Remarks at Richard T. Greener Quadrangle Dedication

Richard T. Greener Quadrangle dedication
September 29, 2018
John Palfrey, Head of School, Phillips Academy

Welcome students and parents, faculty and staff, trustees and alumni to the Richard T. Greener Quadrangle.

Thank you, Linda Carter Griffith, for blazing your own trail as the first Assistant Head of School for Equity, Inclusion and Wellness—not only at Andover but among independent schools anywhere.

Thank you, Ava and Thaddeus. Your words remind us why this work is so vitally important and exactly what this ceremony symbolizes.

Rejji Hayes ’93: Your commitment to the ideals of equity and inclusion strengthens our resolve to act with courage and urgency on behalf of each of our 1,144 students. We felt the impact of your leadership at the 50th anniversary of AfLatAm last spring, when more than 400 alumni returned to campus to celebrate a foundational source of these efforts.

Building on the work of generations and guided by the priorities of the Knowledge and Goodness campaign, we join today to mark the history of Andover’s connections with underrepresented communities and highlight our commitment to equity and inclusion.
None of this would be possible without the vision of a singular donor. As much as we would like to put this person’s name in lights, we are respecting their wish for anonymity.

Please join me in a round of applause for the incredibly generous donor who made today’s dedication possible.

With humility and purpose, this individual asks us to reflect and act upon a founding principle of our school in the name of Richard T. Greener, Class of 1865. Our benefactor states:

We honor one man to represent all those who have enriched the Academy through the diversity of their thought and backgrounds and those who, for generations to come, will help Andover live up to its ideal of youth from every quarter.

With enthusiastic support of the Board of Trustees, we have the great privilege to honor the trailblazing work of Mr. Greener, a scholar and teacher, lawyer and diplomat, whose service during the post-Civil War era both inspired progress and ignited debate.
All that he stood for – argued for and educated others about – embodied the ideals of equity and inclusion to which we aspire today.

With Samuel Phillips Hall rising above us, the Richard T. Greener Quadrangle holds a special place in our Andover lives. Just three weeks ago, the senior class and I took part in the Vista Walk, a tradition begun by my predecessor, Barbara Chase. The early morning walk toward the steps of Sam Phil marks the first day of classes. The next time we share that walk, we will be joined by the entire faculty on June 2, 2019, Andover’s 241st Commencement.

This gathering space shines with natural beauty and historic significance. Last spring, students gathered here to protest gun violence. In 1989 a student demonstration, led by Brian Gittens ’89, ultimately led to the school’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

As we dedicate our most iconic patch of land, the trustees and I are excited to share that an additional gift will establish an endowed fund to advance equity and inclusion programs in Mr. Greener’s name.

It is truly gratifying to know that our extended Andover community believes as deeply as we do in the importance of these initiatives that benefit both the adults and students on our campus.

In fact, philanthropy in honor of Mr. Greener dates back to 1989 when a scholarship was established in his name. Seeking to support underrepresented students of color, the Richard T. Greener 1865 Endowed Scholarship has made a difference in the lives of more than a dozen Andover students spanning three decades.

Two Andover alumni and Greener Scholars were present in spring 2016 when Harvard recognized Mr. Greener with a portrait on display in Annenberg Dining Hall. One of those alumni, Robert Rush ’14, and his mom, Arlette, are with us today.

We’re also delighted to have our current Greener Scholar joining us—senior Jamille “Jami” Taveras ’19 of Lawrence, Massachusetts.  In a letter to the donors who established her scholarship, Jami reflects on the opportunities that have, in her words, “propelled her education and redefined what it means to go for things I want in life.”

Our admission team meets thousands of bright and motivated students with a host of talents and interests. But in simplest terms, they are looking for young people of integrity and promise who have the most to contribute to Andover and the most to gain from this diverse community and immersive education.

Jami is exactly that student.

Like most of her peers, Jami’s schedule is packed with academic rigor and extracurricular passions. Fluent in Spanish and proud of her Latina heritage, Jami is co-president of the Spanish Club and on the board of Alianza Latina. She co-founded the Criminal Investigation Club to bond with other students who share a passion for science, math, and psychology. And, yes, in addition to analyzing fingerprints, they do watch episodes of CSI!

Jami wrote:

It feels good to know there are a lot of people on my side, lifting me up and taking pride in my success.

Judging by what we know about Mr. Greener, my hunch is that he, too, would be proud of students like Jami, and Robert, and all those who have come before them.
Consider what Mr. Greener shared with his Andover classmates when he returned to campus for his 50th reunion in 1915. Reflecting on his diplomatic service in Vladivostok, Russia, at the height of the Russo-Japanese War, he said the following:

“I felt all the time that the institutions with which I had been connected—Phillips Academy and Harvard—had demanded something of me in character, intelligence and in worth.”

