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A Legacy of Dedication

By Jennifer Fogarty, communications content manager
Honoring this year's retirees.
LJCDS thanks the following five retirees for their dedication to the Torrey community. Whether it was five years or over 40, as grounds keeper, math educator, assistant head of Upper School, nurse and wellness coordinator, or head of Upper School, these beloved employees inspired generations of students and colleagues. Read a special feature on retiring Head of School Gary Krahn, Ph.D

Jan Capon, RN
David Jenkins
Betsy McCallum
Lee Sawyer
Thomas Trocano

Jan Capon, RN, BSN
School Nurse and Wellness Coordinator
Joined LJCDS in 2014

At just 8 years old, Jan Capon resolved to become a nurse. Her role at LJCDS went beyond applying band-aids and taking temperatures, though. Nurse Jan was much more than “just a nurse”—she provided an environment where the whole community felt comfortable going to her for help with injuries, illnesses, health information or just a hug. Her empathetic nature and listening ear solidified her as a trusted confidante and advocate for students, families and colleagues. 

Born in New York and raised in Maryland, Nurse Jan pursued her aspirations at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, where she earned a BSN with honors and became a licensed RN. She gained experience caring for her diabetic father as her mother was rather squeamish. Before long, friends and family sought her advice and assistance on all medical matters.

Nurse Jan began her professional journey as a pediatric nurse at Baltimore’s Union Memorial Hospital, where she cherished her time working with children. When she later moved to California, it was no surprise that she found her true calling as a school nurse. Prior to joining LJCDS for 10 years, Nurse Jan dedicated 11 years to serving as the school nurse at San Diego Jewish Academy.

“Reflecting on the past decade, my most cherished accomplishments are the relationships I’ve built with students, parents and colleagues,” shares Nurse Jan. “Comforting a student or providing guidance on healthy habits feels like leaving a lasting impression on their lives. Knowing that I’ve made a difference, no matter how big or small, fills me with joy.”

In retirement, Nurse Jan anticipates spending quality time with her grandchildren, volunteering with organizations focused on children, and enjoying leisurely travels and boating adventures in San Diego Bay.

Jan’s colleagues shared:
“Jan’s impact reaches far beyond the realm of healthcare; she has been a steady source of support and comfort for our students at every stage of their journey. Her unique gift of compassion and understanding has not only healed physical ailments but has also provided a refuge for the emotional and psychological well-being of our school community.” ~Director of Wellness Michelle Hirschy

“Jan’s care, jokes and kindness bring the smiles back to the faces of our Lower School students. As the parent of two kindergarteners, Nurse Jan is a celebrity in our household, and it’s not just my children who think she’s great. Jan is one in a million.” ~Head of Lower School Briony Chown

“Jan is warm and empathetic and gives kids such helpful advice that they continue to visit her, even after they’ve graduated from LJCDS! She is also a very caring friend and colleague.” ~Early Childhood–Grade 5 School Counselor Ashley Marlow 

“When Nurse Jan came to meet my class 10 years ago, the children immediately opened their hearts to her warm nature. I will miss her presence on campus as a colleague and friend. She will leave behind HUGE shoes to fill.” ~Kindergarten Educator Terri Zimmerman
 
David Jenkins
Assistant Head of Upper School
Joined LJCDS in 2002

“Positive,” “big-hearted,” “dedicated,” “caring,” “thoughtful” and “one-of-a-kind” are all words his colleagues repeatedly use to describe David “Dave” Jenkins. “He can lighten up any situation,” shares Director of College Counseling Valencia Valentine Hamman. “Dave called me several times a week just to chat when I was out for six weeks on medical leave. It was his way of saying he was thinking of and supporting me. It had a huge impact on me and meant so much.”

Building relationships came naturally to Dave. “I am going to miss the people,” he reflects. “The time and care you put into building relationships with people—students, families and colleagues—is necessary for people’s trust in each other. These relationships take care and feeding and should not be taken lightly or for granted. I tried my best to live up to the expectations in a framed phrase that [Assistant Head of Upper School] Rachel Clouser shared: to work hard and be kind to people.”

Dave spent the first 12 of his 22 years at LJCDS teaching Upper School math, serving as the sophomore class dean, and coaching the women’s varsity soccer and lacrosse teams. In 2014, he joined the Upper School administrative team as dean of academics and student life for juniors and seniors before becoming an assistant head of Upper School. 

