Ron Provost has been an instrumental and beloved member of the Stevenson faculty for almost 25 years. During his tenure, he has worn many hats. He took some time with us to reflect back and look forward

[Editor’s Note: This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.]

Q: You are nearing your 25th year of teaching and coaching at Stevenson. Over your years at Stevenson, you have worn many “hats.” Tell us a little about your professional journey at School. Are there any moments that stick out as especially memorable?

Ron Provost: My young family and I arrived at Stevenson in the fall of 1999 after I had taught, coached, and ran a dorm at Westminster School in Connecticut for seven years. We moved into Silverado on the girls’ side and I became the dorm head while coaching football and track and teaching Chemistry and Marine Biology. I started the AP Environmental Science program the following year, helped coach the undefeated 2000 football team, and within a few years, succeeded Peter Fayroian as Dean of Students. I remained in the Dean of Students’ office until our oldest son, Josh, became a 9th-grader and then left that job so he and James could have their own highschool experiences and took over as head of the Carmel Campus when Gari-Anne Truscott retired. I was in that job for two years but missed working with high-school students and was not a great elementary school administrator (Molly Bozzo was a great replacement). I returned to the Pebble Beach Campus and to my roots of teaching and coaching, taking over the Track program and starting an Astronomy course as well as working with Sue Denny and Charlie Henrickson to design our 9th-grade integrated science curriculum.

As for especially memorable moments, there are too many to name – but Kirsten and I raising our family on campus, and the closeness we have with those Silverado residents to this day are certainly amongst the best. Friends nights, birthday cakes, the life before everyone was connected to devices and the internet, and a whole host of big brothers and sisters for our boys is something our family will always cherish. For school events, I would include the 2000 Football Championship, the 2019 Girls’ Track title, our first ever Astronomy camping trip, and the events in both Pebble Beach and Japan connected with the school’s exchange with Komaba-Toho school which I became involved with during my time as Dean.

Q: Over the last few reunion weekends, you have been kind enough to host several science sessions for alumni to attend. These are favorites for our guests each year, who relish the opportunity to spend time with you, one of their favorite teachers. In fact, I remember a few years ago when you led the Marine Science tide pooling class, we had to cap the attendance because it was so popular. What do you enjoy about leading these alumni sessions?

R.P.: I love the connections both old and new! Different eras of students have different memories of me as a coach, resident faculty member, teacher, or the dreaded Dean. I love seeing alumni again when those roles are in the background and I can just share something with them that I am passionate about, be it the ocean, the sky, or more recently, the history of Monterey. I think you only gain the perspective of how special this place is after you have left, and watching alums return and share that experience with their young families really brings the experience full circle for me.

Q: You have always been an innovator in getting our students out into the “real world” of science. Your Astronomy and Marine Science classes come to mind as some examples. Over the last few years, you have done a weekend field trip to the annual “Star Party” at Lake San Antonio with your Astronomy students. And, in Marine Science, you are out in the tidepools regularly exploring, as well as providing students an opportunity to log their discoveries on iNaturalist. Tell us a little about why this type of “hands-on” learning means so much.

R.P.: This question has an odd connection to our current 9th-grade integrated science class PSI (Principles of Scientific Inquiry). We talk in class about the motto of the Royal Society of London which is Nullius in Verba or “on no one’s word.” It essentially means that you can read lots of things in books but to be a true critical thinker, you need to experience it for yourself. This experiential part of education has always been at the center of how I have tried to teach science. Be it a chemistry lab, a dissection, looking through a telescope, or searching under rocks in a tidepool, getting all of your senses involved in gathering knowledge helps to make it real and helps students be more engaged than by just looking at books or watching videos. I was able to do this as a high school student on the Merrimack River in New Hampshire, and as a college student aboard a boat between LA and Santa Barbara – and one crazy summer scuba diving – and I think it is the best way to learn.

Q: Over the next five years, what would you say are some of the things you are the most excited about happening in the science department?

R.P.: I am excited about the new math, science and engineering building because of the improved spaces. When I arrived in 1999 I thought that the Lindsley Science Center needed a bit of work. I felt it was a step down from the facility I was moving from, and now 25 years later, that change is happening. With that change, I am also excited about the student research space that the building will have and a new offering from Dr. Becca Upjohn that will help support a vibrant research program. I also am excited about the opportunities that will continue to grow in our new X-term program. I hope that there will be a great marine science experiential course related to the work of Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck ready for next year’s X-term.

Q: Your wife, Kirsten and you are the proud parents of two alumni, Josh ’12 and James ’14. How was it raising your children in the Stevenson community and the greater community of the Monterey Peninsula?

R.P.: Kirsten always said that growing up on a boarding school campus was like living in an educational commune. When all of your neighbors value education and inquiry, and every night when your child asks you those “why” questions over dinner about history, or baseball, or how to tie a knot, you have a community of experts you can send them to and that can’t be beat. The concept that “it takes a village to raise a child” was helpful with the amazing village we got to be wholly a part of. Kirsten just finished her 30th year of track coaching, ran Silverado for a time, and when not teaching our kids or working with kids in the dorm, taught a little French. Josh and James learned not to have a shy bone in their body growing up in the community on campus. Maybe James’ Christmas Carol at Monday Night Dinner when he was three helped lead to his life on and around the stage. And perhapsJosh learned his adaptability from his life as a co-leader, athlete, and student.

As for the Monterey Peninsula, it was bigger than rural Connecticut where just about everything was the school, but not so big that you could get lost. Besides being one of the most beautiful places in the world to grow up, it gave our boys a place to spread their wings, but also a yearning for larger spaces – though equally beautiful. They have lived in big cities – Seattle, Salt Lake, LA – with beautiful outdoor opportunities and found themselves gravitating to smaller busy places where they can find the best of both worlds – Olympia and Portland – and I think growing up here led to that. California also brought us closer to Kirsten’s family, and my mom followed us to the West Coast so the boys were able to grow up around their grandparents and that connection was invaluable.

Q: This April 8, you will be on a special “field trip” of your own. Where are you going and what will you be doing there?

R.P.: On April 8th I will be headed with Kirsten to rural Oklahoma to experience the last total eclipse of the sun in the United States until 2045. We are being joined by friends from our college years, Kirsten and I met in college, and their adult families, and we are going to share a weekend of reminiscing and reconnecting. And then they are all going to have a science experience because that is what I am all about. Then we will make plans for where we will meet in 2045, where maybe we will all bring our grandchildren.