Strong Foundations Build Successful Students

Southwestern Academy, an independent, non-profit college preparatory school set on two picturesque campuses — a local campus in San Marino, California, and a ranch campus in Rimrock, Arizona — is a school that offers intimate classes (about 8 to 12 students per class) for its students within a close-knit caring environment.

Part of this caring community is retiring math professor, Charles Herbst who has been with the school for 27 years. In an interview with Pasadena Now, Charles Herbst reflects on the many success stories of the students who have graduated from Southwestern Academy as he expresses his deep pride for this year’s graduating class.

“This is a great place to work. It’s a really nice school. We have great kids, great staff, great teachers. And I’m going to miss it,” Mr. Herbst said.

Throughout the 27 years, Mr. Herbst has had two generations of students that include the parents of some of his current students.

“I’ve been here a long time,” Herbst grinned. “They’re great kids and we’re good small school here with about 140 kids. You really get to know them.”

He goes on to tell about what he considers to be one the greatest success stories of the school. It was about one of the school’s scholars, a shepherd’s kid from a little village in Bangladesh. When the kid received the scholarship, his entire village passed the hat and bought him a one-way ticket to LAX.

The math teacher recounts, “I put him in my Geometry class to start. I give the usual lesson to the kids here. And the bell rings, it’s time to go out. He comes up to me as the others leave asking, ‘Mr. Herbst! Mr. Herbst! Please is there any extra work I can do?’ I had never heard of that before. Well that is great. So I say, ‘Well here are some extra problems you can probably try to work out.’ And very quickly we realized he was really sharp. And he was keen for work. He really had a strong work ethic.”

The student later went on to graduate and was given a full scholarship at Occidental College. He worked very hard and finally received graduate degrees at UCLA and USC. He is now taking a tenured professor position at Clemson University in South Carolina. Mr. Herbst continued say with pride that the student from Bangladesh’ graduate dissertations was on “Upper Atmospheric Ionic Plasmolyzation,” or according to Mr. Herbst, “smog forming some of the pollution in the upper atmosphere.”

Despite being happy about graduation, Mr. Herbst admits to feeling sad because graduation also means saying goodbye to his students whom he has grown fond of. “For me, graduation is a really sad day. Of course it’s happy, I mean they graduated and they’ve made it by helping each other. But it’s a sad day, and I’ll miss them.”

For further information, contact Yalina Munoz at (626) 799-5010 ext. 273.

Southwestern Academy is located at 2800 Monterey Rd., San Marino. For more information, call (626) 799-5010 or visit


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