A History Rich in the Values of Citizenship, Work, and Academics

A school is many things, but first and last it ought to be a place
where young people learn how to think for themselves.

At Verde Valley School, however, our mission is more ambitious. A genuinely educated person is not simply one who has attained impressive academic and professional success. Our sights are set on higher ground, difficult terrain which tests and animates our teaching and our learning. Ours is a legacy shaped by earnest and bold endeavor.

At VVS, citizenship and courage and a commitment to the improvement of the world are our standards.

And so it is that graduates of Verde Valley School are intended to be individuals who are ethical, possessed of a strong sense of personal and social responsibility, skilled in ways that will enable them to participate effectively in community building and decision making, appreciative of the necessity and value of physical work, open to the discovery and enduring satisfactions of artistic creation, knowledgeable about the depth and range of our shared cultural heritage, prepared for entry into the college of their choice, generous in spirit, mindful of the importance of citizenship and ready to practice its privileges and obligations.

(Photo left: Field Trip to Mexico in 1953. Contributed by Charles Sawyer. Click on the image to view an enlargement.) No doubt, our standards are set beyond our everyday grasp. But they are not beyond our reach. How did such ambitions take root in this unique community? Consider, for a start, our history and its continuing challenge.

Founded in 1946 by Hamilton Warren and opened in 1948 by "Ham" and his wife "Babs" with sixteen students and a small handful of teachers and artists, Verde Valley School from its beginnings has been dedicated to changing the world.

Raised in New England, a graduate of Harvard College, Ham Warren drew on the counsel of a diverse number of scholars and public leaders in order to enact the dream that he and his wife, Babs, had set their lives upon. Babs contributed the unique experience of growing up in Guatemala, the child of British coffee plantation owners, and having a lifetime commitment to foreign languages and diverse cultures. With indefatigable energy and open-heartedness, Babs established VVS's unique tradition of community life. Each year, the award to a graduating member of the senior class of The Warren Family Citizenship Award commemorates the enduring vision that Ham and Babs Warren inscribed in the School's life. Other distinctive lives and talents also significantly contributed to the School's founding mission and continuing vitality. Ham's mentor at Harvard, Clyde Kluckhohn --- the first President of the modern American Anthropological Association, for twenty-five years the Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Harvard, and one of the earliest group of Rhodes Scholars - added his reputation as a truly international educator and inspirational teacher to Ham's visionary work. Kluckhohn learned Navajo by the age of fifteen and set a standard for the importance and value of engaging cultures different from one's own that has become a VVS tradition. His legacy is honored at VVS by the The Clyde Maben Kluckhohn Prize for Distinguished Teaching, awarded every two years. Other early voices that helped shape the founding generation of the School included Margaret Mead, one of the century's most articulate exponents of both anthropological studies and progressive education, and John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs during Franklin Roosevelt's administration. With the assistance of scholars and public figures like these, Ham and Babs determined to establish a school for talented young people. Mindful of the global horrors of World War II and the ravages of ethnocentrism and racism in this country, the Warrens believed that America --- indeed the world --- needed a school where the values of cultural diversity would be understood and celebrated, not simply studied and tolerated.

So began the adventure in experiential and intercultural education which is Verde Valley School. Our buildings have ringing in their walls and rafters the stories and the aspirations of generations of others who have come before us. While no truly vital community of learning ever stays as it was originally created, its integrity remains rooted in the strength of its founding convictions. That remains true of Verde Valley School today.

Verde Valley School
3511 Verde Valley School Rd.
Sedona, AZ 86351
P: 928.284.2272
F: 928.284.0432

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