TEDxThacherSchool: A Resounding Success Thanks to Two Passionate Thacher Students

On the evening of October 7th, students from Thacher and all across the Ojai Valley – Nordhoff High School, Ojai Valley School, Villanova, and Oak Grove – came on campus and congregated in the Milligan Center to witness the spreading of new ideas. Behind this spectacular event were two ambitious and dedicated students working since their first event last spring to make this year’s TEDxThacherSchool event an overwhelming success. Founded by Katie O’Neill ‘18 and Mary Yan ‘18, the TEDx organization at Thacher seeks to, in the words of Katie O’Neill, “inspire discussion among students and faculty alike.”

A large event takes months of planning, and as both O’Neill and Yan can attest to, planning is never easy. O’Neill and Yan “utilized Thacher’s large network to contact potential speakers…” They collaborated with the staff at Thacher to organize logistics, such as the venue for the event when the event would take place. For example, Mr. Jensen held a crucial role in guiding the set-up in technology for microphones and displays.

Organized promotions at Nordhoff High School, the public high school in Ojai, along with prep schools throughout the Valley like Ojai Valley School, Villanova, and Oak Grove, helped expand the potential audience for the event.

The event itself brought Sandy Kenyon ‘74, a broadcaster for ABC News in New York City and proud Thacher alumnus, back on campus to play as host. He introduced and provided commentary on the four guest speakers and one musical guest on hand.

Dr. Heather Knutson, a professor of geology and planetary sciences at the California Institute of Technology, or CalTech, discussed the relatively new idea of other systems inside of the solar system as we know it. She discussed the idea of the potential of planets that revolve around stars other than the Sun to house life on them. These planets usually have similar size or structure to the Earth.

Chris Malloy, an Ojai local and accomplished filmmaker, showed a breathtaking documentary of his and his brothers’ travels around the world. One clip showed a world map with pins marking all the places the Malloy brothers had explored. These places included Antarctica, the Shetland Islands, and the coasts of Africa.

William Hockey ‘08, dubbed as “The Great Disruptor,” discussed the struggles of starting his own tech startup, Plaid, but how the industry is getting easier and easier to disrupt with each technological advance. He also described the downside to trying to start one’s own business, with slim margins of success.

Dr. Christine Carter ‘90, a happiness expert, brought a practical topic to the table: people-pleasing. She described people-pleasing as “The process by which we try to assess what people think we want to be.” One example she used of everyday people-pleasing were the wearing of high heels. Dr. Carter, who was wearing a pair of heels herself, explained that many women ignore physical pain to appease others. She then changed into a charming pair of silver Converse, showing the relief of stress when people stay true to themselves instead of constantly trying to please others.

To complement the profound messages portrayed by the four speakers, The Mattson 2, a jazz duo of identical twin brothers from Southern California, Jared and Jonathan Mattson, played two selections from their unique style of jazz fused with punk.

Since the first TEDxThacherSchool event took place last spring, O’Neill and Yan have piggybacked off of its success to cultivate an even more inspiring event this year. Katie O’Neill wishes that “the ideas our speakers presented will inspire discussion among students and faculty alike.” As told by Mary Yan, the goal of this year’s event was to provide “a pleasant experience for everyone who attended.” She also hopes that the guest speakers at the event “inspired and motivated the audience in some sort of way.”