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Alumni Spotlight: Tyler Buffett '88

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

Tyler Buffett, owner of Buffett Design, graduated from SYV Family School in 1988. Since his time at the school, he’s gone into sustainable design and regenerative architecture, designing scores of efficient custom homes and affordable housing projects. In our conversation, Tyler reminisces about his time at the school, and how this formative education has manifested in his life through the years. 

A Place Where Everyone Knows Your Name

SYV Family School was Tyler's safe haven during a challenging period. Here, teachers and students were on a first-name basis, creating a close-knit, caring community. It was the kind of place where no one fell through the cracks, and for a kid like Tyler, it was just what he needed.

Getting His Hands Dirty – In a Good Way

Tyler remembers himself as a student who was never one to sit still; he was a hands-on learner from day one. He still vividly recalls his early days crafting his very first books with Shirley in the yellow door. However, a perfectionist streak of his led to some struggles. Luckily, his teacher Shirley saw an opportunity in those challenges. She showed him that there are no mistakes, only chances for positive solutions. That valuable lesson stuck with him throughout his life.

Tyler's childhood at Family School was filled by building forts in the grass, sculpting cities in the sand and embracing the joy of creating. These experiences were formative in his journey to becoming an architect.

Learning Beyond Four Walls

Family School was all about taking learning beyond the classroom. Tyler's fond memories include field trips to Yosemite and Catalina, where he witnessed the breathtaking spectacles of monarch butterflies in migration and night diving through blooms of plankton. And let's not forget those trips to local wineries, where he got to see the magic of winemaking and even taste some grape juice. It was an interactive, immersive way of learning that left a lasting impression.

Roots in Ecology and Sustainability

Tyler's deep-rooted interest in ecology and sustainability began right at SYV Family School. The school shared property with Midland (where his mother worked), and this connection gave students the opportunity to explore nature, sometimes with an experienced ecologist – affectionately known as "Treebeard." These early experiences ignited Tyler's lifelong passion for ecology and environmental stewardship.

Strong Bonds That Last

One of the most remarkable things about Family School was the strong connections it nurtured among students. With small class sizes and a tight-knit community, Tyler still holds a core group of friends from his time there, including his teachers. This is a testament to the enduring friendships formed during his time at the school.

Reconnecting with Family School

Even as an adult, Tyler hasn't forgotten the impact of Family School. It wasn't just about books and classrooms; it was about nurturing a love for the environment, creative problem-solving, and lifelong friendships. Tyler's story is a reminder that the impact of a school can reach far beyond the years spent within its walls. It's a story of growth, learning, and the enduring connections made at SYV Family School.

Thank you, Tyler, for sharing your inspiring journey with us and being a testament to the enduring legacy of the SYV Family School community.

As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we invite all our alumni to reconnect, share their stories, and celebrate the bonds that make SYV Family School truly special. Stay tuned for more alumni spotlights as we continue to commemorate our rich history.

For inquiries or to share your own Family School story, please contact Erica Olesen at and follow us on social media at @thesyvfamilyschool and @syvfamilyschoolalumni.

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