When the names Bruce and Marsha Boston are mentioned to alumni and faculty, past and present, what immediately follows is an outpouring of love and stories of profound impact and gratitude. The husband and wife duo were legends who left an indelible imprint on those who had the privilege of learning from and working with them at La Jolla Country Day School.
Inspirational, influential, passionate, nurturing, talented, compassionate, giving and admirable are among the scores of sentiments shared about the Bostons, who passed away within a few months of each other. Marsha, a visual arts educator in the Upper School for 22 years from 1989 to 2011, died on October 10, 2019, at age 73. Bruce, an English educator in the Upper School from 1974 to 2008, died shortly after his wife of more than 55 years on January 11, 2020, also at 73 years old.
The Artist Educator
Marsha’s graceful, soft-spoken and gentle demeanor transformed her art studio classroom into an encouraging space for all students. “Mrs. Boston challenged me to stray away from my comfort zone and experiment with different materials and subject matter that I never would have tried on my own,” says Adrienne Sigeti ’11. “She encouraged all of her students to think outside the box, always lending support and guidance when a piece didn’t turn out exactly as planned.”
As an educator, mentor and working artist, Marsha’s influence led numerous alumni to pursue art, personally and professionally. Her commitment, joy and passion for her craft were evident and infectious. “Marsha was my favorite teacher,” says Mina Rahnema Ash ’07. “Her artwork was a huge influence on me. I even ended up going to UC San Diego and graduating with a BA in studio art, honors.”
Marsha’s influence extended to her colleagues. “Marsha was my most important mentor when I first came to LJCDS,” shares Bruce Fayman ’77 P’15 ’17 ’19, former visual arts educator. “She always expressed confidence in my ability to reach students and handle the rigors of teaching, which was so vital for me to hear. ... I also credit Marsha with helping me begin my own professional career in the arts and encouraging me to take bolder steps with my own creative choices.”
During the past two decades, Marsha’s professional artwork centered on the myths and concepts that have defined the human relationship with nature. Her watercolor and ink paintings of abstract botanicals, specifically medicinal plants indigenous to California, were soft and gentle, yet powerful in their message. Marsha’s work connects viewers with the wonders of plant life and to an earlier time, when plants were sacred and revered for their healing abilities.
The Poet Educator
A scholar and influencer, Bruce was a well-respected educator and published poet known for donning round spectacles. He taught English in the Upper School for 34 years and also served as the English department chair.
Under his leadership, Bruce created a visiting poets program, welcoming distinguished scribes, including Philip Levine, United States Poet Laureate from 2011–2012, and Pulitzer Prize–winner Galway Kinnell. He also launched the student literary magazine Pegasus, which remains in publication today.
Bruce was an intensely passionate educator. While challenging those around him with high expectations, he did so with kindness and encouragement. “Bruce inspired his colleagues to think big, to teach passionately and with great skill, and to reinvent the craft to suit the students’ needs,” shares Deborah Shaul, Upper School English educator. He placed great value on relationship building among colleagues. “He truly fostered a family atmosphere in the department,” says Joanne Bradley, Upper School English educator. “We hung out together outside of school a lot, so we weren’t just colleagues at work. I think we were a much better department because we were so cohesive. It was not just a job for us.”
His optimism for professional growth seeped into his faculty evaluations. “I remember he always talked about evaluations as a celebration of the faculty that he had,” shares Bradley. “He celebrated our strengths, which was very important, and gave really good suggestions to implement in classroom teaching.”
Bruce’s profound impact in his classroom spans generations. He was generous with his time, spending endless hours working on creative writing or poetry with students. “Bruce always saw the writer in his students, often long before they saw that in themselves,” says Shaul. “He had a magic about him, an aura that inspired kids to write and to write well. He really brought out the poet in everyone.”
“Repudiate puffery,” is one of Bruce’s most famous lines. He encouraged all those around him to speak and write from the heart.
Bruce and Marsha dedicated their careers to making a difference in the lives of students—which they did beautifully. Personally, they devoted their lives to loving, caring for and supporting each other. “[I remember] two [people] who loved each other through everything,” says former faculty member Heidi Bruning. Will Erickson, another former colleague, remembers, “They were inseparable. I can hardly think of one without the other.”
Their unequivocal love for each other inspired all those around them. “My best memory of Bruce, beyond his writing and his teaching and how he cared about his students, [was] his love for Marsha,” says Sharon McCartney ’77. “The way that he spoke about her and their years together showed me (skeptical teenage me) what love could be. And their love endured. I respect them both so much.”