SUMMER 2017

Alumni Voices

By Mel Malmberg

One of the highlights of a Prep education is how it challenges students to express themselves confidently and creatively. We chatted with four alumni whose voices led them down unique career paths.

ARS POETICA

As far back as he can recall, JEROME MARTIN ’97 has been drawn to poetry. “I was comforted that it was not just an art that would spring out of me, but something to train myself in,” he says. At Prep, he recalls producing draft after draft, encouraged by early mentors and “wonderful” Prep teachers Ellen Leidenthal, Irwin Russo and Patricia Golson.

Martin ditched his Harvard poli-sci classes for poetry readings, graduated with a degree in English and earned an MFA from the University of Iowa and a PhD from Cambridge. All the while, he kept revising. “Ninety-nine percent of what first lands on the page is terrible,” he explains, “but you learn not to kid yourself. You learn to trust your ear. When you come across a line that sounds right, you cut the rest and build from that.”

Martin’s first book of poetry, The Gardening Fires, was published in 2015, and he is working on a second. Poems endure, he says, because “a poem is a tool for interacting with the world. A thousand-year-old line of poetry can ping against the present moment, make it ring out in a new way and bring a moment of understanding, or questioning, or contradiction.”

Today, Martin lives in London with his wife, Sarah, and their toddler, Arthur. He is an editor at Usborne Books, specializing in children’s books. In a given day, he will research, write, edit and help design books on topics as diverse as sunflowers and space stations.

“I always try to write a book that I would want to read—whether that’s poetry or children’s nonfiction. Both are hard to do, and both should be taken seriously. That’s what Prep did for me. My teachers took me seriously.”

A NEW JOURNALIST

“Having a voice is so important,” declares KARI VAN HORN ’08. And she should know.

The ABC affiliate in Phoenix hired Van Horn specifically to be a multiplatform personality, a new kind of journalist as comfortable on air as she is on the internet.

“Journalism takes a hard turn every five years,” says the USC grad. “Now, they’re looking for people they can sell on every platform—TV, magazine, digital outlets, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.”

Van Horn’s ambition is to be a sports reporter, specifically a baseball commentator. She grew up in the business (her father was a scout for the Red Sox and the Brewers, and her brother was just drafted by the Giants) and played softball at Prep and USC.

With over 15,000 followers on Twitter, she’s already making a name for herself in the field with a voice all her own— informed yet casual, sometimes irreverent, always succinct and clear.

“As a woman in sports, I know I have to be more accurate, more well-read,” she says. “I count my lucky stars that my parents did what they did to put me through Prep, where you run the marathon before college, learning to seek out resources, to be an honorable representative of the facts, to cite sources responsibly and appreciate others for their hard work.”

Van Horn ended up on Good Morning America last October after live-tweeting Tim Tebow reacting to a fan’s medical emergency at a Scottsdale Scorpions game. The fan, Brandon Barry, said that her broadcasts helped the EMTs diagnose and treat him more quickly. Van Horn was humbled by the impact she could have with her work and by the responses from Barry and the public.

“I have a platform. People all over the world can instantaneously hear what I am saying. It’s worth it to be a role model, and there’s a grave responsibility with that.” Keep up with Kari’s reporting adventures, from sports to food, on Instagram and Twitter @KariVanHorn.

THE ART OF FLEXIBLE THINKING

Inspired by motherhood, her roots as an artist and her understanding of arts pedagogy, RACHELLE DOORLEY ’92 founded Tinker- Lab in 2010. It is her platform and muse, a website and blog offering easy, rewarding projects to encourage kids’ creative thought and experimentation—and it works. Her newsletter has 45,000 subscribers, and her Facebook page has 300,000 followers. Doorley also wrote the best-selling TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors (Roost Books, 2014), putting on paper the ethos of the site.

Doorley studied theater and costume design at UCLA, earned an MA in arts education from Harvard, worked in museums and lectured on visual thinking strategies at Stanford. She is currently artist-in-residence at The Cubberley in Palo Alto, creating mixed media pieces and offering TinkerLab events for kids and adults.

“When children are given opportunities to think independently, create a hypothesis and test it, they are in a better position to step into the future,” she says. “We want to raise flexible thinkers who become conduits for change. When trained to think that way, you can apply that skill set to anything in life.”

Doorley teaches an online class on process over product and has students all over the globe. A firm believer in the benefits of play, she even lectured to app designers as well as young parents at a play symposium.

It’s about “stepping stones,” she says, promoting the Silicon Valley approach to “failing forward” rather than perfectionism. “There are always iterations that lead to a better end product.” She advocates bringing that mindset into everything, observing that experimentation leads to higher resilience and confidence.

Doorley encourages children’s independence, suggesting, “Give them materials to provoke their imagination, then let them develop their own meaning. The flow of creativity is more important than that Instagrammable end product. That is really the point: something magical is happening there.”

VISUAL STORYTELLER

CARDON WALKER ’77 has been a screenwriter, producer, director, cameraman, editor, marketer and innovator. “Not specializing served me better than I ever could have predicted,” he says.

His curiosity was ignited at Flintridge by John Plumb ’64, his history teacher (“We didn’t memorize dates but learned stories,” he says). English and French teacher Phil Nix encouraged Walker to write and suggested books that continue to resonate four decades later. Playing volleyball and basketball taught Walker how to lead and cooperate. “We were all in it together,” he says, talking about a philosophy that carried him from the Prep gym to a successful career in film and video.

Walker’s movie training came at UCLA, where he learned everything from lighting to acting. He put it all to good use in his production company, which he began in his basement. The company specialty became video press kits and “extras” filmed on set and behind the scenes. Low-impact, versatile and economical, Walker’s pieces took advantage of then-new technology, portable beta-cams. The results had an impact on the burgeoning DVD business, ushering in a new way to market movies and TV. Later, Walker turned to screenwriting.

Then came the launch of the Disney Channel, hungry for shows that Walker was a proven whiz at delivering. Hired as VP of Creative Content, he built a new in-house department with a team as well-rounded and collaborative as he was. For years they wrote, directed, filmed and edited shows, specials and the first webisodes.

Though he recently single-handedly filmed a behindthe- scenes interview in Alaska with Jane Goodall for the Disneynature film Bears, Walker is now mostly retired. He spends a day a week cooking for 250 guests at MEND (Meeting Each Need with Dignity), a homeless center in the San Fernando Valley.

Walker is doing what has always come naturally: responding with creativity and purpose, teaming up with others to satisfy a need, telling a story at every opportunity. o