The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Back to the Future

Alumni discuss a new documentary about Harvard School’s Class of 1974.
Printed with permission of Harvard-Westlake Archives
The Class of 1974 stands during their commencement ceremony.

It is June 2020. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Peter Jones ’74 and a group of his former classmates join together on a Zoom call. Almost 50 years after graduating, the men begin to reminisce about their time at the Harvard School for Boys and its impact on their lives. With their 50th reunion on the horizon, one of the men suggests that Jones, a journalist and documentarian, make a documentary about their time at the school. Jones said while he was initially resistant to the idea, through the process of interviewing his classmates, he realized what an important story this was to tell.

“I did say, ‘Who would care about a bunch of privileged white men?’ especially in the world we live in today,” Jones said. “The guys blew me away because they were so candid, honest and vulnerable. They just opened up about all the drama and trauma. Life happens to everybody, and nobody is spared.”

The Class of 1974 poses for a photo in military formation in 1969.

After four years of interviews over Zoom and filming at the 50th reunion on May 28, Jones has all the footage necessary to complete the film, titled Fortunate Sons. The movie is about the time the Class of 1974 spent at Harvard School and how that experience affected the rest of their lives, according to Peter Jones Productions.

“[It is] the story of a group of boys who entered the 7th grade at an all-male, military school in the cultural watershed year of 1968,” the website said. “Their lives and friendships provide a remarkable lens through which we explore 50 years of pop culture, privilege, tumultuous social change and what it means to be male in America.”

Sixty-one of the 92 living members of the Class of 1974 attended the reunion. This 63% attendance rate was almost three times as large as the next highest class. Jones said he felt like no time had passed when he was back with his old classmates.

The Class of 1974 gathers for a picture during their 50th reunion on May 18.

“We looked at each other, [and] we all sound the same,” Jones said. “Voices stay pretty much the same [over time]. If I close my eyes, and I listen to any of my classmates, I will be back in seventh grade. We were 12 years old, and [when we] graduated, we were 18. Now we’re 68. Holy crap. How did that happen? We’re nicer to each other, and we listen more. When you get older, you actually are more interested in what other people think than saying what you think.”

President Rick Commons said he is excited about the film, though he is also concerned about any potential negative portrayals of the school.

“I’m always nervous when there’s a film being made because it goes into posterity, and who knows what it says,” Commons said. “A movie is not interesting unless it’s a little edgy, so I’m nervous about what might be edgy in it. I talked to a number of the graduates from the Class of 1974. They seem enthusiastic about documenting the experience of their class when they were here and in the last 50 years since they graduated. It didn’t strike me in any conversation I had that they were trying to do anything that I should be concerned about.”

The movie has cost $300,000 thus far, and Jones said he estimates that it will require about one to two hundred thousand more dollars before it is complete. He said the film is primarily funded by other members of the Class of 1974.

“The biggest challenge is getting it funded,” Jones said. “Classmates have allowed me to get this far [and] have donated money to pay for the film. [Costs are] paying an editor, paying an assistant editor and paying a composer. Music can really help with storytelling.”

David Jakubovic, one of the film’s editors, said his favorite part about working on the project has been witnessing the vulnerability and honesty of the interviewees.

“There have been a lot of very intimate interviews in simple settings that have no agenda except talking about their lives as connected to the school, and the school is fascinating,” Jakubovic said. “There’s something very special about the intimacy that these men who have come from very privileged backgrounds allowed themselves to talk about in the interviews.”

The other editor of the film, Salia Hovanec, said listening to the stories of the Class of 1974 has been a valuable and enlightening experience for her.

“Working on the film has provided me with a lot of life lessons and wisdom,” Hovanec said. “These people have so much to offer and I’ve really enjoyed learning from them.”

Chip Hayes ’74 said in reminiscing on their years at the school, he and his classmates realized how grateful they are for the education they received.

“During COVID we all started having these Zoom calls once a month, and we all had the same feeling about this school, and what it instilled in us that [we] took through the rest of our lives,” Hayes said. “It taught us a way of approaching learning and critical thinking that was different from the rest of the schools at the time. Since then, the school has only grown in its teaching methods, the faculty and how they relate to students. That is what made it great at the time and [what] turned it from a dying military Episcopalian school into one of the preeminent prep schools in America.”

Jones said once he finishes making the movie, he would like to present it to both members of the school community and to a more general audience beyond the school.

“Now that we have had the reunion, we can complete the film and submit it to film festivals,” Jones said. “We could also show it to somebody, maybe who went to Harvard, Harvard-Westlake or Westlake and who says, ‘My God, what a fantastic place that was and is. Let’s put this out there. People should see this story about an amazing school. Look at the people that came out of the school.’ I’ve come away from the reunion feeling grateful to have a group of such honest, intelligent and hard-working men.”

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Alex Dinh, Assistant Features Editor
Zoe Goor, Assistant Features Editor

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