Summer 2015
Kathleen Condell Herroon

Stories of a Well-Loved Storyteller

Kathleen Condell Herroon
February 2, 1951 - July 6, 2015

by Bailey Larson

With her infectious laugh, fierce intellect  and passion for storytelling, Kathleen  Condell Herroon was beloved by generations  of Prep students and faculty. 

Herroon worked at Flintridge Prep  for 38 years (1975-2013). The inaugural  recipient of the Class of 1987 award, she  was 6th grade teacher, English teacher,  English Department head, Senior Dean,  Dean of Faculty and Director of Operations.  Her late husband, Orra Herroon,  served the Science Department in two  eras, 1980-1984 and 1993-2011. Orra  Herroon died June 14, 2013. 

Headmaster Peter Bachmann said,  “Kathi and I began at Prep in our 20s and  spent the majority of our lives together.  She was a great colleague, a deep friend,  and I will miss her terribly. 

“Kathi’s power to inspire affection  among alums transcended generations,  and those of us who worked with her remember  her kindness, humor and deep  affection for all things Prep.” 

Kathleen Condell Herroon

Prep’s Director of Communications  Nicole Haims Trevor ’91 said, “She  was lively and curious and my favorite  teacher. She confronted students with  their own assumptions in a way that was  stimulating and exciting, and she did  it all through literature. She treated us  like questioning adults and taught us so  much about writing and about life.” 

For the past year, Max Hernandez ’15  helped Herroon around the house and  delivered her mail. “She quickly became  the person I would go to for advice,” he  says. “She was the one who helped me  navigate senior year. Her blunt advice  was wise and well-crafted, something I  expected from such an accomplished  educator, but her personality was that of  a youthful person. Kathi truly embodied  what it means to live a fulfilled life.” 

Her faculty colleagues remember  precision, support, and a “calming voice  of clarity,” says current English Department  Chair Scott Meyers, whom Condell  hired in 1985. “As my department chair, she taught me Prep; her collegial presence  and her classroom persona demonstrated  the school’s culture and values—  who we are, what we care about as  a community, our reverence for soulful,  disciplined habits of mind. The community  identity that flourishes today at Prep  sprouted from the soil prepared in part  by Kathi Condell Herroon’s values and  diligence.” 

Retired history teacher Bob Loughrie  says, “She had a subtle toughness.  There was no doubt about who was in  charge, and we admired that. She made  me a better teacher and I loved her dedication  to teaching and to Prep. She was  a great role model.” 

Herroon was especially passionate  about the American Identity class, which  she founded with John Ruch, Peter Bachmann  and Irwin Russo. 

Russo remembers, “She brought  a perspective on women’s rights and  gave a memorable lecture on spatiality,  on how men sprawl but women are encouraged  to sit primly, rewarded for being  tiny. She would demonstrate all the  poses, men and women, and those ideas  really stuck with the students.” 

A flood of comments on Prep’s  Alumni Facebook page attested to Herroon’s  ability to connect with students. 

Kathleen Condell Herroon

Ken White ’87 said, “The first time  I got something published I wrote and  told her, because she taught me so much  about writing and always encouraged me to believe I could write. She made a  real difference.” 

Lilliana Capa-Velez ’87 called her  an “amazing teacher” and wrote, “I owe  Ms. Condell the credit for challenging  me to think outside the box and write,  write, write.” 

Brian Deacon ’90, wrote, “Mine is  one of what must be literally thousands  of lives that Ms. Condell touched, and I’m  deeply grateful that I had a chance to tell  her years ago what an influence she was  on the person I’ve become. I still have  the extremely tattered textbook from her  class and will be reading again tonight  my favorite story, which she taught. I am  deeply sad. Ms. Condell winked at the  poorly kept secret that English class is  really just group therapy with someone  else’s story as a proxy. And that we still  have each other. “ 

Wendy Newton ’86 first met Kathi  Condell in the early 80s and remained  her friend for over 30 years. As a student,  Newton found “a role model of generosity,  humor, high standards and attention  to detail. She connected with and cared  deeply for her students, wishing not only  to forward their academic careers but to  offer guidance in the tragedies and comedies  of their family dramas and romantic  lives. In her classroom we had a mentor,  a counselor and a community. Like many  others, I continue to hear her grammar  explanations. Telling stories, listening to  stories and discussing stories for universal  themes made her classroom an incubator  in which I never felt alien.” 

Newton recalls the Herroons’ home  as a warm haven for people, pets and  wildlife. “Kathi and Orra’s romance was  the commitment after the end of the  fairy tale, always together, always putting  each other first. Her true interest in other  people’s stories, and rooting for their  happiness—everyone was remembered  and cared about with motherly fondness  and concern, right up to her last conversations"