Sunday, May 29 , 2016, 9:10 am | Fog/Mist 58º

Cate School Honors History, Its Headmaster in Dedicating New Faculty House

By Sarah Kidwell for Cate School |

Members of the Cate School faculty and board of trustees gathered recently to dedicate the Williams House, a new faculty home on the school's 150-acre campus.

The Williams House is part new construction and part history, as the building's main room was the original library for the school and was built nearly 100 years ago. Its previous location was at the base of the Cate Mesa, having been moved up the hill and turned into faculty housing in 1945. Last fall it was moved again to its current location, when construction began to transform it into a three-bedroom home.

It's been named to honor Cate Headmaster Ben Williams, his wife, archivist Ginger Williams, as well as their family, who came to Cate in 1998.

At the dedication, Cate trustee Dan Emmett was the first to speak about the iconic room and its new purpose, thanking donors as well as others who helped the project come to fruition.

"It wasn't simple to do, and it was accomplished through the skills of a lot of people," he said. "Look around you — it's almost the same as it was 100 years ago."

Emmett noted that Williams, who is Cate's third-longest serving headmaster, has transformed the institution during his 15-year tenure, and that naming the building for him befits his contribution to all facets of Cate life.

Board chair Monique Parsons, class of 1984, also recognized Williams, and relayed that though she often speaks of the "magic" of Cate, "it's not really magic, it's real, and it's because of Cate's patient and devoted teachers who are dedicated every day and every hour." The home, she said, "recognizes the affection we have for Ben and Ginger, and for the respect we have for the teachers who will make this their home."

Geoffrey James, class of 1984, also spoke on behalf of his father, George James, a longtime board member.

Representing the senior class, senior Erika Noble thanked Headmaster Williams, noting that all students get to know him during their time at Cate, from his sonorous voice at their first Sunset Ceremony, the annual event that launches each academic year, through graduation.

"He's a friend and a mentor," she said.

Carpinteria architect and AIA member Larry Clark designed the addition to complement the repurposed library, and Ventura contractor Hartigan Foley orchestrated the move last fall and also completed the new construction.

An old issue of the school's newspaper El Batidor, housed in the school's archives, tells the story of the building's first relocation: "Many speculations were made as to how it was to arrive at the top. ... The house looked wider than the road, and since it is of good length, the sharp corners must have presented difficulties ... however no mishaps occurred, and at 11:15 of this memorable day, the less studious minded saw the roof, above the trees, passing along the road."

The site of the previous building will house a new admission office, with construction due to begin later this year.

— Sarah Kidwell represents Cate School.

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