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Alumni Spotlights

Presidio Hill alumni go on to do groundbreaking work in high school, in college, and in the world beyond.

Here are just a few of our amazing alumni carrying on the PHS mission to this day. We would love to feature your story, too! Click here to submit your alumni profile or contact Stephanie Kastner, Development & Alumni Coordinator, at stephanie@presidiohill.org with your most recent adventures.  

Jordan Benjamin '05

October 26, 2018

Jordan, a lifelong snake enthusiast and self-described "serpentologue", graduated from 8th grade at PHS in 2005 and attended Urban School before graduating from Whitman College with a degree in snakebite medicine. Since then, he's traveled to countries around the world, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, to safely remove venomous snakes from people's homes and provide lifesaving medical treatment. Last month, Jordan formally launched the Asclepius Snakebite Foundation (ASF), an international non-profit striving to reduce deaths and injuries caused by snake bites around the world. In Jordan's words, ASF's mission is "to reverse the vicious cycle of tragic snakebite outcomes through a combination of innovative research, clinical medicine, and education-based public health initiatives."

While Jordan is currently out working on a rural ambulance in the field, he connected with us via Facebook to share that former PHS teacher Sue Marvit helped spark his interest in herpetology. "Sue was a big part of what got me into this field in the first place," he says. In fact, Sue let us know that Jordan was the student who talked her into getting a pet snake for her classroom!

You can learn more about the ASF at https://www.snakebitefoundation.org. Congratulations, Jordan!

Martin Encinas Leon '04

October 12, 2018

Martin Encinas Leon is Presidio Hill School's newest alum member of the Board of Trustees! As a way to introduce himself, he graciously agreed to an interview for this week's Alumni Spotlight.

Martin attended PHS from 6th through 8th grade, then went to International High School and graduated from the University of Southern California. Now, he has his own residential real estate business in San Francisco. When he's not at work, he likes to stay active by jogging and playing soccer, and he also volunteers in the Mission District - the neighborhood where he grew up - at SMART and Dev/Mission. 

One of Martin's "strongest and favorite" memories from PHS happened during his 8th grade year, when his class was fundraising for a school trip to Costa Rica. Martin's mother taught the class how to make Sinaloa-style tamales to sell to other families in the school, and they ended up making 1,000+ tamales! "It was great bonding with my classmates and having all the families come together," he says.

Martin just returned from a trip to Europe and is excited to participate on the Board of Trustees this year. Welcome back, Martin!

Shanna Edelson Rader '72

June 9, 2018

A lifelong nature lover, Shanna Edelson Rader has many memories of time spent outdoors at PHS, from oil cleanups at the beach to camping trips in summertime. She graduated from PHS's 6th grade in 1972 and attended middle and high school in Marin, graduating from Tamalpais High in 1978. Shanna spent her freshman and sophomore years of college at UC Santa Barbara, where she immersed herself in environmental science, becoming "very passionate about the earth and its wellbeing." She went backpacking, learned to scuba dive, fell in love with geography, and "got inspired by the big world." After taking a few months off to travel, Shanna transferred to UC Berkeley to complete her BS in Environmental Education, an individualized program that she partially crafted herself. For her internship, she designed an outdoor education program based on California state curriculum and traveled the state providing demonstrative lessons to inner-city children.

After earning her teaching credential from SF State and traveling for nearly a year around Southeast Asia, Shanna and her husband bought a house in Marin, where they raised three children. Shanna has taught in private, public, Montessori, and Waldorf schools - at one point running a preschool out of her home - and speculates that her education at PHS may have been what attracted her to studying alternative education methods. She was a kindergarten teacher at Marin Waldorf School for 15 years and has since transitioned to the administrative side of education; she is now an administrative assistant and registrar at a local public school in Marin. Her youngest child is in college, and her two older children have graduated. She continues to have a passion for travel and taking care of the earth, and also loves to cook sustainable, local food.

Shanna has many warm memories of PHS. Some of her favorites include celebrating May Festival every year and making a large rug as part of a classroom project; the students carded their own wool and used plant dye before weaving the rug themselves. "A lot of what I experienced at Presidio Hill... allowed me to find meaning and passion and a higher purpose in my relationships with others," she says. "It was like a large family in many ways."

Onyekachi "Margaret" Nwabueze '09

April 25, 2014

Our very own alumna, Onyekachi “Margaret” Nwabueze, has made school history at Occidental College. In her second track meet she earned the number 10 spot on the Occidental all-time list in the 100-meter with time of 12.66. Amazing!!!

Andrew Tejada '07

March 21, 2014

During Andrew's time here, he helped to create the after school talent show, as well as the dance committee (both of which are still going on strong 7 years later)! After graduating PHS, Andrew went on to Drew High School where he was President of the Humanitarian Action Committee and performed in several of the school's theater productions.