“Working with young people, what you say and do matters and leaves an impression on them,” shares Dave. “Living up to the phrase ‘Doing the right thing when no one is watching’ is something I have strived for.”

Before landing at LJCDS in 2002, Dave served 22 years in the U.S. Navy. He earned his wings as a helicopter pilot after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and attending flight school. While on sea duty, Dave made multiple six-month deployments to the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas and the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. His shore-duty assignments included time at the Pentagon, graduate school, and Naval Air Station, North Island, here in San Diego. During his time in the Navy, Dave had the opportunity to serve in various leadership positions.

Dave and his wife, Masami, are proud parents of daughter Lorin, a 2007 alumna of LJCDS who is now a CPA living and working in New York City. They will fill retirement with things that bring them joy.

Dave’s colleagues shared
“Dave brightens everyone’s day by being upbeat, cracking jokes and lightening up any situation. His big heart impacted students, and he cares so much about the people he works with. Dave is one of a kind. I will miss him and his positivity and kind-hearted influence on all students, faculty and staff.” ~Director of College Counseling Valencia Valentine Hamman

“Dave has been my other half at work for seven years. I can’t imagine the Upper School without him. His joy and love for our school shine through everything he does.” ~Assistant Head of Upper School Rachel Clouser

“Dave is a true gentleman, a throwback to the days when integrity mattered. He is a valued confidant and a kindred spirit.” ~Upper School Mathematics Teacher Dave Schall 

“His consistent presence at school events was always focused on witnessing students and his colleagues be the best version of themselves.” ~Associate Head of School Colleen O’Boyle

“Dave made Country Day a better place. Students knew Mr. Jenkins would hold them accountable while doing all he could to help them overcome challenges as they worked towards their goals. He was just as supportive of his colleagues. Dave’s door was always open for advice or to say hello.” ~Director of Athletics and Physical Education Jeff Hutzler 

“Dave cares deeply about the students and is always there for them. His commitment is remarkable.” ~Head of School Gary Krahn, Ph.D.

 
Betsy McCallum
Grade 6 Math Educator
Joined LJCDS in 1994

For 30 years as an LJCDS Grade 6 math educator, Betsy McCallum has strived to embody Albert Schweitzer’s quote, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” And indeed, Betsy has been successful and happy at LJCDS. As she exudes infinite positivity and a compassionate spirit, she profoundly enriches the lives of countless students and colleagues.

“Every year, my passion for teaching has blossomed exponentially, fueled by my students’ boundless enthusiasm,” reflects Betsy. “When I receive updates from former students about their milestones, my heart smiles.”

It’s no wonder Betsy has such an effect on her students. She views education as cultivating minds, instilling values and empowering future generations to thrive in an ever-changing world. In addition to teaching linear equations, Betsy encourages her students to trust that they have the strength to reach their goals. Learning to have a positive attitude enables her students to overcome the most difficult obstacles on the path to success. Betsy’s classroom environment exemplifies dedication, inspiration and determination—it is a place where anything is possible.

“Through her boundless patience, Betsy empowers her students to grasp challenging mathematical concepts and, even more importantly, to believe in their own abilities,” shares Director of Financial Assistance and Enrollment Management Brian Murphy.

“My heart brims with gratitude for the profound impact Country Day has had on my life and the lives of my family,” shares Betsy. “Saying goodbye feels like bidding farewell to a second family. Watching my own children, Jason and Kaitlin, succeed as lifers at Country Day has filled me with pride. The caring and devoted teachers didn’t just educate them; they instilled a deep-rooted work ethic and a genuine passion for life-long learning. The camaraderie among my colleagues and countless friends has been an anchor in my life. These connections will remain cherished and enduring.” 
 
One of those treasured colleagues, Grade 7 Math Educator Lori Long, shares, “Throughout her tenure, Betsy has been a pillar of support, always ready to lend a helping hand and offer her unwavering support. Her incredible kindness and genuine compassion have touched everyone she encountered, creating a workplace that felt like a community. Her presence will be deeply missed, but her legacy of kindness and support will continue to inspire us.”

As for retirement, Betsy says, “My vegetable garden awaits, promising hours of peaceful cultivation and bountiful harvests. I’ll continue to prioritize my fitness regimen and will have ample time for pleasure reading and visits with family and friends. I look forward to playing with my loyal dog, Lucy and most of all, I will have time to enjoy a stress-free life with my husband, Dave.” 