Richard T. Greener was an intellectual force and a visionary leader whose character blossomed at Andover. The qualities he displayed as a student were instrumental years later as he navigated civil rights issues and international conflicts. These are the kinds of qualities we see in our students today—rigor and purpose in their work, shared values of knowledge and goodness, respect for differences.

I’d like to close with a final word from Mr. Greener’s address to his Andover classmates. His reflection, more than 100 years ago, rings true today as we aspire to become a more inclusive and equitable Andover.

If one have not the disposition in him, it makes no matter what school he is trained, he will not be a success. It is the desire to prove oneself worthy of all estate and lead his comrades on.

On behalf of the Phillips Academy Board of Trustees, I dedicate the Richard T. Greener Quadrangle and ask that we all prove ourselves worthy of this important endeavor.

Thank you.

Start of School 2018

The New York Times published a terrific Magazine this Sunday on education.  The cover reads: “Teachers just want to teach but the classroom has become a battleground.”  I’m not sure that’s exactly “news” this fall but it is absolutely true.

Two of the articles in particular were worth reading and reflecting on as we start our new school year.  The first, “Can Good Teaching be Taught?” by Sara Mosle, tells the story of a struggling school and its persistent, hard-working first-year principal Cynthia Gunner.  The reporter follows Gunner as she goes classroom-to-classroom to inspire, hold accountable, and assist the teachers in her school.  The answer to the opening question is “of course” but the finding is also that it’s much easier said than done.  It’s hard not to be fired up by the work of this principal and the importance of her efforts.

The second that caught my attention was “Watch What You Say,” about the (former?) Friends Seminary teacher Ben Frisch who made a Hitler joke last school year.  This story, told by Jonathan Mahler, is especially sensitive to Frisch’s position and that of his supporters; the voices of those who initially called for Frisch’s removal — other than that of the Head of School Bo Lauder — are essentially silent.  I wonder if those who initially were so upset about the remarks by Frisch have changed their minds, whether they were reluctant to go on the record at this stage, or whether another reason attaches. The hard over-arching question has to do with how to ensure free expression can thrive in schools while also supporting a diverse group of young learners effectively.

It is just these questions that I sought to address in a book last year, Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education (free, open access edition here.  I won’t second-guess here the decision of another school, where I don’t know all the facts, but acknowledge instead that these cases are never easy for students, teachers, administrators, and families in close-knit school communities.  We do need to get better at figuring out how to resolve them.  I was intrigued by the emphasis in the article on the Quaker process.

Both articles in the NYT Magazine demonstrate the importance of deep, long-form journalism to explore tricky issues in-depth.

Celebration of AfLatAm@50 at Phillips Academy

John Palfrey

Opening Remarks – Celebration of AfLatAm@50

April, 2018

Good evening.  Let me please begin by thanking Emily Ndiokho, Class of 2018, for her leadership tonight in MC-ing this event and also for her leadership throughout her time at Andover.  As president of AfLatAm this year — in fact, the 50th president of AfLatAm — as a CAMD scholar, and all-around wonderful leader on campus, Emily deserves all of our thanks and praise.  Let’s please have a round of applause for Emily.

I am delighted to welcome all of you — Andover students, alumni, current and former faculty and staff, and honored guests — as we launch the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the AfLatAm program. More than 300 alumni have traveled to campus to celebrate this milestone and—as importantly—to engage in discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion at our school and in our society at large.  I am particularly excited to hear tonight’s keynote address by Hafsat Abiola, class of 1992 and one of the very best speakers I’ve ever heard.  We are all in for a treat tonight!

I’d like also to take a brief moment to thank our colleagues who have worked so hard on this event.  There are too many to name everyone, but in particular I’d like to acknowledge LaShawn Springer, CAMD dean; Linda Carter Griffith, Assistant Head of School for Equity, Inclusion, and Wellness; and Jenny Savino from the Office of Alumni Engagement.  Their teams and colleagues have worked so hard to put this event together.  I’d like to acknowledge also the support of our current and former Trustees, who stand behind and make possible all we do here at Andover, five of whom are here tonight: Gary Lee, class of 1974 and Allison Picoctt, class of 1988, who are current board members, and three former board members: Chris Auguste, class of ’76; George Smith, class of ’83, and Rejji Hayes ’93.  Thanks to each of these trustees here tonight.