He is now a Junior at Whittier College where he not only has numerous leadership responsibilities (including being the General Director of the campus student run broadcast center), but is also designing his own major, which has yet to receive an official title but encompasses courses pertaining to entertainment business!

Congrats to Andrew, who provided us with great examples of the successes our alumni encounter!

Hazel Rose '03

February 7, 2014

Hazel graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies, International Area Studies in 2011. Since then she has have been primarily a teaching artist-- leading workshops and residencies with SF Jazz and Youth Speaks in middle schools, as well as teaching after-school and Hip-Hop at the bilingual K-8 school Buena Vista Horace Mann in the Mission District.

In addition to that, she works in nightlife and is an aspiring musical artist. She released 3 albums with her music group 40Love, but for the past year has been pursuing her solo career in Electronica music, with her first solo album "9 Lives" releasing this year. Her goals include continuing to merge art and social justice on a wider scale.

Way to go Hazel!

Brian Thoele-Neirro '00

January 31, 2014

Brian attended University High School followed by University of California at Riverside where he graduated with a degree in Creative Writing. He has just completed his first book under the pen name of B.T. Narro and dedicates the book to Alex Baum, his best friend from PHS. We will feature Bastial Energy, Book I of the Rhythm of Rivalry as Book of the Week in the June 7 issue of the Presidio Post. Congratulations, Brian!

Courtney Cassavant-O'Connor '05

January 30, 2014

Courtney holds Presidio Hill School near and dear though she moved away before graduating. She recently graduated from Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont. Her major was Kinesiology. She not only lifeguards and gives swim lessons, but she has also been certified to train lifeguards, train swim teachers, and work with arthritic people in pools.

David Jenkins '59

January 30, 2014

David Jenkins is the grandson of Flora Arnstein, Founder of PHS. David attended PHS in the 1960’s, and was born and raised in SF by Poet/Professor of English Literature Edith Arnstein Jenkins, and by his Labor Organizer father H. David Jenkins who was part of the ILWU (International Longshoreman’s and Warehouseman’s Union). David joined the union at the age of 17. He went on to work as a cable-car gripman and then shipped out as a Merchant Marine to South America and port in the Pacific Far East. 

He later studied cello/composition at the SF Conservatory of Music, and then became a mediator of commercial disputes conducting in excess of 3,000 mediations in 44 states and 5 Latin American countries. Subsequently, he went to study flamenco guitar in Sevilla, and he now divides his time between teaching, performing, and mediating in the US and Mexico.

Molly Salz '89

January 30, 2014

Molly Salz is the great-granddaughter of Helen Salz, Founder of PHS. Molly lived in Bolinas and attended Bolinas School. She then attended PHS for two years, 1989 and 1990. She attended Tamalpais High School, and then UC San Diego majoring in Visual Arts Media (Photography). She lived in New York for three years before moving back to the Bay Area for the past five years. She works in Film/Commercial production as a Coordinator/Manager. Recently, she moved to Oakland from San Francisco and is enjoying the slower pace and the warmer weather.

Bill Stewart '42

January 30, 2014

Bill lives in Garberville where he is a businessman in the gas industry. He recently came to PHS to visit Steve in TK, Nick in 3rd, and James in 8th, where he told the students he remembers sitting by a great big radio at Presidio Open Air School – now PHS—to hear FDR announce the beginning of World War II.

Bill attended the Past Trustees’ Dinner in 2013 and told us about how PHS is responsible for his success in life. He had a struggle with reading and spelling and his teachers gave him special help. He was especially strong in math and science and went to Lowell with the skills of an upperclassman, and he went on to get advanced degrees from Stanford. His love of art also came from PHS and in his many travels he always takes an extra day to visit the local museums.

Renee Blanceagle Nichols '95

January 30, 2014

Renee was recently hired by Twitter to work on the Trust and Safety Team as a Business and Platform Policy Specialist. She says there is even shuffleboard on her floor! Congratulations, Renee!

Kate Davis-Hitchens '97

January 30, 2014

Kate is a Drew graduate and has gone back to school (with her two dogs in tow) to attend Colorado State University where she is studying English Literature and is hoping to earn a teaching degree. She is student teaching 6th graders and on the reading list is one of Rick Riordan's books! Her students thought it was pretty neat that Rick had been her teacher in Middle School. Good going, Kate.

Megan Davis-Hitchens '99

January 30, 2014

Megan Davis-Hitchens is a graduate of Lick-Wilmerding High School, as well as Lewis and Clark University. She is in her 6th year of teaching in NYC. Meg got her Masters in Education and participated in the NYC Teaching Fellows Program. She is a supervisor of special education serving elementary students at Bedford Stuyvesant High School in Brooklyn.

