The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Hopi Hoekstra: Harvard dean reflects on past LAHS education

Hopi+Hoekstra%2C+currently+dean+of+Faculty+of+Arts+and+Science+at+Harvard+University%2C+was+a+class+of+1990+LAHS+graduate.+On+the+left+is+Hoekstras+senior+yearbook+picture%3B+on+the+right+she+poses+at+senior+prom.
courtesy Hopi Hoekstra
Hopi Hoekstra, currently dean of Faculty of Arts and Science at Harvard University, was a class of 1990 LAHS graduate. On the left is Hoekstra’s senior yearbook picture; on the right she poses at senior prom.

Hopi Hoekstra, a class of 1990 Los Altos High School graduate, was chosen to be Harvard University’s Edgerley family dean of Faculty of Arts and Science in June of 2023. Prior to working as dean, Hoekstra pursued her passion for evolutionary and molecular biology as a Harvard researcher and professor for over 10 years.

“[Hoekstra is] a superb scientist who is deeply devoted to the University, understanding its complexities and all that makes it special,” Harvard University Provost Alan Garber said to the Harvard Gazette. “She has a heartfelt commitment to the success of our students, staff, and faculty.”

I’m still in touch with a number of my LAHS classmates, and it’s interesting to see how we’ve aged together. Everyone’s lives are so much different than what I could’ve predicted, but you can still see their high school personality in them.

— Hopi Hoekstra

Though she now lives in Cambridge, Mass., Hoekstra is a Los Altos native at heart; she attended Almond Elementary School, Egan Junior High School and followed through to LAHS.

“I’m still in touch with a number of my LAHS classmates, and it’s interesting to see how we’ve aged together,” Hoekstra said. “Everyone’s lives are so much different than what I could’ve predicted, but you can still see their high school personality in them.”

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But many of Hoekstra’s high school friends probably would not have predicted her future in biology. Hoekstra was initially interested in political science thanks to Advanced Placement (AP) United States History, and it wasn’t until her sophomore year at the University of California, Berkeley, that she developed an interest in biology.

“AP U.S. History really pushed us to think about lessons learned in the past, and it especially captured my imagination during high school,” Hoekstra said. “Thinking about it now, genetics is basically just a different way of thinking about the past.”

Outside academics, Hoekstra played on the volleyball, soccer and badminton teams. To top off her high school sports career, she was awarded the 1990 Student-Athlete of the Year alongside Anneliese Turck and Jennifer Springer, two of her close friends.

“If you go to the main gym, you’ll still see our three names still on the wall,” Turck said. “Hopi and I were also the only freshmen to make the varsity volleyball team back then, and even though we didn’t get much playing time then, it was so fun. Hopi continued playing volleyball at school and even at Berkeley for two years.”

Hoekstra believes that the volleyball team was the community she fit in at LAHS the most.

“We were a really close-knit group,” Hoekstra said. “Anneliese and I used to wear these bright pink sweatshirts on game days, and I remember just being so proud to wear them while being on such a strong team.”

We were a really close-knit group. Anneliese and I used to wear these bright pink sweatshirts on game days, and I remember just being so proud to wear them while being on such a strong team.

— Hopi Hoekstra

Leading into her senior year of high school, Hoekstra won a spot on the class of ‘90 Homecoming Top 20. The nominees continued the tradition of homecoming skits and riding down the streets of downtown Los Altos in vintage cars. The 20 nominees also decorated a specialized glass display case located by their principal’s office at the time.

“We split a display cabinet with our paired homecoming partner, and boy was that fun to decorate,” Hoekstra said. “There would be photos hung and other stuff put that represented each person — it was really sweet.”

Hoekstra’s best advice to current LAHS students? Give yourself room to explore.

“You need the willingness to try something new,” Hoekstra said. “I think it’s important for high schoolers to appreciate that it’s fine to come to college without knowing your concentration. Explore new things to become well-rounded — that’s exactly what I did to find my focus in biology. And in my opinion, I turned out okay.”

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Ashley Tumacder, Staff Writer

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