The Thacher School - Review #25

Read more details about The Thacher School on their 2019-20 profile page.
The Thacher School
5

About the Author:

College EnrolledHarvard College
Home Town, State Panorama City, CA
Years Attended Boarding School4
Activities During Boarding SchoolAt Thacher, because I suffered from asthma and couldn't run, I was allowed to make hiking my sport. As a result, even now (at 60) I was recently tested and found to have the cardiovascular fitness of a 19 year old. On safari in Africa, I joined others in climbing Kilimanjaro without even a day of training. Recently, I did a 300 mile trek in the Himalayas without pulling a muscle. I attribute all of this to my time at Thacher. Thacher gave me a physical confidence in nature due to the unique experience of making the wilderness my afternoon playground. At the same time, at Thacher I participated in theater, starting my own improv comedy company. At one of the shows, by sheer chance, the head of admissions of Harvard was present. Was that why I was accepted? I'll never know (I was also accepted at Yale, Stanford, Dartmouth, Brown, etc).

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
Thacher maintains a purposeful equipoise: a sincere balance between the physical and the intellectual. In no other school of which I am aware is nature such a dominant presence. While the school has mellowed and grown luxurious since my time, I visit campus often and am confident that much of the culture abides. Last fall I attended the memorial service for a legendary faculty member. Afterwards, I shared some thoughts with a recent graduate who had studied with the same teacher who made a big impression on me 45 years ago. I realized then that Thacher's "stamp" is like human DNA. It evolves, but the core impulses remain.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
Confidence in my own set of values. Confidence to travel the world and know that I'm okay.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
If you decide to go to Thacher, be prepared to jettison the shallow world from which you probably have come. Before Thacher, I was a TV addict. Today, I do have a smart TV, but it is not connected to anything but a DVD player and the internet. And I have probably watched it fewer than ten hours in the past 12 months.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
Thacher is all about values: independent thought and strong character. It is a bastion of lasting values in an America which seems to have gone the way of ancient Rome in its worst days.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
If you need to spend your weekends partying, please go somewhere else. Thacher really isn't for spoiled, shallow people. Millennials with purpose will find a great deal here.

Academics:

1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Thacher was far more challenging academically for me than was Harvard. But I also received a better education, thanks to the seminar style courses with authentically engaged teachers. I don't remember ever feeling academic competition, but remember, this was decades ago.

Athletics:

1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Highly allergic to horses and suffering from serious asthma, I did experience some dramatic health effects from owning and "operating" a horse and living in the sage covered mountains. However, the long terms effects of horse camping and hiking have made me far more fit than most people. On the other hand, I am somewhat judgmental of people who slack and let themselves go soft. Thacher really does have an almost ancient Greek cultural ethos of sound body/sound mind. I'm grateful for that to this day. I'll be hiking in the Swiss Alps in six weeks-- without a map, without a compass, alone. Thanks to Thacher's sports program, I feel comfortable in the Sierra, Rockies, Alps, Himalayas (my favorite part of the world), and Andes.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
I loved that Thacher has a Greek theater that is as beautiful as anything in Greece, and that I saw Antigone in the magic of a night under the oaks.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
I did lots of volunteering at Thacher, but I wouldn't say that this was a unique aspect of the school, except that we did take developmentally disabled people into the wild, an idea that in the end probably wasn't so wise. We also pushed the safety envelope when it came to wilderness sports, though I think lawyers and a generally more cocooning culture has probably fenced off anything really worth doing!

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
Dorm life at Thacher was about creating a close-knit community. Freshman year was too regimented-- with constant inspection for clean-up. But as we got older it got more relaxed.

Dining:

1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
Food service has improved greatly since my time, though I regret that the nightly formal dinner has been replaced by only a once a week equivalent. Good chance to connect also with faculty.

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
The best thing about Thacher is that it exists on the edge of thousands of square miles of true wilderness. Bears, mountains lions, snakes, coyotes-- all are found on and around campus. It is this element, combined with challenging academics, that defines the school.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
True community. Everybody knows everything. It is life the was human beings lived before the "liquid materialism" and transactional social arrangements that have vulgarized modern life and stripped value from every human relationship. One teacher told us freshmen year that we would never find this again, and that we would cherish it. He wasn't right: I found it living in Italy and spending time in developing countries. But certainly, modern urban America, with its wretchedly shallow consumer culture has proven that teacher right. Thacher's sense of community does not produce Willy Lomans.

Daily Schedule:

Weekday
7:00 AMCleaning horse stable
7:30 AMCleaning room
8:00 AMbreakfast
9:00 AMclass
1:00 AMhorse program
6:00 PMdinner
10:00 AMlights out
Weekend
8:00 AMclean stable
8:30 AMbreakfast
9:00 AMtrail riding
1:00 PMstudying
Read more details about The Thacher School on their 2019-20 profile page.

Alumni Reviews
  Review School

  • Review Description
  • The Thacher School Alumni #1
    Class of 2017
    5 Stars  
    Pitzer College
    The tight knit community is a really rare quality at high schools in general but especially boarding schools. The relationships with teachers and students is so close and the fact that there is very few. . .
  • The Thacher School Alumni #2
    Class of 2017
    5 Stars  
    University of Montana
    The horse department at Thacher is both unique and outstanding. Unique because the school strives to keep the cowboy culture alive with over 100 horses and a fully outfitted western riding center. It is outstanding. . .
  • The Thacher School Alumni #3
    Class of 2017
    5 Stars  
    Yale
    I loved Thacher because of the deep, respectful, and genuine connections in the community. Students, faculty, and staff were all so supportive to ensure I was the happiest and most challenged I could be. During. . .
  • Show more reviews (22 reviews)
Recent Articles
Inevitably at some point while you are looking at boarding schools, your child will ask what it's like living at boarding school. Here are some answers to those questions.
Teaching in a residential school brings its own challenges as well as some very powerful advantages. Here's how to survive your stint as a teacher in a boarding school.
Applying to boarding school is a long process with many parts to it. This checklist will help you organize the process and manage your time efficiently.