips Andover, Rev. Anne Gardner joined Harvard-Westlake in 2020 as the school’s chaplain. While prior to Anne’s arrival, Rick Commons had framed the role as an “entrepreneurial chaplaincy,” Anne had no idea how unorthodox it would actually become. Anne spent the first year of the job remote from Los Angeles, and then the second year working with students and adults who were still adjusting psychologically and spiritually to the fear and isolation of a global pandemic. In its aftermath, Anne sees her role as helping community members ask the big questions—such as, “Who am I? How do I decide right from wrong? Whom do I emulate? What gives my life meaning?” In Anne’s case, life was given meaning by two brave and resilient parents—a mother who became a biochemist, and her father a World War II hero and amputee. It was they who inspired Anne’s sense of gratitude and public service, as well as her commitment to a somewhat unlikely career as an ordained minister. Anne admits that as a gay woman, she carries an unusual combination of characteristics for clergy—but that she enjoys leaning into this cognitive dissonance in others, as a way to demonstrate both a common humanity, as well as the many spiritual paths to intellectual and religious leadership. Anne credits both her parents and her Jesuit education as profound influences on her life and career.
Sabrina Singh ’05 is Deputy Press Secretary to Vice President Kamala Harris. In this episode, Sabrina speaks about the heightened stakes of White House communications, the delicate balance between policy precision and personal authenticity in political speech, and how the Harris and Biden press teams collaborate as a unified administration. Sabrina also describes both her past—growing up in Los Angeles and attending Harvard-Westlake and USC—as well as her future, as she prepares for a new role at the Pentagon as Director of Integrated Campaigns for the Department of Defense. Lastly, while the conversation avoids discussing the policies of the Biden-Harris administration, Sabrina speaks about how meaningful it is, particularly as an Indian American woman, for her to work for the first woman and first Indian American to serve as Vice President. As Sabrina notes, Kamala Harris “looks like me.” Sabrina references Jane Dabel and Bob Pavitch of Harvard-Westlake, Douglas Becker and Todd Boyd of USC, Jesse Ferguson and Jennifer Krider of the DCCC, and United States Senator Cory Booker as profound influences on her life and career.
John Gatins is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter. In this episode, John speaks about initially coming to Hollywood to be an actor, before landing a chance opportunity to re-write a high school football movie called Varsity Blues in 1999. The film’s success launched a screenwriting career that would place John as one of the most sought-after “script doctors” in Hollywood, working on films ranging from Behind Enemy Lines to Power Rangers to the forthcoming Aladdin 2. But it also enabled John to champion his passion project—a complex character study about an alcoholic commercial airline pilot called Flight, starring Denzel Washington, which garnered John an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay in 2013. John also describes growing up in New York, and how his mother landing a job in the advancement office at Vassar College changed the trajectory of his life. Due to Vassar providing tuition assistance to the admitted children of Vassar staff, John and his siblings were able to access a college experience they could never have afforded otherwise. John and his wife Ling, whom he met at Vassar and was also a financial aid recipient, credit Vassar with inspiring them to become Parent Chairs of Annual Giving at Harvard-Westlake—aiming to provide at Harvard-Westlake the same type of transformational educational opportunities that had been afforded to them in college. John references Pat Vrett of Arlington High School (NY), Elizabeth Socolow of Vassar College, and filmmaker Robert Zemeckis as profound life influences.
Jocelyn Medawar has taught English at Harvard-Westlake for more than 30 years. In this episode, Jocelyn speaks about the magic of finally teaching “in-person” again, how to build a community of both levity and trust within her classroom, and also the art of assembling an effective college recommendation letter. Jocelyn also speaks about growing up in Los Angeles and commuting across town to Immaculate Heart High School, before attending Stanford and then joining the Westlake faculty one year before the Harvard-Westlake merger. Jocelyn expresses profound gratitude for her decades of service to HW, not only for the joy and amusement she experiences with students, but also the support she has felt in times of tragedy, including after the death of her late husband Dan in 2013. Jocelyn references Immaculate Heart teachers Carmen Hill, Marian Sharples, and Tony Bruzzese as profound life influences.
Constitutional law professor Kimberly West-Faulcon is the 2022 Kutler Center Scholar in Residence at Harvard-Westlake. In this episode, Kimberly speaks about constitutional interpretation, including what she describes as more contemporary notions of “originalism” and their application to the Second Amendment. Kimberly’s previous research and practice relate to education, including “ability grouping and tracking,” as well as standardized testing. While Kimberly admits that both were quite beneficial to her own educational outcomes, including earning a full scholarship to Duke University before attending Yale Law School, she also describes how these tools can reinforce both socioeconomic inequality and inaccurate conclusions about human intelligence. Kimberly also describes growing up in North Carolina as the child of educators and public servants, and finding inspiration in the mentorship of Duke professor David Paletz, as well as social justice pioneers like Constance Baker Motley, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Thurgood Marshall. Kimberly takes all of their lessons into the classroom today as the James P. Bradley Professor in Constitutional Law at Loyola Law School.