Jean Dinkelspiel Chaitin '40

January 30, 2014

Jean worked with the Fine Arts Museums and wrote "Teachers' Guide to The Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls" for the Education Department of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. PHS was able to locate and purchase one lone copy on Amazon!

Aaron Bobrow '99

January 30, 2014

Aaron attended Temple University and then Parsons School of Design. After seven years of doing large installations, he is making his way as an artist in Manhattan. He had a recent show at Andrea Rosen Gallery in Chelsea. Good going, Aaron!

Anthony Cary '48

January 30, 2014

Anthony ("Tony") attended the PHS nursery school on Commonwealth Avenue and continued through to 5th grade at PHS on Washington Street. He then went on to The Putney School, another Dewey progressive boarding school, and then to Harvard College and Harvard Law. He is now retired but remains active as a volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and as a singer in the Carmel Bach Festival Chorus. He is still a “life-long learner a la the PHS philosophy” and has completed a college courses in Marine Biology and Spanish. He can still sing parts of “Cielito Lindo” which he learned here in Spanish at PHS.

The Simpson Ladies

January 30, 2014

(From left to right)

Alyssa (2002) graduated from Trinity College in May 2010 and has been working in the start up world in San Francisco. She’s currently at Kontagent, an analytics company, doing product management. 


Maddy (2006) is in her junior year at George Washington University. She will be continuing her studies next semester.
in Melbourne. Australia. 
Joninna (??) graduated from Williams College and works as Executive Director of Beth Shalom. She was a long-time, well-loved PHS Board President. 
Danielle (2004) graduated in May 2013 from Haverford College and is now the Marketing Associate at Main St. Labs in San Francisco.



Rhoda Haas '38

December 5, 2013

Rhoda Haas, along with her husband Richard Goldman, established the Goldman Environmental Prize. The prize honors individuals who work at the grassroots level to protect and enhance our environment. Please go to http://www.goldmanprize.org/recipients/current to review this year’s six brave winners.

Jordan Benjamin '05

December 5, 2013

Ever since he talked his science teacher, Sue Marvit, into buying a California King Snake (named Tiger) for the classroom, Jordan has been smitten by snakes. After PHS, Jordan graduated from The Urban School and then went on to UC Santa Cruz. After one year at UCSC, he relocated to Whitman College in Walla Walla to work with a herpetology professor whose specialty was anti-venom vaccine research. In his pursuit of snake venom knowledge, Jordan has traveled to Kenya and Benin, and has worked for a French doctor researching the best ways to cure snake bites through anti-venom vaccines. Currently, he's working at Bio-Ken doing more anti-venom work, and he'll be back at Whitman in January 2014 to complete his undergraduate studies and apply to medical school. And it's all because of Sue, and Tiger, and PHS!

Nicky Sanders '93

December 5, 2013

Nicky Sanders is a member of the band Steep Canyon Rangers. The band performed at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards show on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn.

Lillian Gardiner '96

December 5, 2013

Lillian Gardiner (1996) is Assistant Director of Multicultural Outreach and Alumni Relations at University of Pennsylvania. 

Bike Eisen-Martin '96

December 5, 2013

Biko Eisen-Martin performed  at the Marin Theatre Company on October 28, 2013 at the Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley, CA as a lead in the highly acclaimed Topdog/Underdog play. Check out the show at www.marintheatre.org.

Isabel Honig Schrodel '11

December 5, 2013

Isabel is a passionate drama artist and a fairly regular cast member at the ACT Young Conservatory. She had a role in Midsummer Night's Dream in summer 2011, Antigone in the fall 2011, and she played the lead in After Juliet during the summer of 2013. She has also been involved with Pacifica Spindrift Players theater where she just played the role of the White Rabbit in Alice - The Musical (an original musical production of Alice in Wonderland). She is currently playing a small role in Much Ado About Nothing. She was also in Don Quixote at her University last winter.

Ruby Drake '11

December 5, 2013

Ruby Drake's recently produced film, "On the Fence", was featured at the Mill Valley Film Festival in 2013. It was also accepted at a student film festival in Sacramento and another festival in Hollywood where it was screened in late November, 2013. Ruby made the film with the help of the organization SF Art and Film for Teenagers.

Elizabeth Blackburn P'01

December 5, 2013

In October 2009, Elizabeth Blackburn, mother of Ben Sedat '01, won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase. Great work, Elizabeth!!

Robert Lefkowitz GP'14

December 5, 2013

Robert Lefkowitz, grandfather of Jonah Herbsman '14, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors. Jonah will be attending the ceremonies in December. Congratulation to the family of Robert Lefkowitz!