Betsy’s colleagues shared:
“Betsy is a wonderful team member and math teacher. It is clear that she has a passion for mathematics and understands the needs of her students. She takes time to build relationships and strives to bring out the best in each student. Betsy makes herself available before and after school to support her students and is genuinely thrilled by their success. Both of my children had the privilege of having Betsy as their math teacher, and they have expressed how she made math enjoyable and showed that she truly cared about them. As a colleague, Betsy is always ready to lend a hand or support an idea, ensuring it is executed effectively.” ~Head of Middle School Kristy Johnson

“Throughout her career, Betsy was a consummate professional and the epitome of a team player. Her collaborative spirit enriched the Middle School community, fostering an environment of support and camaraderie among her colleagues and students. Her passion for teaching mathematics ignited a love for learning math in countless students, even those who did not identify as mathematicians. Through her boundless patience, Betsy empowered her students to grasp challenging mathematical concepts and, more importantly, believe in their own abilities.” ~Director of Financial Assistance and Enrollment Management Brian Murphy

“Betsy’s retirement marks the end of an era for our sixth-grade team, leaving behind a legacy of unwavering support, hospitality and guidance that will be deeply missed. She is the epitome of a reliable and encouraging teammate. Betsy’s genuine kindness, compassionate nature, and silly middle-school humor have been a constant source of positivity in our workplace. She has a knack for making everyone feel valued and cared for. Our team will have a noticeable void without her, but her legacy of inspiration will guide us to honor our shared commitment to our students and to always find ways to uplift one another.” ~Middle School English Educator and Team Lead Christa Bentley

Lee Sawyer
Grounds Manager
Joined LJCDS in 1983

Lee Sawyer’s title might be grounds manager, but his reach expands to so much more of the LJCDS community. A fixture at almost every home and away football game, Lee proudly waves the CD flag along the sidelines and on the field, cheering loudly for the players. Over 40 years, he has worked security and helped with traffic during drop-off and pickup. He’s a walking archive for the school and might be the only person on campus who has had the privilege of meeting LJCDS’ founder, Louise Balmer.

Lee started from humble beginnings. He was born in San Francisco and moved to a small town in Texas at age 5 so his grandma could care for him and his siblings. Things were different in Texas. There were chores on the farm, like feeding the hogs and chickens and chopping wood. In 1965, he was the first Black student to integrate an all-white school. Lee worked in the fields, pulling cotton and picking corn from sun up to sundown.

“In that small town, you were born to work,” shares Lee. “I didn’t go to college, so I learned how to work. The type of person I am is that if I’m going to work, I will have to make it a part of my life that I feel good about. I learned how to look forward to working.”

From 1977 to 1981, Sawyer worked for the landscaping company that serviced the campus. In 1983, he heard that LJCDS was hiring its own in-house gardener, and the rest is history. 

LJCDS has been more than a job for Lee. It’s been his home away from home, his second family. The people he has met have opened his world to many opportunities he would never have had access to.

“Since starting work at LJCDS,” shares Lee, “I’ve learned how to accept a lot of love from different people and to allow people to accept me. They don’t know my story or where I came from; they just love me for who I am. I found a lot of support here. People started recognizing me for what I was doing. Over the years, the families I’ve met have played a tremendous part in my life. I would never have gotten to do many things had I not met them.”

Below is a sample of how Lee’s presence is woven into the fabric of LJCDS, some of them in his own words:
  • LJCDS Hall of Fame: In 2007, Lee was inducted as a Friend of Sport for his exceptional contributions to the athletics program.
  • Lifesaver: “I performed the Heimlich maneuver on a kindergarten girl who was choking one morning. I still have the trophy that says, ‘Lee’s a lifesaver.’”
  • Part of History: In 2017, ninth-graders chose Lee as the subject of their Oral History Project. His interview was recorded and lives on as research in the San Diego History Center’s archives in Balboa Park.
  • Met the Founder: While working security one Saturday morning, “a short, kind of sturdy little old lady got out of a car and I thought she looked like Louise Balmer. I greeted her and her nieces and took them on a campus tour. They wrote the headmaster to thank him for hiring someone like me.”
  • Human Book: In 2018, Lee participated in the LJCDS Human Library event. His book title was “Campus Manager,” and students asked him questions about his life.
  • Football Flag: “They call me the flag man. It started when I created a flag using a plastic tablecloth and put a ‘CD’ on it in duct tape.”
  • Concrete Letters: “I created the LJCDS letters on the hill because I wanted to make sure that whoever is flying over campus can see that we’re here. It was going to be in flowers, but one of my crew members was good with concrete.”

