Visiting Scholars

At Thacher, learning doesn’t stop when you leave the classroom.

Every year we invite influential thinkers, doers, and performers to campus for lectures and performances that challenge, inspire, and introduce new ways of thinking to our community.

List of 4 items.

  • Anacapa Scholars

    The Anacapa Fellowship, established in 2006 through the generosity of two former Thacher parents, invites visiting scholars and artists to contribute to the Thacher community for a few weeks or months at a time. Through formal lectures, casual conversations in the dining hall, small workshops, and unique performances, Anacapa Scholars engage and share ideas with students and faculty alike. Recent scholars include:

    • Dr. Edward Ayers—historian, president of the University of Richmond
    • Nancy Boutilier—author, professor at Oberlin College
    • Phil Condon—nature writer
    • Kiersten Todt Coon—cybersecurity specialist
    • Jim Culver—staff trainer, National Outdoor Leadership School
    • David Ewing Duncan—writer, journalist
    • Scott Frank—writer, director
    • Amikaeyla Gaston—founder and executive director of the International Cultural Arts & Healing Sciences Institute and a cultural ambassador for the US State Department
    • Silvia Grijalba—Spanish fiction writer, journalist
    • Dr. Meg Harper—Yeats scholar and professor at University of Limerick
    • Suleika Jaouad — Emmy Award winning writer, speaker, activist, and cancer survivor
    • Melissa Johnson & Derek Taylor Kent—film director & writer
    • Dr. John Asher Johnson—professor of astronomy at Harvard University
    • Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson—Associate Professor in the Departments of Chicana/o & Central American Studies and African American Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles
    • Clark Judge—White House speechwriter
    • Michael Kim CdeP 1986—professor of Modern Korean history at Yonsei University
    • Steven Kirby—musician, professor at Berklee College of Music
    • Cynthia Lee CdeP 1998—dancer
    • Jonathon Linaberry—blues musician
    • Jonathan Martin—education consultant
    • William Matthews—artist focusing on the American West
    • Rikki Ott—environmentalist, community activist, author
    • Mary Louise Porter—contemporary landscape artist
    • Bruce Smith—poet
    • Mark Spragg—author
    • Mark Synnott—pioneering big wall climber, adventurer, writer
    • Ruth Cooper Ward—survival expert
    • The Honorable Richard Welchassociate justice for the Massachusetts Superior Courts 
    • Elliott West—historian and scholar of the American West
  • Speakers and Performers

    From documentary filmmakers and composers to community activists and nonprofit founders, guests from every background and discipline regularly speak and perform at the school.

    • Dr. Amer Ahmed—speaker, facilitator, diversity and inclusion consultant
    • Michael Peter Balzary P 24—(AKA Flea) bassist and founding member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
    • Jon Batiste—American musician, bandleader and TV personality
    • Ishmael Beah—Human rights activist, author
    • Dr. Michael Benitez—professor at the University of Puget Sound
    • Brian Bennett CdeP 1994—War correspondent
    • Erin Blankenship CdeP 2000—humanitarian activist and founder of Equal Playing Field
    • Keith Boykin—Founder of the National Black Justice Coalition, author
    • David Brailer—The first information technology tzar
    • Rukmini Callimachi CdeP 1991—Journalist
    • Edie Carey—Urban folk/pop singer-songwriter
    • Christopher Cerf—Author, composer, lyricist, record and television producer
    • Yvon Chouinard P ’98—Environmentalist, adventurer, founder/CEO of Patagonia
    • Dr. JoAnn Deak—Educator, psychologist
    • Alephonision Deng—Author, musician, and former “Lost Boy of Sudan”
    • Thomas L. Friedman—Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
    • Dr. Wayne Glass—Lecturer at the USC School of International Relations
    • Dr. Richard Haass— president of the Council on Foreign Relations
    • James Newton Howard CdeP 1969—Composer
    • Gregory Alan Isakov—Singer-songwriter
    • Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson—UCLA professor, author
    • Kizuna Dance—contemporary dance company
    • LA Contemporary Dance Theatre
    • Ladysmith Black Mambazo—South African choral group
    • Dan Malloy—Documentary filmmaker
    • Dr. Mark Mathabane—Award-winning author of Kaffir Boy
    • Colum McCann— Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin
    • Chris McDougall—Author of Born to Run
    • Malcolm McDowell—Actor
    • Dennis Miller P ’08, ’12—Comedian and political commentator
    • Mountain Film Festival
    • Alex MyersAuthor and speaker on transgender identity 
    • Morgan Neville CdeP 1985—Director of 20 Feet From Stardom and Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
    • Joseph Nye—American political scientist, author
    • Peggy Orenstein—Journalist and author of bestselling book Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape 
    • Judea Pearl—UCLA professor and father of Daniel Pearl
    • Brian Regan—Comedian
    • Rick Ridgeway P ’00, ’03—Mountaineer, photographer, writer, environmentalist
    • Janice Rosario—contemporary dance choreographer and instructor
    • Tom Russell—Singer-songwriter
    • Yusef Salaam—activist and exonerated member of the “Central Park Five”
    • Samite—Traditional music from Uganda
    • Tom Scott—Composer, saxophonist
    • Sarah Lavender Smith CdeP 1986—Documentary filmmaker
    • Dave Stamey—Western music
    • Kimmie Weeks—Child rights advocate
    • Dr. Cornel West—Author, academic, activist
    • Dr. Karl Wilhelmsen—Research scientist, Lawrence Livermore Lab
    • Rita Wilson P ’14—Singer, actress
  • The William H. Orrick Lecture Series

    The Orrick Lecture Series, established in 2004, was made possible by a generous donation from Suzanne Orrick in memory of her late husband, U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick Jr. CdeP 1932. Judge Orrick had been a longstanding and loyal devotee and supporter of the School throughout his life. The lecture series named in his honor aims to educate students about the U.S. legal system, jurisprudence, legal ethics, and the public service done by attorneys and judges so that they may serve their communities and make a difference in the world after their time at Thacher. Every year brings a new theme, but the judge’s favorite ice cream bar is always served at the end of the night.

    • Tom CdeP 1987 and Linda Cole, humanitarian activists
    • Clarence B. Jones, former advisor and friend of Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • Rena Karefa-Johnson CdeP 2005, former law student and activist at Harvard Law School and attorney working on criminal justice reform
    • Enrique Morones, immigration activist and founder of Border Angels
    • Stephen Nasser, a Holocaust survivor and author of My Brother’s Voice
    • Dawn Porter, the documentary filmmaker who made Gideon’s Army
    • Brandale Randolph CdeP 1994is the founder of 1854 Cycling Company.
    • Jonathan Rapping, founder and president of Gideon's Promise
    • Dr. Elyn Saks, USC professor, author, and expert on mental health law
    • Kim Turner CdeP 1998, nonprofit attorney working on gender and LGBTQ equity cases
    • Tim Wise, anti-racism activist, writer, and speaker
    Read More
  • McCloskey Speaker Series

    The McCloskey Speaker Series aims to bring high caliber, inspirational resources and speakers with a wide degree of expertise and interests to Thacher and to the Ojai community at large. It was made possible by a 2016 donation from the McCloskey Family Charitable Foundation that supports the operational costs of the series in perpetuity at Thacher.


Adding a visiting scholar to a class challenges the students as well as the teacher to look at things differently. Visiting scholars bring new perspectives, new methods, and additional information that always seem to spark a more interesting student discussion.

Seattle, Washington

Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.