Several times a week, I get up early and hike the beautiful trails in the mountains above the school with my dog. It’s not only good exercise, but it’s also good meditation. My dog is excellent company – he keeps the bears away and never disagrees with anything I say. From the summit on a clear day, I can see as far away as downtown Los Angeles, the adjacent cities beyond Claremont, and clear down to San Bernardino and Riverside. Looking out, over and beyond I have a complete picture of the Webb campus - the football field, the museum, the pool, and of course our beautiful chapel. What a sight! It all gets me thinking about our learning community in this unique and truly dynamic part of the world.
The view is a reminder of how much things change over a relatively short period of time. Fifteen years ago you wouldn’t have seen the 210 freeway down below the Webb campus. Fifty years ago, you would have only seen dirt roads leading to campus, and citrus trees and smudge pots lining the fields. Ninety-three years ago, when Thompson and Vivian Webb put a stake in the ground and committed to building a world class school with nothing but grit, determination, and a vision from his father, you would have seen a barren landscape and only a small town where the LA skyline now exists. My mind of course then races to what this scene will look like 50 or 100 years from now.
Like the story of life as told at our venerable Alf Museum of Paleontology, one of Webb’s greatest attributes is its ability to evolve with the times without straying from its core values. Webb’s commitment to honor, leadership and service never waivers, and yet as our environment changes, we continue to evolve, adapt and grow.
But it’s not just our environment and landscape around our campus that is changing right now. The world itself is changing. How we function, think, communicate, and interact (socially and in business) is changing. And as such, the workplace is changing. It’s not only the magnitude of change that strikes me, but also the pace of this change. For example, members of the class of 2005 will soon celebrate their 10th reunion. That doesn’t seem like a long time ago. But when they graduated, the Internet itself was a novel concept and devices such as the iPhone didn’t even exist. Perhaps even more shocking, as the class of 2010 prepares for its reunion, I am reminded of how dramatically the world has changed in just the past 5 years. Who would have ever guessed 5 years ago that Google would have a driverless car, or that Uber and similar companies would upend the transportation industry. And the same is true for the lodging industry, the medical industry, the health industry (with wearable devices to monitor our every step and more), the financial industry, and much of the retail industry. This complete disruption of major sectors of the economy is mind-boggling, and yet it is only just beginning.
In the last issue of WEBB, I wrote about our secret sauce – what is it about this place that makes it so impactful in people’s lives. To my surprise and delight, I had many responses to that piece – the gist being that alumni see Webb’s balance between moral courage and innovative (unbounded) thinking as its greatest asset, and that this balance leads to graduates who make a real impact in the world.
I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. As the world is in the midst of such change, Webb today is on the move. While most schools continue to teach toward a 20th century mindset, our curriculum is evolving in such a way as to ensure we are graduating leaders for the world stage, people who can think critically, analyze big data, collaborate effectively with people all over the world, create ideas and prototypes, and ultimately make good, informed decisions based on sound research and diverse input. In short, people who have the entrepreneurial mindset and inner strength to thrive in this new world that is rapidly evolving around us—The 21st Century.
As this edition of WEBB highlights, our faculty has been hard at work evolving our curriculum to ensure we are keeping pace with the world. Since the adoption of The Centennial Strategic Plan just three years ago, we have constructed a new humanities program, reordered and strengthened our science curriculum, ensured our math program focuses on problem solving, expanded our world languages, and broadened our arts electives to include digital media.
We have also begun to forge important partnerships with other institutions in the region. Our freshmen biology students are working on genomic science with UCR’s Campbell Science Learning Lab. This year we will offer an advanced computer programming course, during the evenings, taught by a professor and students from Harvey Mudd College. And we will also soon introduce an advanced anatomy class, an organic chemistry class, and other research-based electives in partnership with local colleges and universities.
When Thompson and Vivian started this school, Europe was the epicenter of the world. The most innovative and highly regarded universities and industries were on the East Coast, as were the vast majority of prep schools. Today, in 2015, everything has changed. The epicenter of the world has shifted to the Pacific Rim and many high-powered colleges and research universities are on the West Coast. In fact, two of the most important hubs of innovative thinking are located in the Silicon Valley and in the greater Los Angeles area. And here we sit on the front porch of it all. My morning hikes are constant reminders of the opportunity before us.
If we at Webb have the courage to take full advantage of where we are and who we are, we then have the potential to fundamentally reimagine a dynamic, relevant, engaging high school experience for students here today and for those that will follow tomorrow.
*preview of Webb magazine, Fall 2015