In its 240th year, Andover is animated by many of the same ideals that were set forth by the Phillips family in the 18th century.  Among those ideals, we take very seriously the charge that the school would be “ever equally open to Youth (of requisite qualifications) from Every Quarter.”

Of course, when our founders codified these words in the Constitution of Phillips Academy in 1778, the ideal was far from our aspiration for today’s modern school.  We don’t know exactly how Samuel Phillips and his co-founders truly defined “every quarter,” but they almost certainly meant white boys from local families.  What we do know is that they likely envisioned a school that would admit sons of the working classes, not just the wealthy – they described it as a “public free school” and the very first class of students included a boy who traveled from Jamaica.

Though our founders’ vision of the quarters from which youth might come to Andover would fall far short of what we embrace today, I believe that the real genius of those few words written down hundreds of years ago is their inherent challenge: that we should be “ever equally open.” This requires each new generation to strive to find students from every conceivable background as we seek to educate the future leaders who will change our world for good.

Andover is a place—a vibrant, living community. But it is also an idea. And in both spheres—that of the real and that of the ideal—it is imperfect, always changing, always seeking truth.

Fifty years ago, steeped in social movements that had impacted our country and our campus for decades, the Af-Lat-Am program emerged as both a marker of change and a beacon of hope to lead us further toward a greater inclusiveness. Those student and faculty pioneers strove for a greater understanding of the experience of African Americans and LatinX students, and a greater appreciation of how much more complete Andover could be when we continually strive to be “ever EQUALLY open to Youth from EVERY Quarter.”

Andover’s Need Blind Admission Policy, now in its 11th year, is one cornerstone of this commitment. Need-blind admission stands out as Andover’s single most important financial priority. Currently,

  • Nearly half of our students today receive financial aid.
  • Andover has awarded $22 million in scholarships in this year

We are extremely proud to be the only school of our kind that is need blind.  No other school can claim a financial aid program as comprehensive as ours. And it is the modern path by which we ensure access for all. These are important steps and we should be proud and grateful for the many people who have generously made it possible.

Yet access alone is not enough. Diversity alone is not enough.  These commitments are necessary, but they are not sufficient.

A few years ago, we embraced at Andover a strategic plan that called for a renewed focus not just on diversity but on equity and inclusion.

To lead our work in this area, Linda Carter Griffith – LCG to our students and families – began a new leadership role—the first position of its kind for independent schools—as Assistant Head of School for Equity and Inclusion (her title has since expanded to incorporate wellness).  Linda’s work focuses on supporting all members of the Andover community so they can achieve their full potential.  She brings the experience of a devoted teacher and seasoned administrator to this senior position at our school.

Why is LCG’s role and work so crucial?

From Ferguson to Baltimore, from Staten Island to Charlottesville, our country continues to struggle to come to grips with the enduring presence and legacy of white supremacy.  From every vantage point, we must all look anew at the history and structures of our institutions and the degree to which we have an extraordinary amount of work to do.  That includes at Andover.

Each year, Andover welcomes more than 1,100 students to campus with as many distinct experiences and points of view.  Emily and her fellow students come from nearly every state and 45 countries.

In a world marked by global unrest and political discord, we rely on the principles of equity and inclusion to guide our thinking and actions. Linda’s leadership has been incredibly important to our community.  Through partnership with the Community and Multicultural Development Office, student groups, and other faculty across campus, we’ve devoted ourselves as a community to probing matters of ideology, gender, identity, citizenship, and race.  Guest speakers have challenged us on politics and policy; students have joined the #NeverAgain movement advocating for tighter gun control, #MeToo to advocate for gender equality and an end to gender-based violence, and a host of social justice activities.

We can’t and we don’t shy away from those issues that challenge us to hear—and better understand—one another.  I truly believe that this is how we will grow and learn as a community.

Our commitment to equity and inclusion is fundamentally about keeping our promise to every student who comes here. It is our goal to ensure that everyone is valued equally and has an equal chance to thrive at Phillips Academy and beyond. I couldn’t be more excited about the young people at Andover today, nor more pleased with the strength of our faculty. Even as we remain deeply grounded in our founding values of 1778, in 2018 we are learning and growing as an institution in ways that directly benefit every student.

Where does this lead us? Guided by our core values, Andover will continue to thrive and struggle and lean into tough issues — issues on which members of our community are bound to disagree. And I hope that each of you will play a pivotal role in this.

This reunion, AFLATAM@50, is very much a celebration of our past—of student leaders who pressed us forward, of faculty and staff who worked tirelessly to address inequity—but it also is a commitment to the future and to the necessary, difficult, and extraordinarily important work that must still be done.  I look forward to continuing on this important journey with all of you, with our faculty and our staff and our students.  Thank you.

