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The Thacher School is a co-educational independent boarding school located on 425 acres (1.5 km²) of hillside overlooking the Ojai Valleymarker in Ojai, Californiamarker, United Statesmarker. Founded in 1889 as a boys' school, it is now the oldest co-ed boarding school in California. Girls were first admitted in 1977. The first co-ed graduating class was the class of 1978. The student body numbers 235.

Notable programs

At the heart of Thacher’s founding philosophy is a belief that students benefit from taking on real responsibility and positive risks. This philosophy is evident in equestrian and outdoor programs that set Thacher apart from other boarding schools. All students are required to ride and care for a horse during their first year. An annual gymkhana event gives students an opportunity to demonstrate their horsemanship in competition with each other. Throughout the year, students are encouraged to take weekend camping trips into the local mountains. And each fall and spring the whole school breaks into small groups for week-long trips that may include backpacking, rock climbing, cycling, sailing, horse camping, canyoneering, and kayaking.

On November 8, 2004, the San Jose Mercury News reported that the school received its largest alumni donation ever from Owen Jameson. The $10 million gift was part of the $82 million Campaign For Thacher, concluded in 2007, that sought to improve Thacher's financial aid program, facilities, and raise faculty salaries and endowment. Jameson's donation was specifically directed towards expanding Thacher's scholarship opportunities for youths from minority or low-income families.

History and culture

Sherman Day Thacher did not arrive on the Casa de Piedra ranch with the intent of creating a school. Rather, he was the son of Yalemarker professor Thomas Anthony Thacher and Elizabeth Baldwin Sherman, who chose to move out to California and care for his brother who needed the "fresh air" cure for his tuberculosis. While spending time on the ranch, Thacher was contacted by an old Yale colleague who had a son that desperately wanted to go to Yale but needed tutoring before he would be prepared to attend. Thacher accepted the offer and tutored his colleague's son in both academics and maturity with his unique method of blending studies with outdoor living and horsemanship. Soon other friends were sending their sons out to California to receive Thacher's instruction and a school was born. Though it began as a feeder school to Yale, students were also attracted by the "emphasis on the lessons of the outdoors, hiking and rafting and riding on horseback."

True to its heritage, the school still describes its mission as one where the "challenges of academics are combined with those of mountains and horses."

In addition to its unique history and equestrian program, the Thacher School has a strong, yet simple, honor code: "Honor, Fairness, Kindness and Truth." During their time at Thacher, the students adhere to this code of personal conduct with regard to all aspects of their lives.

Casa de Piedra is the name of one of the dormitories, and an affectionate name for the school itself (much as "Old Nassau" is for Princeton Universitymarker). Thacher alumni use the abbreviation CdeP to refer to the school, as in "John Smith, CdeP 1980" rather than "John Smith, Thacher class of 1980."

Campus and facilities

The campus, nestled in the foothills in the northeast corner of the Ojai Valley, was originally the Casa de Piedra ranch. Buildings reflect a variety of architectural styles, including California Craftsman and Spanish Colonial Revival. An $82-million capital campaign that concluded in 2007 was responsible for adding a new performing arts center, a student commons, two new dormitories, faculty housing, and numerous other improvements. Residential areas are organized to support a tight-knit campus community where faculty members and their families live and work in close proximity to students. In addition to the normal boarding school mix of athletic facilities (pool, gymnasium, tennis courts, track, fitness center, pool), the campus has extensive barns, pastures, arenas, and fields for equestrian use, including network of trails that links campus to the adjacent Los Padres National Forest.

Despite the recent campus developments, Thacher still retains its casual ranch appearance with its unassuming style of architecture, choosing to defer to the Ojai Valley's breathtaking natural beauty.

The school also maintains base camps in the Sespe Wilderness and the Golden Trout Wilderness, which it uses for back country trips and summer alumni retreats.

Mascot and traditions

While The Thacher School's symbol has always been that of the Pegasus, its mascot is the toad. In 1962 Nick Thacher, CdeP 1963, and grandson of Sherman Day Thacher, spearheaded the movement to name the school's athletic teams the Toads. He said that "unlike the insecure schools whose machismo necessitates their adopting hopelessly arrogant nomenclature such as 'Tigers' and 'Lions' and 'Spartans,' [we] felt no necessity to advertise arrogance or virility. Instead 'Toads' seemed appropriate because the nature of such beasts is one of humility and quiet persistence." In an older admissions video, a Thacher student was quoted as saying, "They may be toads, but they play like princes," in reference to the boys basketball team. The "Teacher on Active Duty"--whose job it is to stay on top of things each day—is also conveniently known as the "TOAD."

Notable alumni


  1. Makepeace, LeRoy McKim, "Sherman Thacher and His School," Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1941, p. 2
  2. Arax, Mark and Wartzman, Rick, "The King of California," Public Affairs, New York, 2003, p.289
  3. The Thacher School website,
  4. San Jose Mercury News

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