Notice: Dreams on the Coast


The Tokyo-Sage Hill mix

I was fast asleep when the bedside phone rang and my first thought was, Where am I? “But the moment I thought about it, I knew I was in a fancy hotel room in Tokyo and the bedside clock was reading 3:15 a.m., and I knew it was somebody. one from the United States because no civilized person in Japan would call at that time.

Sure enough, it was Jamie Caillouette, the founding father of Sage Hill School, and he was calling for funding for the school to be built (I got it), and he was calling because there was a problem.

As he started to speak, I interrupted him, Jamie, Im in Tokyo and it is three omorning clock and at nine o’clock sharp, we meet the American ambassador and a contingent from the Bank of Tokyo (BOT). Can it wait?

No, they balk at the lease. He meant schoolThe lender didn’t like the Sage Hill ground lease. We, the founders, had rented 28 acres off Newport Coast Road, near the entrance to the State Route 73 toll road for the school. The lender didn’t like parts of the lease and I could hear the tension in Jamiethe voice of s.

It was 1999 and we, the founders, had been there for years. Our goal: to create the only non-sectarian private high school in Orange County and the only one with these three core values: excellence, diversity and financial support.

That same year, I was doing my biggest business: buying $ 1.8 billion worth of bad debt from banks in Japan. BOT had invited me to buy the loans, so I was there the next morning to meet the US Ambassador and the BOT leadership, and I wondered how the hell my life had taken such a turn.

It was that kind of year. I traveled back and forth to Tokyo, kept my luggage permanently at the Okura Hotel and simultaneously deeply involved in Sage Hills creation.

The Japanese deal was done and Sage Hill was built, and neither was easy, but oh my God, what I learned. Tokyo opened my eyes to how Asia works, and Sage Hill opened my eyes to how education works. Both are complicated and it’s easy to go wrong.

In Japan, it’s all about trust, which is extremely difficult to achieve. Once you have it, however, things go smoothly. On our $ 1.8 billion contract, the purchase document was five pages long, which is unusual in the Western world.

At Sage Hill, it’s all about student-teacher ratios, a “safe” environment to be different ”, a close relationship with faculty, parents, students and perhaps most importantly, teaching parents that an Ivy League education is not the ideal fit for children. For the kids of Laguna, it’s about learning that this amazingly beautiful town is a secluded paradise that cannot be duplicated and that the big world is a scary place.

It’s all behind me now, but the trajectory of the lives involved has certainly changed. I took my nephew Matt to Japan to help out, and today he lives there with his Japanese wife and five children. At Sage, we have had to survive the openness, staff and board changes, the 2008 financial crisis and, most recently, COVID-19.

The other day at the beach I was hanging out with one of my kids and her friends from Sage Hill Laguna, and I was dreamily silent when she asked: What are you thinking about?”

ThisIt’s the same old story, I replied, suddenly happy, You gotta take it sweet.

How sweet ? “

Life, darling, life.

Michael is a volunteer columnist for The Independent.

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