Barnhart School Remembers Founder As Someone Who Inspired the Future for ‘Back to the Future’ Day

1959 – Barnhart Students in the newly dedicated Santa Anita Church

In honor of today’s widely celebrated fan day for the film Back to the Future, Barnhart School celebrates by paying tribute to their founder, Dr. Ethel Barnhart who truly inspired the future. An early photograph from 1959 shows Dr. Barnhart surrounded by children in the Santa Anita Church (also founded by Dr. Barnhart) with one of the first classes of school children.

“Dr. Barnhart was ahead of her time, and her vision positively impacts lives, creating the opportunity, for example, for our experiential field trippers in D.C., San Juan Capistrano and Riley’s Farm, to relive our country’s past,” said Mr. Ethan Williamson, Head of School, for Barnhart. “Following in her footsteps, we now have a Virtues Project that creates conversations around important skills like flexibility or courtesy,” he added.

A Facebook post of the school suggests that their community members generate a random act of inspiration today in honor of their founder at 4:29 p.m. (the time in the first Back to the Future film that Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) heads back to the future October 21, 2015). They invite fellow San Gabriel Valley residents to personally generate a random act of inspiration, big or small, at 4:29 p.m. or anytime during the day today or even throughout the rest of the week.

The word “inspire” can be seen throughout the school campus on walls and above doorways.

One of their own students, Oge, announced Tuesday at Chapel that she is creating an organization to start a K-8 school in Nigeria. The Barnhart community is gearing up to find out how they can pitch in to help their fellow student’s charitable and inspirational undertaking. Currently she is soliciting books for the new rural school. If you are interested in contributing to Oge’s book drive please email her at .

Another inspirational Barnhart moment was when students Hannah and Val decided last month to have a joint birthday party. In lieu of birthday presents, they asked their friends to donate money to purchase Scholastic books for their third grade classrooms. They raised more than $300.

Other Barnhart students have given their time to a myriad of volunteer opportunities such at the Pasadena Humane Society and sixth grader, Finley, who participated as an education docent at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary.

Located in Arcadia, California, Barnhart offers a private K-8 education. Distinguishing programs of Barnhart include Spanish at all grade levels, daily physical education, the aforementioned Virtues Project™ character development program, Lucy Calkins’ Writing Workshop, a choral group, and an on-site harvest garden. The school has an early literacy emphasis, a 1:1 ratio of technology and an average 12:1 student-teacher ratio. Barnhart is accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools and Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Established in 1959 by Dr. Ethel Barnhart, Barnhart is affiliated with the non-denominational Santa Anita Church. Visit for further information or to inquire about a tour.

Dr. Ethel Barnhart was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She soon moved to Great Falls, Montana and eventually attended college at the University of Montana in Missoula, continuing her studies at the University of Minnesota. Her major was mathematics.

In 1924 she moved to Los Angeles and became the executive secretary for Attorney H.L. Carnahan, the former Lt. Governor of California. Ethel was married to Dr. H. M. Barnhart in 1928 and resided in Los Angeles until 1938 when the family moved to San Marino.

Ethel began her study of New Thought, and her dream of The Santa Anita Church, at the Institute of Religious Science in Los Angeles. She was privileged to learn and to work under the tutelage of Dr. Ernest Holmes. After a thorough training period under Dr. Holmes and Dr. Carmelita Trowbridge, Ethel Barnhart became director of children and youth in the Alhambra Church of Religious Science under Dr. Trowbridge.

In 1946, Ethel Barnhart was ordained by Dr. Holmes and appointed associate minister of the Alhambra Church. Her work continued to expand, and at the suggestion of Dr. Holmes and in response to her own inner urging, she gave her first service in 1947. In 1948, a charter to The Santa Anita Church of Religious Science was granted by the Los Angeles headquarters, and Ethel Barnhart was recognized as founder and minister of the new church. In 1958, Ethel Barnhart received her Doctor of Religious Science degree from Dr. Holmes. Today her vision and dedication to children lives on through the continuing ministry of The Santa Anita Church and The Barnhart School, which was renamed in her honor shortly after her death in 1967.

Visit for further information on activities and events at The Santa Anita Church led by Reverend Terry Keenan.

Barnhart School, 240 W. Colorado Blvd., Arcadia, (626) 446-5588 or visit




blog comments powered by Disqus

Pasadena Now has been published daily since April, 2004 and is among the very oldest continously operated community news websites in the U.S.

Pasadena Now strives to publish a full spectrum of news and information articles in service to the entire community. The publication will remain free to readers and will not erect paywalls.

Pasadena Now strives to provide factual, unbiased reporting. Our opinion section is open to all.