Olivia “Peter” Huntsman-Trout ‘53

by Mary Shipp Bartlett

There was no question in Edward Huntsman-Trout’s mind that his daughter Peter would attend Scripps. The famed landscape architect took his two daughters to see the campus from time to time when they were growing up. Peter recalls that he didn’t lecture them about the campus that he had designed with architect Gordon Kaufmann; rather, he let them “wander around and just enjoy.”

Peter attended on an alumnae scholarship and studied comparative literature and art, after switching from a pre-med major when she decided she didn’t want to be a doctor. “I was affected, as we all were,” she relates, “by the beauty, peace, and just inspirational quality of the place.”

After graduating from Scripps, Peter did drafting work for her father for several months. They talked a lot. “He told me that when he looked at a place he saw it as fully landscaped, with all the plants grown. He didn’t know when he hadn’t had that ability. He said the biggest mistake people make is over-planting because they don’t realize how big things get eventually. He also gave a lot of thought to what experiences people would have [in a particular environment].”

Peter married, moved to San Francisco, had a son (Max), got divorced, then moved in with her parents in Mandeville Canyon for a few years. She earned a credential and began teaching, first in Watts; then, as she learned Spanish, in Huntington Park and East L.A. In 1988, she was named Los Angeles Teacher of the Year.

While she remained close to her father throughout his life and refers to him as her hero, a special bond grew between the elder Huntsman-Trout and Max. “They were two peas in a pod,” she says. “I came home from school one day and they were working in the front garden. Max, age 4, came over and said, ‘Grandfather and I are repositioning a youngish tree.’ Then, he leaned in and cupped his mouth and whispered, ‘We’re moving a plant.'”

Peter spoke of how she has been inspired by her father. “All my life I’ve thought about what he would have done or thought about anything. He wasn’t so much into right or wrong as he was into the quality of life—reading, making music, talking with his friends, and, in the last years, building the house in Mandeville Canyon. He never finished it, and I sold it to the actor Mark Harmon, and he finished it. It’s really quite beautiful, but I don’t know who has it now.”

Now, when Peter visits campus, she admits she just likes to amble from place to place. “I always loved the rose garden and the wall behind it between Browning and Toll,” she says. “My favorite is probably the entrance courtyard with the leaning sycamores and the wall panels [Shakespearean bas-reliefs]. I like all the little spaces with their own design and the courtyard in the old art building with the fish pond [Seal Court].”

Peter offers this final recollection: “We used to sit up in the Browning Tower and smoke and just look around and notice things.”