Triumph and Level IV Terrain
Friday, May 3
When the history of The Archer School for Girls is written, the opening of the Diana Meehan Center will stand as a pivotal moment for the School, the moment when we ensured our home in Brentwood and secured our mission for future generations of Archer girls.
Granted, it has been a long and at times trying journey. Land use and real estate development are not for the faint of heart. Our girls who go on NOLS backpacking trips would qualify what we’ve been through as Level IV terrain; that’s when you have to use your hands and feet to climb and navigate obstacles on the trail. With a 40 pound pack on your back no less. What our girls would also tell you is that the sense of accomplishment and triumph they feel at having mastered that unfamiliar and at times unforgiving terrain is unparalleled and gives them extraordinary confidence to face the life challenges which lie ahead.
Photo Credit: Jerilyn Joel
Whether it’s persevering on a wilderness trip or prevailing in a land use battle, it takes collaboration from a team of passionately committed, honorable people. Archer’s trustees, past and present, have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure the spectacular success we’re celebrating today. These are the heroes of Archer, who held the long view when those of us in the fray could not at times see past the obstacles, the angels of this School who gave without hesitation and with utter conviction that Archer’s mission to empower future female leaders in an inclusive, future-facing environment was vital and worthy - indeed essential to this community. After all, cities are made great by their nonprofit institutions - the institutions that invest in and elevate humanity - our hospitals, museums, theaters and, of course, our schools. By investing in Archer, our supporters have invested in this city and, indeed, in humanity.
Likewise, our architects at Parallax Associates were deeply moved and motivated by Archer’s mission, which is made manifest in the Diana Meehan Center. From the under-stair seating designed because they noticed our girls always curled up together under the stairs of the old North Wing, to the stunning views across the red tile roofs of the Historic Building, to the ingenious use of light-filled space that honors Archer’s commitment to collaboration, creativity, and innovation, they have exceeded every expectation we had for what this new Academic Center could be.
Photo Credit: JD Renes
It’s true that when we set out to design the new Academic Center, it was imperative that our historic home remain the centerpiece and jewel of the campus, a paean to our storied past, our alumni, and the culture of sisterhood at the heart of our School. As you’ll see, there is a beautiful interplay between old and new from within the campus while the view of our beautiful historic campus from Sunset Boulevard remains unspoiled. Much like Archer itself, we endeavored to protect what is precious about our School while providing our girls with what they need to face the future. Part of encountering the future is, invariably, understanding the gender bias our graduates will face and being equipped to transcend it.
Like so many other women’s institutions, the bar has been set higher for Archer. After a contentious four-year entitlement process (where our opponents’ opening bid was to move the School or put it underground), and during which parents, alumni, and students wrote compelling letters, spoke at hearings, and knocked on doors, the City of Los Angeles granted unanimous approval for Archer’s Campus Master Plan, but with an unprecedented requirement for a school: the entire plan - academic center, gymnasium, parking, performing arts center, and fine arts center - all had to be completed in just 36 months with a moratorium on building until the year 2040.
We celebrate the opening of our new building and look ahead to the buildings not yet completed because the challenges we face continue to motivate us. As we tell our girls, when you face a glass ceiling, you can turn back - or you can break through.
Archer senior Madison Tyler, assistant director of this year’s Upper School play wrote, "As a senior, my experience working on the show has only deepened my appreciation for Archer and the education I've received. As I prepare to head off to college in the fall, I know I will face new challenges and obstacles. People will underestimate me. They will try to make me small. They will try to invalidate my experiences and knowledge. But what they will not know is that I am armed with my intellect and the strength of all those women who came before me and all those who stand beside me."
With the elegant confidence of young women like Madison, the opening of the Diana Meehan Center says to this community, The Archer School for Girls is here to stay.
Photo Credit: Rebecca Aranda