By Tracy Wilson
Director of Admission and Advancement
The Aramont Foundation has donated $1 million dollars to support the visionary plans to rebuild the Upper Campus after the devastating Thomas Fire. Alumna and former parent Lucila Arango (U84), as trustee of foundation, was instrumental in bringing about the donation.
The December fire destroyed her namesake The Lucila Arango Science and Technology Center as well as Grace Hobson Smith House, the girls’ dormitory where Ms. Arango lived as a high school student. The loss of both buildings devastated students, faculty, and alumni – including Ms. Arango, who felt compelled to step forward and help launch the rebuilding campaign.
“When the fire happened it was a time for many of us to really evaluate what the school meant to us,” Ms. Arango said. “It was a home to so many of us and to see it burned to ground was really devastating. “For me, the school changed my life, and changed my kids’ lives,” she continued, “and I wanted
to do what I could to rebuild.” “OVS changes student’s lives, including my children’s and mine. I wanted to do what I could to help rebuild, so future students can get the benefit of the OVS experience.”
Ms. Arango and her family’s The Aramont Foundation have been longtime supporters of the school. They were lead donors to the science and technology center build in 2004, and are now once again stepping forward to provide students with a spacious, modern, and innovative academic classroom complex that will support its burgeoning science and technology curriculum.
“We want to rebuild as fast as we can and get it right for the students of the future,” said school President/CEO Michael J. Hall-Mounsey. “This will happen, and this gift is just magnificent. It’s confident, it’s bold.”
As envisioned, The Aramont Foundation Science and Technology Center, as it will be known, will house new laboratories for chemistry, biology, and physics. There will also be a dedicated Makerspace and robotics lab, a lecture hall, seminar room, two computer labs, a media arts studio, a courtyard, as well as dedicated faculty workspace and lab preparation area.
The Aramont Center will be rebuilt on the site of the former headmaster’s residence, directly south of Wallace Burr Hall, creating a central academic corridor that will become the heart of the campus. The head’s house will be relocated to the east end of campus.
At the same time, the school plans to rebuild Grace Hobson Smith House in the footprint of the former dorm to house up to 52 residents. The new dorm complex will provide resident students with modern, comfortable housing that embraces the school’s connection to the outdoors, with a modest expansion of housing units for students and resident staff.
The campaign will also pave the way for the Student Commons, a new two-story dining hall and student center that will create—for the first time—a place for the entire student body to gather for meals and special events. The Commons will include a kitchen and servery, indoor and outdoor dining areas, and a mezzanine student lounge. It will also include a second-story library
and business center with expansive views of the Ojai Valley.
With support from The Aramont Foundation and other donors, the school aims to begin construction during the 2019-2020 school year. All three building projects are being designed by architect Frederick Fisher, a current OVS
parent, and his partners. The team is moving quickly to complete a building plan that is environmentally and architecturally cohesive — giving students modern academic, residential and dining facilities that celebrate the spirit of innovation and love of the outdoors that set Ojai Valley School apart.
Ms. Arango participated in one of the spring visioning workshops that Fisher’s team led at the high school to gather input from students, teachers, alumni and parents. She said she was impressed with Mr. Fisher and the care being taken to rebuild in a way that embraces the school’s character, tradition, and programs.
“I think Fred Fisher is brilliant,” she said, “I’m very happy to see that school and the Board [of Trustees] is going with his design. He is really going to carry a vision for the school.”
Ms. Arango moved to Ojai in 2006. Her two sons, Paul (U11) and Evan (L08, U11) both attended OVS. Paul now works in the tech field, developing video games and web comics. Evan is pursuing a law degree at UCLA.
Ms. Arango served for nearly a decade on the OVS Board of Trustees. She was also among the nearly 200 volunteers who came out on January 5 and 6 to prepare the campus to reopen for the start of the second semester. Both avid rock climbers, she and Evan spent the day scalingthe steep hillside south of Burr Hall to plant new landscaping and beautify the campus before students returned.
“I loved that,” she said of the work days. “It’s about feeling part of the school, and the land, volunteering — and getting your hands dirty.”