It’s hard to believe the Webb admission season is upon us. Our admission team has been covering the country and world in search of the very best for Webb’s incoming class next fall. This annual process of combing through hundreds of applications has got me to thinking about Thompson Webb – and his approach to selecting his students in the school’s formative years.
When Thompson and Vivian Webb started their California educational adventure almost a century ago, they were not too finicky concerning their very first students. In the beginning, simply getting the school operating took precedence over everything else. But fairly early on, when Thompson ran into a bunch of arrogant boys who were intent on flouting school rules, he sent them all packing, despite the fact that expelling them in masse threatened the financial viability of his new school. He had no nest egg to help pay the bills. He was in debt, and he needed students and the tuition that they brought with them, but he was confident that he had done the right thing in sending the boys home. Word of his swift action spread, and it had the unforeseen consequence of impressing parents who heard of it. Immediately, they wanted to send their own children to Webb.
Webb’s academy grew rapidly during its first decade of operations, and pretty soon it was attracting more students than he and Vivian had room to house. So they increased their physical plant. But they also did something more. They began to discern what exactly they were looking for in prospective students. At that time, there were no intelligence tests or other such means to evaluate candidates. Eventually, these would come into existence, and these documents would be added to students’ files. But during that first decade of the institution’s existence, Thompson decided that his own instincts were good enough. He thought that being smart was one quality that he was looking for in a student, but he did not think it the most important quality. He termed that character was much more important, and he judged that by the seat of his pants. He believed that if he got a boy who was honest, hard-working, and possessing the gift of perseverance, he could make them into a good student quickly enough. He was not interested in the prolonged work of reforming boys with behavioral problems, but his soft heart occasionally led him to bend that rule temporarily; there were second chances from time to time, but never more than that. If reform was not forthcoming, the boy was dismissed and sent home. Thompson made “honor” the catchword of his school. Reducing the complex interplay of values and traits known as “character” into just one word had its virtue in focusing the mind. And so it has been over the past century at this institution.
When I think about what we seek in our applicants today, both in boys and girls, it is exactly what Thompson Webb sought all those years ago. Being smart is a quality that helps a student master our challenging curriculum, but being smart alone does not guarantee success. In fact, I am reminded often that smart people without honor can impose the greatest harm to our society (Bernie Madoff comes to mind and many others).I’ll take a hard working boy or girl with fortitude and a sense of honor any day. We no longer admit by the seat of our pants, but intuition still plays a big role. Character and intelligence are both important. But experience has taught me (as it did Thompson Webb) that the greatest of these is character.
On January 12, 2019 five accomplished alumni returned to campus for our first ever Networking Essentials with Webb Alumni session. The panel of speakers represented several industries including law, real estate, green energy and marketing. Eager students spent their Saturday afternoon with our incredible alumni learning about the vital skills needed to effectively network and succeed in the increasingly complex job market. Each panelist spoke about a different aspect of networking and gave a brief background of their journey after Webb.
During the first week back from winter break, students and parents had a chance to hear from young alumni about their experiences at college including managing academics and being away from home, maintaining a healthy mind and body, as well as a panel on college athletics.
USA Water Polo has announced Marcelo Leonardi '94 as the Midwest Zone recipient of the Sandy Nitta Distinguished Coaching Award. Leonardi is the Head Coach of the women's water polo team at the University of Michigan.
“The process of finding the right college is more often than not riddled with anxiety for both students and their families. It is paradoxically both increasingly complex and more streamlined than ever. Technology allows students to simply add multiple colleges to the Common Application with a few clicks. And yet the convenience doesn’t reflect the intricate web of criteria that factor into applying to one college over another.”
So opens the feature to our recent issue of WEBB Magazine. Reported and written by Christopher Michno, the piece delves into the myths and truths intertwined in the college admission process. He also offers up a series of personal success stories from recent Webb alumni now thriving at Stanford, Columbia, UC Berkeley and beyond. Part two follows young alumni who chose colleges related to their avocations—like art, business, engineering and others. The feature photography is done by Elisa Ferrari and focuses on the beautiful and varied architecture of the Claremont Colleges.
The Winter Dance Show 2019 UN / covered - is an exploration in what it means to cover and uncover - in music, dance, costuming, and text. Featuring choreography by dance coach and Webb faculty member Michael Szanyi and senior dance students, the show highlights self-expression through movement. How do we make something known? How do we bring that to light? By uncovering dance, the show asks audience members to explore how the study of movement informs their human experience.
It is no accident, I believe, that at this very moment there is a riveting tale in The New Yorkerabout the art and science of decision making. Or, at least, not an accident that I found it and read it. Here at Webb, at this time of year, there is no shortage of students and families making some of the most important decisions (they believe) of their lives--from admission to and enrollment at Webb, to college admission for our seniors. Joshua Rothman rights beautifully about it here, bringing in examples from Darwin, Tolstoy, the modern parent and more. Read it in The New Yorker.
Augustyn Family Curator and Director of Research & Collections Andrew Farke is quoted today in The Washington Post on the impact of the federal government shutdown on fieldwork planning for paleontologists. Beyond the impact on visitor centers at such places as Dinosaur National Monument and the Petrified Forest National Park, research and fieldwork on federal lands has been dramatically affected, too. Read more in The Washington Post.