Head of School Bookshelf, 2017-2018

Each term as head of school at Phillips Academy, I’ve put out a series of books for the faculty to enjoy.  Colleagues are free to keep the books, pass them along to others, or bring them back to the bookshelf in the head of school’s office.  I choose titles that relate in one way or another to the mission of our school and conversations underway on our campus.  I thought I’d post the list for all three terms at once this year:

Spring, 2018 main selections:

Julia Alvarez (Abbot Academy ’67), In the Time of the Butterflies (Algonquin, Reprint edition, 2010)

Mary Beard, Women and Power (Liveright, 2017)

Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (Vintage, Reprint edition, 2017)

Chris Hughes (Phillips Academy ’02), Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn (St. Martin’s Press, 2018).

Alex Soojung Kim Pang, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less (Basic Books, 2016)

David Schwartz (Phillips Academy ’72), The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of The Nuclear Age (Basic Books, 2017)

Bonus choices for Spring 2018 (a few copies of each set out for faculty):

Danielle Allen, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (Liveright, 2015) (we bought 1000+ copies to share with all on campus interested in reading it in advance of Prof. Allen’s May 9, 2018 All School Meeting, one in the year-long series of discussions of citizenship)

Malinda S. Blustain and Ryan Wheeler, Glory, Trouble, and Renaissance at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology (University of Nebraska Press, 2018) (Congrats to the team at the Peabody!)

Michael Lewis, Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life (W.W. Norton, Reprint edition 2008)

Craig A. Miller, This is How it Feels (CreateSpace, 2012) (trigger warning: about surviving suicide; mentioned by Riverside Trauma Center suicide prevention trainings on our campus.)

Winter 2018 Main Selections:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy (One World, 2017)

Jeffrey J. Froh and Giacometti Bono, Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character (Templeton Press, 2015) (h/t to faculty member Allen Grimm who gave me an inscribed copy)

Julie Lythcott-Haims, Real American: A Memoir (Henry Holt, 2017)

Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance (St. Martin’s Press, 2017) (editorial comment: I think it is safe to say that this book has not resonated as fully with our faculty as many of the other titles I offered have.  I thought the perspective of a Republican US Senator on raising young people in this country was worth offering all the same.)

George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel (Random House, 2017)

Eli Shafak, Three Daughters of Eve (Bloomsbury USA, 2017)

Winter 2018 Bonus Selection:

Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014) (this book appeared on a previous HOS Bookshelf as careful watchers of this space will recall; Prof. Rankine spoke at Andover in January as part of our MLK, Jr., Day celebration)

Fall 2017 Main Selections:

Danielle Allen, Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A. (Liveright, 2017)

Robert Gottlieb, Avid Reader: A Life (FSG, 2016)

Ian Haney Lopez, Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class (Oxford University Press, 2015, rev. ed.)

John McPhee, Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process (FSG, 2017)

Jessica Shattuck, The Women in the Castle (William Morrow, 2017)

Fall 2017 Bonus Selections:

Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (Scribner, 2016) (why: previously on HOS bookshelf; brought back with additional copies given her visit to campus early in the Fall)

Erwin Chemerinsky & Howard Gilman, Free Speech on Campus (Yale University Press, 2017) (why: alternate take on the book I just wrote)

Sigal Ben-Kamath, Free Speech on Campus (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017) (why: ditto)

I also put out copies of the book I wrote, called Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education (MIT Press, 2017).

School heads stand in solidarity, call for action against gun violence

Gun violence must be addressed urgently. I can think of no topic more worthy of our nation’s leaders’ time and focus. Today, I join with fellow heads of school comprising the Eight Schools Association in support of the following statement:

We, the heads of independent secondary schools comprising the Eight Schools Association, stand in solidarity with our students and with the families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. We join with those voices demanding meaningful action to keep our students safe from gun violence on campuses and beyond.

As many of our students have joined a nationwide movement to support the victims and survivors of gun violence in America, we pledge, as leaders of those schools, to help amplify their voices. Our students come from every state in this nation and from around the world to receive the very best care and education. We are moved to take action out of responsibility for the thousands of children in our care and out of compassion for children throughout this country. Each day of inaction chips away at every teacher’s right to deliver and every student’s right to receive an education free from fear and violence.

We have given witness to Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, among too many other instances of gun violence on campuses. Parkland is now added to that list. We as school leaders will do all we can in our power to keep our students safe. We call upon all those elected representatives – from each member of Congress to the President to all others in positions of power – to take meaningful legislative and regulatory action to make our schools safer for learning and teaching. It is hard to imagine any topic that would be more worthy today of our leaders’ focus.

