Pomona College '01 - Bachelor of Arts, History
University of California, Berkeley Law
Environmental Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council
Max Baumhefner thinks that his years at Sonoma Country Day School (he arrived as a sixth grader) were singularly important to him. “I was naturally curious and loved learning, but SCDS challenged me as I had not been challenged in an academic environment. I went on to a very good high school, college, and law school, but the three years I spent at SCDS were the most important in cementing my dedication to lifelong learning,” he says.
While Max credits SCDS for its influence on his life, he was also singularly important at SCDS, and received the Faculty Award, which recognizes graduates worthy of the name scholar, at his graduation. “There were a lot of extremely bright kids in our class, so I consider the award as perhaps the most prestigious honor I’ve received. If it weren’t for the fact that was seventeen years ago, I’d still put it on my resume, maybe above my law degree. I certainly owe a great deal of my ability to listen critically and question accordingly to my SCDS education.” In fact, Founding Headmaster Philip Nix recalls being on the receiving end of Max’s astute listening. “He would listen very carefully, and then he would ask the one question that I hadn’t prepared for.”
Max’s first impression of SCDS was that it was small, and that (although his class was the school’s largest yet with twenty-four students in 1993) it was split into two even smaller groups. He also has especially fond memories of English teacher Susan Hirsch and history teacher David Cole.
“Ms. Hirsch pushed the boundaries of ‘normal’ English instruction. In one unit she invited us to delve into architectural drawing, and I seriously thought of being an architect afterward,” he says.
His fondest memory of Mr. Cole’s history class is the joke that he didn’t get. “Mr. Cole was teaching geographic vocabulary and using visual puns to help us remember the words. One image was a big car, with a V-8 label affixed to it, parked on the edge of a cliff. The answer was ‘fjord,’ but I didn’t get it.”
Max also recalls one of Headmaster Nix’s all-school talks on the subject of integrity. “He managed to convey something essential about the importance of integrity to a group of students with a wide range of age. He was always good at instilling values to which we should all aspire.”
Max’s appreciation for learning is not limited to the classroom. After graduating from Pomona College, he spent several years following his interests—baking artisan bread, managing a café, and leading cycling tours between parks in the southwest and hiking tours in France, Italy, and Switzerland—and says enthusiastically, “I loved it all.”
He’s equally enthused about his current work at the Natural Resources Defense Council on climate change and energy policy, with an emphasis on ensuring that the environmental and social benefits of electric vehicles are maximized. “SCDS fostered a dedication to lifelong learning and integrity that drives my work as an environmental advocate. I cherish the fact that a core part of my job is to learn, and to become an expert on a matter of utmost importance to our world.”