It was years in the making and just a day in the doing, but approximately 250 Ford Country Day School alumni, teachers and their families celebrated the former Los Altos Hills school’s first reunion since its establishment in 1935, which launched a 53-year run.
Kelly Porter hosted the May 15 event, held at Stonebrook Court, the Los Altos Hills’ home for Ford Country Day School formerly known as Morgan Manor. Porter is the current owner of Stonebrook.
The reunion attracted alumni predominately from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s from as far away as Dubai, New York and Arizona and as close as Los Altos and Auburn through facebook.com and classmates.com connections, according to alumna Jenny Circle, one of the organizers.
“This is a pretty amazing place and it was a huge part of our childhood,” Circle said of the manse.
Amid lush landscaping and a bright and sunny day preceded by the Kiwanis Pet Parade, the get-together was the culmination of planning by Circle and two other Los Altos residents, Jennifer Schmid and Richard Clark. Porter offered an open-invitation for use of his home, where many students spent their school years from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“It was a good feeling in the air,” Porter said.
Porter purchased the home in 1999 and restored the Tudor-style building with modern amenities mixed with medieval-magnificent furnishings and conducted several tours of the refurbished estate, triggering fond – and some not so fond – memories as groups walked through the rooms and halls.
Circle, who attended the school from 1982 to 1986, remembers running madly through the mansion on numerous occasions – and catching a whole heap of trouble.
“It seemed so big to us back then,” she said “I’d be sent to the principal’s office, which is now the guest bedroom.”
Schmid shared her memories of the school she attended from sixth through eighth grades, 1982-1985.
“The ambiance that was created by the manor was unique,” she said. “We performed musicals in the great hall, with Mr. Warner playing piano.”
She recognized math instructor Jamie Zamen and science/P.E. instructor Paul Sterngold at the reunion.
Most notably absent was the much-beloved headmaster Brent Warner, who died in 2007.
Warner purchased the school from its founders, Mr. and Mrs. John Ford, and with his wife, Judith, managed the school and instructed classes for nearly 30 years.
What made the school so special were the small classes, individual attention and great teachers, Schmid said.
A Web-site tribute to Warner by former student John Inman triggered an Internet conversation among classmates about a reunion.
“He’s the one who initially said, ‘Hey, can we make this happen?’” Schmid said of Inman.
Though reticent about returning to a home filled with 30 years of memories, Judith Warner flew from Arizona to visit with former students and colleagues.
“She said it was very delightful to have been here and to think of all the good times that she spent here – good and challenging,” Porter said.
Schmid said Judith’s presence touched everybody. The Ford alumni donated funds to Brent Warner’s favorite cause.
“It meant so much to people to see her there,” she said. “We have a sizable donation to give to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in his memory.”
Not quite so sizable was the reality of the Morgan Mansion compared with the alumni’s memories of its size through their child’s eyes.
“It seemed so big to us back then,” Circle said.
With the 30,000-square-foot home on 7.5 acres, Porter was a little surprised alumni would perceive Stonebrook as small.
“It definitely (seems) a lot smaller as an adult,” Schmid said.
And while a sizable crowd made the date (and easily fit in the house), Porter suspects there may be many older alumni who aren’t Internet savvy on computer connections with classmates – he’s open to a repeat reunion.
“For me, sharing the house with people is a part of owning this house,” Porter said.