News and Events
Thirteen May Be Enough
By Gina Ledbetter
Alumna, faculty, and staff member of Pepperdine's Graduate School of Education and Psychology, Margot Condon, discovered the rewards of adoption. She and her husband see adoption as a way to fulfill their two life goals: to give to others, and to live life to the fullest. Even before her students presented her with Pepperdine's Distinguished Teaching Award, she and her family earned the "Family of the Year Award."
While the average size of families in America has been steadily declining, Margot Condon and her husband, Allen, have bucked the trend. Margot and Allen have not only raised three of their own children to adulthood-they've grown their tight knit family to a baker's dozen through adoption.
In 1977, the Condon family consisted only of Margot, Allen, Anthony, Nicole, and Tristan. Since 1978, after learning Margot could not give birth to a fourth child, she and her husband began adopting.
The ten adopted family members: Adam, Tyler, Dillon, Bree, twins Brady and Logan, Arianna, Alix, Max, and Zoe, comprise different ethnicities including Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and African-American. But they all share in common the fact that they are "Condons."
Margot Condon regards parenting such a diverse group as not much different from any other family. "Everyone is everybody else's brother and sister, and everyone knows the rules," she explains. And she is adamant about one philosophy towards adoption: No one is "adopted" in the Condon family. "They're all our children," says Condon.
Neither does the family dwell on race. When a friend in high school asked Tyler if his twin brothers Brady and Logan were African-American, Tyler replied, "I don't know. I'll ask my mother." He did not consider the twins any different-to him, they were simply his brothers.
Condon and her husband have encouraged all of their children to explore different career options and, indeed, the children have chosen different paths. Several Condons have tried acting, appearing in movies such as Minority Report and Zoolander. Bree is currently modeling, Adam is the head chef of Spago in Maui, and Nicole has followed in her mother's footsteps as a teacher.
Part I The Condon Family: Thirteen and Counting
Early in their marriage, the Condons dreamt of having four children. After the family grew to three, they overcame the initial hesitation to adopt and welcomed Adam into their lives in 1978. Condon reflects, "Had we known that this is what we were meant to do, we probably would have started adopting earlier."
Then in 1981, Condon heard about a newborn with no family. She responded so quickly she didn't have time to tell her husband. When she did tell Allen there was a surprise for him at home he asked, "It's a baby isn't it?" He was right-little Tyler had joined their family.
Next came Dillon, who now works with Pepperdine at the same Orange County campus as his mother. And in 1986, the Condons adopted a little girl from Texas. Following their family tradition, the kids got to select the name of the newest family member. The other six children decided the baby would be called, "Tree." The Condon parents coaxed their children into accepting "Bree" as their new sister's name.
By 1988, Condon was a Pepperdine graduate student working on her Ph.D. at the Orange County campus of the Graduate School of Education and Psychology. At that time, the Condons had been chosen to adopt a child from a woman before the expectant mother gave birth. They were shocked to learn that not one, but two boys (Brady and Logan) had arrived. The twins made additions eight and nine to the Condon family. Condon then set aside her doctorate program for six months, but was able to complete her degree that same year. She has been teaching at Pepperdine ever since.
In 1991, the Condons adopted two baby girls-Arianna and Alix-whom the family refer to as the "untwins" because while born from different mothers, they are very close in age.
After eleven children, the Condons decided not to adopt any more babies. Instead, they flew to Sacramento to welcome their first foster children, "Princess Zoe" and "Max the Muscleman," into the family. Little Zoe and Max are the most recent additions to the Condon family, but they are not likely the last. "We haven't finished growing our family," says Condon.
She draws from her past for inspiration in both parenting and teaching. She describes growing up in her family as very caring and very strict. As they say, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Condon's father was the head of the renowned company, Karl's Shoes, and she describes him as very well liked. "He was honest, sensitive, and sharp," she says. Her mother was a homemaker, whom she remembers as a fabulous cook.
Growing up, Condon also had a strong relationship with her younger brother, Mark Taxe, who passed away from multiple sclerosis. "We got along beautifully," she says. "I don't think we ever had a fight."
While getting along without a hitch may not exactly describe the Condon household today, the kids are very close. Being a parent of thirteen children, Condon acknowledges the amount of effort it takes to manage the family. She perseveres with the support of her husband and children. "The kids have been wonderful," she says, "and our parenting is fifty-fifty."
Part II The Career of Mother Condon
Margot Condon describes her career in higher education as a "fulfilled dream." She says, "From the first day I walked into the classroom as a teacher, I just knew that's where I was supposed to be."
After graduating from California State University, Northridge in 1961, Condon took her first job as a sixth grade teacher. In 1991 she became a director for Pepperdine's Graduate School of Education and Psychology, where she is now a faculty member and assistant director of student teaching. She also substitutes with the Huntington Beach City schools once a month, teaching classes from kindergarten to high school.
An alumna of Pepperdine, Condon received her master's and doctor's degrees from the same Pepperdine graduate school she has worked with for thirteen years. Above all else, she considers herself to be, simply put, a teacher. Being a good teacher takes more than the ability to teach. To Condon, teaching means caring. "Caring for everything- caring for the students as individuals, for the class that is spending 180 days with you; caring that they need excitement, they need motivation, they need to be involved. It's just about caring."
Graduate School of Education faculty member, Chris Ellsasser, speaks highly of his colleague. "Margot teaches by example in the way she lives her life, and the care she shows for her students."
On the first night of Condon's seminar class, students find a book waiting for them on their desks. She buys these with her personal finances she says, because "I like to give. Teaching is not my job, it's my hobby." That first night she also takes a picture of each student. In her office today at Pepperdine's Irvine campus, her desk faces the many pictures she has taken of her students that first day they arrived in her class. Beneath the pictures she has written their names and where they are now. Before passing her students from her class, Condon tests them against her highest criteria for a teacher. She asks herself, "Would I want to put one of my kids in their class?"
From the beginning of her classes until the end, Condon tells her students, "I hope to take the light that I see in your eyes and turn it into a flame." She is not just a caring teacher, nor is she merely challenging-she is a mentor. "You have a piece of me in all of you," she tells students. "Good or bad, you've got me." She adds, "Hopefully, there's a little good."
She has a very simple teaching strategy: "to give my students all the things that work for me-things that you can't find in books." She respects all of her students enough to hold the highest of expectations for them. "I call all of my students 'ladies and gentlemen.'" When someone expresses to her that they believe her young students are not yet mature adults, she replies, "But I expect them to act that way." Her respect is, at times, the first her students have ever received. She says it is a gift for them to test out-to see how respect feels.
Many of her graduate students go on to follow Condon's example with their own classes, respecting students as adults, and using personal finances or parent donations to buy books and school supplies that would not otherwise be available to them.
Condon's sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Pollock, gave Margot words of advice that have never left her. "Whatever you're going to be, be the best." As a mother and as a teacher, Condon has learned her lesson-a lesson that she lives every day, for her students, and for her thirteen children.
This article first appeared in the Pepperdine Voice Magazine, Winter 2004.