Celebration marks 25th anniversary of first merged graduating class


Members of the band Blink-182 perform at an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of Harvard-Westlake’s first combined graduation class. Credit: Jenny Li/Chronicle

Sofia Heller

Parents, alumni and faculty watched musical performers, took pictures and danced in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the first graduating class after the merger yesterday at the Middle School.

Tom Hudnut, former President of Harvard-Westlake and Headmaster of Harvard School, discussed why he chose to merge the two schools, as well as his experience with students in the years after. He spoke about working with school board members and teachers in transforming Harvard from what he called a “wicked strong academic program, so-so athletic program, fairly adequate visual arts program, and deplorable performing arts program,” to the prominent co-ed school it is now.

Katenah Haydarzadeh ’94, a student of one of the first merged classes, said that though she was not initially happy with the merger as a freshman, she attained skills that have helped her with her life now.

“A big thing [Hudnut] said that resonated was that because I was a part of a school that’s new, I felt like I was a pioneer,” Haydarzadeh said. “For the rest of my life, I felt like it was a really good idea to take risks and take chances. I have no problem to try something that I don’t know is going to work, and this school taught me that.”

Parent musicians also performed for the attendees in the Bing Performing Arts Center, including Mark Hoppus (Jack ’20) and Matt Skiba from Blink-182 and violinist and Associate Concertmaster of LA Philharmonic Bing Wang (Anna ’18, Andrew ’21). Songwriter Billy Steinberg (Ezra ’15) also performed his written songs including “Like a Virgin” and “I Touch Myself” with Lauren Ruth Ward and Eddie Rivera.

“The entire performance was fantastic,” Robert Lu (Kevin ’19) said. “The performers were relaxed yet very energetic, and it represented for me that Harvard-Westlake will be young forever and achieve a lot of really great accomplishments.”

Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts spoke about her experiences at the school and what she hoped will be her legacy after she retires this year.

“To work at our school is to dwell in possibility,” Huybrechts said. “We all seek legacy, and so I hope that some of my pet projects will endure and get forward into our school’s bright future. All of my work in this school was [motivated] by a single rule that I first learned in Girl Scout camp, ‘always leave campground cleaner than you left it.’ If I have done that, then all is good.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti ’88 and actor Jake Gyllenhaal ’98 were among the alumni to wish Harvard-Westlake a happy anniversary in videos that played throughout the evening.

“Everything that I heard tonight was a reminder of what a blessing it was to come here, and the responsibility to take the education we had and make a profound impact in the world with it,” Haydarzeh said. “It was just inspirational and really nice to be back on this field. I was 11 years old when I walked here, and it’s decades later and you just remember the little moments, there’s something special about this place.”

Parents and alumni also had the opportunity to win auction items such as tickets to the Hollywood Bowl, an Upper School parking spot and a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

After the presentation in the auditorium, attendees went to the reception outside for dinner, dessert and dancing.

“It’s a wonderful occasion to bring people together who haven’t been here in a while, who haven’t seen one another in a while, to honor the excellence that has been Harvard-Westlake, and to think of all of the fun we have had along the way,” Hudnut said. “It’s a special evening, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it.”