When the trustees of Westridge School on South Orange Grove held a going-away party for Tuesday night for Fran Scoble, the head of school for 18 years who is retiring, we were surrounded by at least parts of her legacy.
Not the intellectual parts, as such. Those go forward into the world with her students. In addition to her administrative duties, Fran taught a senior honors seminar I once guest-lectured in, and the level of discourse in that room and at the famously high-achieving school in general would have left many a graduate-school gabfest in its wake.
Under the camphor trees at dinner, it was the physical beauty of the extraordinary campus, unified under Fran’s — well, under her reign — that stunned. Already a campus with a Greene & Greene, a Roehrig and Whitney Smith buildings, it all came together with a new master plan that includes the Fran Norris Scoble Performing Arts Center. Beautiful.
Just the place for future alumnae to begin to rival past ones such as aviatrix “Pancho” Barnes and Pasadena’s greatest writer, Harriet Doerr.
Lots of fellow heads of independent schools were at the gathering to praise Fran, including a very funny James Astman, headmaster of Oakwood School in North Hollywood.
He recalled that Fran often started off her talks with the loveliest parable of the Buddha:
It is said that soon after his enlightenment the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the Buddha’s extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. The man stopped and asked,
“My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?”
“No,” said the Buddha.
“Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?”
Again the Buddha answered, “No.”
“Are you a man?”
“Well, my friend, then what are you?”
The Buddha replied, “I am awake.”
Simply awake — and open to the world — is what the best teachers are.