The Next Peak

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Doing the Work

Bryan Beckham CdeP 1974, a member of the campaign committee, discusses going from alumnus to parent, Marvin Shagam’s “laughing test,” and the capital campaign.
At its core, the Next Peak Capital Campaign is about coming together as a community to ensure that Thacher remains healthy and strong for generations to come. Bryan Beckham—class of 1974, parent of the class of 2014, a class representative, and a former president of the alumni council—has been an integral member of the 1970s Campaign Committee and is one of the many individuals who has generously volunteered their time to the cause. Diligent, attentive, communicative, passionate—Bryan has been indispensable. We recently caught up with him for a Q&A.

You’re both an alumnus and a Thacher parent. What have you seen evolve at the School and what do you think has stayed the same?

Certainly, the physical campus has evolved. The Lower School, which I lived in, was built in the 40’s and it was a concrete bunker. That is radically different from what has come after. Between Casa and the Hill dorms, these changes have been transformative.

Our second child, Annie, was class of 2014. That was a fabulous experience because you get to see the School through completely different eyes. It’s a much healthier school, co-ed obviously at that point. There seems to be more happiness and a completeness than there was when I was there. You see different kinds of memories and different kinds of things through your child. For example, the impact of having a diverse group of students and a diverse faculty. [At Thacher] there’s a grateful acceptance that everybody comes to the table equipped with their own unique skills and you can learn from these differences. 

So there have been lots of changes and yet lots of traditions stayed the same, including the mentorships with teachers. Marvin Shagam was there up until just a couple years ago and when I would come back as an alum or a Board Member, he would hold court in the morning at his corner table for breakfast. You could always count on a lively conversation, which was very much the way it was in the ’70s.

What do you find so special about Thacher and your relationship to the School?

Thacher is just a place where I’ve had so many special connections. There’s a wealth of knowledge, experience, and compassion that I think most Thacher grads have. You can always pick up on that with them. You can walk into a room and someone sees a Thacher shirt and you’ve got an instant connection.

It was about 1990 when I moved to Paso Robles, and that was because of a partnership that I formed with Newlin Hastings CdeP 1970. We never overlapped, but we met through our families and then at Golden Trout. And then through working on the Centennial Campaign together. At the campaign wrap-up dinner, I said, “I'm thinking about getting into commercial real estate.” And he said, “I just launched a commercial side to my real estate business in Paso Robles and if you’re interested, come on up and talk to us.” One thing led to another. Partnerships can be tricky, but this one has been a particularly good long-term relationship. We’ve been partners for 28 years.

What’s the campaign initiative that resonates with you the most?

First and foremost would be the global initiatives under the Marvin Shagam hat. Marvin was very much a mentor to me and took us places that we didn’t always want to go, like a Gloria Steinem lecture at Ventura College because I lost the laughing test. But I’m glad that I can look back and say my gosh, this was Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem. This was 1973, they were quite radical and at the forefront of feminism and the Black Power movement and we saw them speaking in Ventura. So Marvin was always looking to stir the intellectual pot. He was careful not to step on anybody’s ideas and to let them draw their conclusions, but he created the conversations. The global initiative and everything that Marvin had to bring to that plate is so important to the future of the School. I’m very happy that that bucket has been pretty well filled.

Sort of the rejoinder to that is the Master Teachers and the Sabbatical Program. It’s so important for teachers to have the opportunity to take a year off and go pursue a Master’s degree or a teaching method in another part of the world or go kayaking down the Zambezi. I don’t ever want to see teachers sit there stagnant.

The other one is financial aid. We have the profound opportunity to bring people that are high-quality individuals to a school that they may not otherwise be able to get to financially. I’m very passionate about that.

Any last words for people who are considering giving to the campaign?

We are at a unique time because of Michael and Joy’s retirement coming up. Especially those of us who have had experiences with them over 30 plus years, I would hope that there’s an extra incentive to make a pledge as a salute to them as they graduate with the class of 2018.

I am also really excited about Blossom and Brian coming on board. I’ve just got such admiration for her. I was on the program committee when I was on the Board and that was her bailiwick. Smart, articulate, channels Michael, yet has got her own creative thinking. I am sure she will add her own special style and stamp to the next decades at the School. I couldn’t be more pleased.

Hopefully, we close this thing out in the next year and top our goal, which is huge. I think we can get there. I know we can.

Learn more about The Next Peak Capital Campaign and Thacher’s vision for the future.
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