As for retirement, Lee shares, “I’m the type of person who has to stay busy. I’m not the one who watches TV. If I can’t find work, I’ll create it. For instance, in my neighborhood, one section is covered with weeds and litter. So, I adopted that part of the city street and cleaned it up. But now, I’ll have to find something. Maybe I’ll take dance classes, or I love music. I could learn how to play something.”

Lee will add another experience to the list when he is presented with an Honorary Alumni Award in August 2024 at the Alumni Awards Ceremony and Reception.


Thomas Trocano
Head of Upper School
Joined LJCDS in 2019

Thomas “Tom” Trocano felt an immediate connection to the LJCDS community during his first visit in December 2018. He tells the story of meeting with a group of prepared students and their list of questions. When his answers were too general, they went off-script and asked for more. “They gave me no opportunity to answer superficially,” remembers Tom. “I left that meeting thinking if these are the students LJCDS is shaping, I want to be a part of it.”

During his 35 years in education, Tom served as a teacher, coach and servant leader in five different schools before starting at LJCDS in 2019. He spent 14 years as chair of the science department at The Haverford School in Pennsylvania. Tom earned a Bachelor of Science in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University and an M.A.Ed. from Wake Forest University.

Even with all that school experience, nothing could have prepared Tom for what he and the rest of the world faced his first year at LJCDS—one of the most significant global challenges in the history of education: keeping students learning and thriving through the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“Tom’s commitment to our students and faculty garnered perhaps unparalleled success as he navigated those years,” reflects Upper School Science Educator Renna Wolfe, Ph.D. “One of the keys to Tom’s success was his uniquely strong sense of compassion—he felt and worked to respond to the needs of everyone around him. He fights for what is best for the growth and development of every student—despite knowing he is guaranteed to meet resistance to what that ‘best’ might look like. This is the meaning of integrity. That compassion has continued to steer everything he does on this campus.”

“What I’ve learned,” shares Tom, “is that it’s all about the people. Caring for the people, making sure they feel heard and valued. People seem even more complex in this position because part of leadership is making decisions that not everyone will love. Thankfully, we all share the same common ground. The goal is figuring out what’s in the student's best interest and finding a partnership that reflects the expertise and integrity of the faculty and administration with the knowledge and desires of the parents. Even the toughest conversations are manageable if we focus on what’s best for the students.”

Tom’s love for Star Trek is well known, as is his love for his wife, Patty. They have been married for over 35 years and plan to take a relaxing drive across the country to their North Carolina home after packing up in San Diego. Tom will find purpose in part-time classroom work, coaching football or volunteering at the Veteran’s Hospital. He shares, “This job can be all-consuming if you let it. I’m looking forward to having Patty as my primary focus.” 

Tom’s colleagues shared
“Tom is known around campus for his unwavering sense of integrity, always looking to improve the lives of his students, faculty members and the community. He is an academic who understands that it is equally important to nurture students who will go out into the world and make a difference. He believes his time at LJCDS can be marked by his dedication to fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for all. He will be missed.” ~Associate Head of School Colleen O’Boyle

“Tom loves people and cares deeply about doing the right thing. He has a tremendous work ethic and is emotionally connected to all we do at LJCDS.” ~Head of School Gary Krahn

“Working with Tom has been such a gift. His kindness and focus on student wellness have made LJCDS a better place. He will be sorely missed when he retires to North Carolina.” ~Assistant Head of Upper School Rachel Clouser

“I don’t think I have met an Upper School head who works as hard or puts in as many hours at Tom Trocano. This was made clear during the COVID years. The cohort scheduling was less complex than the invasion of Normandy by the Allies in WWII. What was also made clear was Tom’s affinity for spreadsheets—spreadsheets with lots of color coding. 

As a student-centric educator, Tom made it clear that every decision he made was always about what was best for the students. It might not be what was easiest for them, but certainly what he thought was best for them. Tom is also very good at taking the time needed to gather the information he needs to develop his solution. Every decision he makes is treated as an important one, and he routinely seeks feedback and advice from many perspectives before making a final decision. One aspect of the head of Upper School job is the art of the difficult conversation. Tom never backed away from having a difficult conversation with a student, a family, a colleague, or a faculty member. He went into these conversations well-prepared and handled them with thoughtfulness and transparency.” ~Assistant Head of Upper School Dave Jenkins


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