Sage Hill School Launches New $7.5 Million Science Center Development Campaign

A veritable “who’s who” of leading Orange County scientists, educators, business leaders and community members joined Sage Hill School students, parents, faculty and Board of Trustees this evening to announce and pledge support for the “Campaign for Innovative Learning,” a $7.5 million development effort to build a new Science Center on its Newport Coast, CA, campus by September 2014. Why a new Science Center?

“The challenge is that we’ve outgrown our current science space and curriculum,” said Gordon McNeill, Head of School at Sage Hill School, one of California’s leading college preparatory private high schools. “A bold, strategic and practical course of action is required to add new learning and research space that supports inquiry based learning, and better prepares students for college, careers and community service.”

Opting to launch the new Science Center campaign in the context of the very type of community service and science thought leadership forums it envisions, Sage Hill School hosted an engaging public lecture and Q&A session – the second in Sage Hill’s Science Lecture Series – on Systems Biology by Dr. Arthur Lander, Professor of Developmental and Cell Biology and Biomedical Engineering at UCI, and Director of the Center for Complex Biological Systems.

Initial members of the new Sage Hill Science Center Advisory Team, an accomplished group of prominent scientists and educators providing strategic counsel and guiding the development of new science-based community-interactive programs, were introduced, including:

  • Dr. Peter Donovan, Director, Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UCI, and one of the world’s foremost stem cell research experts. Dr. Donovan recently hosted a well-attended public lecture at Sage Hill entitled “Stem Cells: Revolutionizing the Treatment of Human Disease.”
  • Dr. Edward Thorp, prominent math professor, pioneer in modern applications of probability theory, hedge fund manager, and New York Times best-selling author of Beat the Dealer.
  • Dr. Mihir Worah, Managing Director of $1.97 Trillion asset management firm Pimco, expert commentator for CNN, MSNBC, Wall Street Journal and prime example of the powerful link between science and Wall Street.
  • Dr. Arthur Lander

With $3,750,000 in private donor support already committed toward its $7.5 Million development campaign, Sage Hill School’s key milestones and timeline for success moving forward include raising an additional $1,250,000 required to break ground by June 30, 2013, and the final $2,500,000 to be pledged by the grand opening, aggressively scheduled for September 2014.

“The new Science Center will be about much more than bricks and mortar … It’s about educating, inspiring and fueling the dreams of generations of students, while opening up advanced learning and practical career options many aren’t even considering,” explained Vicki Booth, Chair, Sage Hill Board of Trustees. “Sage Hill School has established a highly respected track record in science innovation and thought leadership via its ‘Spring and Summer at Sage’ programs, Career Days, service learning platforms for under-served elementary schools, Savannah’s Organic Garden and Science Lecture Series, and this historic effort will help solidify and extend that hard-earned legacy of success for many years to come.”

Sage Hill School is now expanding its community fundraising efforts to enlist the support of Southern California corporations interested in Science Center naming rights opportunities, sponsorships, in-kind product/service donations and internships; Foundations via grants; and private individual donors.

“The new Science Center will serve more than Sage Hill School’s current and future generations of students and families,” said Mr. McNeill, further explaining Sage Hill’s vision. “We’re in the process of creating strategic, multi-year relationships with science and technology-based corporations, universities, medical centers, museums and thought leadership conferences that will help us forge community outreach programming impacting tens of thousands of Orange County students and community members of all ages passionate about science in years to come,” he added.

“We love to see schools developing their science curriculum, and training students to really think about science and how to tackle the big problems of science,” said UCI’s Dr. Peter Donovan, world renowned stem cell research scientist. “We’re really excited to see Sage Hill build this new Science Center, and train the leaders of the future. At the university level, we often see students that know all the facts, but they don’t know how to think about a problem. One of the things they do differently at Sage Hill is train students to look at a problem, form a hypothesis, and figure out how to tackle that problem - and that’s exactly the type of scientists that we need in the lab. I think that’s a new way of teaching, an exciting way of teaching, and one that will excite the kids as well,” added Dr. Donovan.

Architectural plans for the new Science Center revealed fly-over video footage and detailed artist renderings of dynamic, state-of-the-art experimentation, research and lecture spaces for multi-science disciplines. The new space will facilitate expanded curriculum offerings envisioned by Sage Hill’s science faculty, including robotics, engineering, forensics, astronomy, STEM and marine biology.

“Our planning, design and engineering process involved a great deal of research and long, core conversations with Sage Hill’s faculty about how its students learn, experiment and are taught,” shared Sonnet Hui, Project Manager of Steinberg Architects. “It was through this interaction and collaboration that our design evolved to intuitively reflect the core values of the school. Without question, there’s something uniquely Sage Hill about this project,” she said.

The new Science Center will encourage advanced education and career opportunities that extend beyond science to business, while emphasizing entrepreneurialism. For example, Pimco’sDr. Mihir Worah made a direct correlation between science and Wall Street, one of which many parents guiding their children toward business school vs. science-based educations may be unaware.

“A science education doesn’t have to end up in a career in a laboratory wearing a white coat,” noted Dr. Worah. “I was trained as a physicist, and have lots of friends who are physicists who are now writers, photographers, actors, inventors and even fund managers like me … So science education opens up the doors to a number of careers.”

“A lot of people think that to be successful in asset management and investment banking you need training, or need to be a student of economics or business management,” continued Dr. Worah. “Not true. I have a Ph.D in theoretical particle physics from the University of Chicago, and yet am now heading up a business at Pimco, responsible for over $100 billion in inflation hedging client assets. I’m convinced it’s science training and the ability to couch economic outcomes in scientific terms that has led to my success. Pimco, which manages over $1.9 trillion dollars globally for clients, employs a host of scientists and engineers, but it’s not just Pimco. You will find scientists and engineers in very successful positions at every major asset management and investment banking firm in the world.”

“The importance of science to the community and country is very large,” noted Dr. Edward Thorp.What economists have found is that the rate of increase of the gross national product (GNP) of a country is directly proportional to the country’s investment in science and technology. So I think the spillover to our immediate community and the country will be very important. Sage Hill is actively developing ties with many of the leading science-related businesses and industries in the Orange County area and beyond. Its students will contribute as apprentices and interns and eventually employees and teachers. They will help energize the whole burgeoning science sector in Orange County,” added Dr. Thorp, in referencing the Sage Hill Science Center’s strategic partnership and community outreach initiatives.

Providing a real-world student perspective and arguably the most compelling rationale for supporting the proposed Science Center plans and programs was Ryan Babish, Sage Hill Class of 2007, Carlton College graduate and Harvard University Ph.D. candidate in Chemical Physics. “The passionate teachers I had at Sage Hill are the only reason I am a scientist today,” said Babish, in expressing his thanks and appreciation for his alma mater. “My science and math teachers had a contagious passion for their subject. Many people can teach science, but my Sage Hill teachers taught me to love science - the latter lesson has been one of the most rewarding of my life thus far.”

For more information or to pledge financial support Sage Hill School’s “Campaign for Innovative Learning” via corporate naming rights opportunities, sponsorships, Foundation grants or individual donations, log onto or call Shoshana Grammer at 949-219-1341.


Contact:  John Eckel                                        Contact:  Torrey Olins
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