Wolfgang Puck is a world-renowned chef and restaurateur. In this episode, Wolfgang speaks about the teenage restaurant apprenticeship that changed his life, at L’Oustau de Baumanière in the South of France. It was during this era where Wolfgang also met the late Sidney Poitier, who not only inspired Wolfgang as an actor, but whose friendship evolved into Sidney becoming the godfather to two of Wolfgang’s boys. Wolfgang also shares his unique perspective on food and hospitality. To this day, Wolfgang spends mornings at the fish market personally choosing seafood, and evenings at his various restaurants around the world personally greeting guests table by table. On a more pedestrian level, Wolfgang also instructs Eli on how to properly prepare a scrambled egg. Wolfgang references Raymond Thuilier at L’Oustau de Baumanière and actor Sidney Poitier as profound life influences.
Dr. Mark Krieger is Surgeon-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), where for the past two years he has helped to lead complex conversations and address critical questions about Covid-19 and its risk to kids. As the Omicron surge (hopefully) nears its end in Los Angeles, many of these difficult questions remain top-of-of mind for educators and parents alike. Dr. Krieger also speaks about CHLA’s culture and service to Los Angeles, its contributions to transformational evolutions within pediatric brain surgery (Mark’s specialty), and how becoming a parent has impacted Mark both as a physician and person. Dr. Krieger also describes his upbringing in Massapequa, Long Island, where he attended public schools before studying philosophy and neuroscience at Harvard and then neurosurgery at Columbia Medical School. Mark references Dr. Stanley Gensler, as well as his family and various educational programs, as profound influences on his life and career.
In the season two finale, The Supporting Cast welcomes former Dodger pitcher Chan Ho Park, who was the first Korean-born player and winningest Asian-born pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball. In this episode, Chan Ho speaks about growing up in Gongju, South Korea, and initially playing third base before an encouraging coach convinced him to be a pitcher if he could build “strong legs, and a brave heart.” Chan Ho rose to the challenge by sprinting the hills of his childhood street and overcoming the fear of a dark cemetery near his childhood home—a street that is now called “Chan Ho Park Road” and the home now a museum in Chan Ho’s honor. Chan Ho also describes first visiting Dodger Stadium in 1992 and despite sitting in the nose bleeds, becoming immediately spellbound by the excitement of the crowd and dreaming he could someday play on that field. Chan Ho had no idea that a little more than two years later, his improbable dream would come true, launching a 17-year Major League career. Chan Ho references childhood coach YoungSae Oh, Dodger owner Peter O’Malley, and Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda as profound life influences.
Actor Dulé Hill is best known for playing Detective “Gus” Guster on the USA series Psych and Charlie Young, personal aid to President Jed Bartlett, on NBC’s The West Wing. In this episode, Dulé speaks about growing up in Sayreville, NJ, as the son of Jamaican immigrants, and how exposure to ballet and tap by age 3 set Dulé on a path to starring on Broadway in The Tap Dance Kid at age 10 and the Tony Award-winning Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk while a college student at Seton Hall. Following a successful Broadway run, Dulé moved to Los Angeles to pursue screen acting, but initially struggled to find consistent work and was subsequently dropped by his talent agency. Drawing on the inspiration of educators and mentors, Dulé recommitted himself to acting and fortuitously landed an audition for The West Wing, which changed his life. Dulé cites educators and mentors Dr. Ibrahim Abdul-Malick, William Esper, Savion Glover, and Martin Sheen as profound life influences.
Juliette Kayyem ’87 is a CNN National Security Analyst, Harvard Kennedy School professor, Atlantic columnist, and expert in the field of emergency preparedness, consequence management, and risk reduction. As it happens, Juliette joins The Supporting Cast on the day the CDC lifted its indoor and outdoor mask mandate for vaccinated people. For this reason, Juliette was both limited in her time, but also focused on the subject at hand—risk reduction and a new path forward from COVID-19. As a former Department of Homeland Security official in the Obama administration, Juliette has been applying the lessons of counterterrorism in advising mayors, governors, and private-sector leaders on their responses to COVID-19 and strategies to increase vaccination. Juliette also describes growing up in Los Angeles and attending Westlake School for Girls, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School, before a career that evolved from law to academia to journalism to public service. Juliette references many Westlake teachers, including Joannie Parker, King Schofield, Leni Wildflower, and Francine ’68 & Walt Werner, as profound educational influences.