Do not let our students’ voices go unheard this time.

Alex Curtis, Choate Rosemary Hall
Margarita Curtis, Deerfield Academy
Craig Bradley, The Hotchkiss School
Stephen Murray, The Lawrenceville School
Peter Fayroian, Northfield Mount Hermon
John Palfrey, Phillips Academy, Andover
Lisa MacFarlane, Phillips Exeter Academy
Michael Hirschfeld, St. Paul’s School

Eight Schools Logo

“Knowledge and Goodness: The Andover Campaign” launch speech

PA Knowledge Goodness Sun Wordmark RGB

John Palfrey

Remarks at Capital Campaign Launch

Andover, MA

September 2017

Thank you, Dana Delany, for your kind introduction and for everything you’ve done for Andover over the years.

I also want to thank Peter Currie and the board of trustees for their leadership.

Most of all, I am grateful to all of you.  Thank you for joining us as we launch this ambitious campaign to secure Andover’s future.  With your help, we will make sure that Phillips Academy remains a vital source of both knowledge and goodness.

We all have our own reasons for loving Andover.  Maybe you had a teacher who unlocked your passion for science or poetry. Maybe you discovered an instrument or a sport that gave you a new sense of pride and confidence.  Maybe you fell in love for the first time. Maybe, like Catherine and me, you placed your trust in Andover, to educate and care for your child.

Whatever your story, you’re here because Andover changed your life or your child’s life.  That’s what we do.  It’s what makes this school so special.  It’s something I’ve heard our Dean of Admission Jim Ventre say a million times.  Imagine Team Shuman – Jim and his colleagues from the Admissions Office – in the parking lot outside a school or community building.  As they are getting ready to recruit our next fabulous group of students, Jim says:

“Let’s go change some lives.”

Each one of you here is proof of the results.  So is Hafsat.  Wasn’t she amazing?  And in a few minutes you’ll hear from the incredible Kevin Olusola, whose musical and vocal talents found new creative pathways at Andover.  There are thousands more stories like theirs—stories of lives changed by Andover, stories centered around knowledge and goodness.

I think about the students the admission team assisted after Hurricane Katrina when they set up a makeshift office in a Houston hotel and conducted interviews by cell phone.  One day these students are stranded, the next they’re headed to a promising new future. Alan Wesson was one of those 19 students who blew in on Katrina’s winds. He went from Andover to Yale and is now serving as director of public programs for a west coast high school’s Center for Civic Engagement.

I think about Dario Collado, of the class of 1998, who spoke at All-School Meeting this spring.  Dario grew up in a housing project in a working-class Dominican community in Lawrence.  In an All-School Meeting last year, Dario gave one of those addresses where I could tell he had gripped every pair of eyes and ears in the audience.  Dario told our students about how a teacher at the public high school saw his potential, encouraged him to apply to Andover, drove him to the interview, and even paid his application fee.  I loved watching the faces of our students as they listened to Dario tell the story of how he found self-confidence and determination at Andover, how he became the first member of his family to go to college, and how he went on to a life of service nurturing the next generation of LatinX leaders.  Dario’s story embodies our ethic of non sibi and youth from every quarter—and it’s a testament to the transformative power of the Andover experience for students from every quarter, from every socio-economic background, from all around the world.

I think also of Caroline Lind, who came here as a promising student and devoted softball player from Greensboro, NC.  When she broke her nose one season, she worked out on the erg to stay in shape.  After hitting a record time on the machine, she changed sports and joined crew.  We all know how this story turned out. Caroline went onto Princeton, starred in crew there, and has since won 2 Olympic gold medals.  Circumstances, great coaching, faculty encouragement and personal “grit” enabled her to find a career and a passion.

Your support has helped make all this possible.  I’ve seen it first-hand over the past six years.

You’ve allowed us to continue the need-blind admission policy so no student is ever turned away for financial reasons.  No other secondary school has a financial aid program as comprehensive as ours.

You’ve supported a legacy of excellence that shines most brightly in our faculty and academic program.  It’s paying off:  Last year, a record 86 percent of admitted students chose to enroll, joining us on campus just weeks ago.

You’ve also supported our efforts to provide the healthy, balanced campus life our students need and deserve. I’m enormously proud of our state-of-the-art Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center and the programming and care to which it is home.

You’ve helped us achieve so much.  But we can’t rest on yesterday’s success. There are many more lives to change. Knowledge and Goodness, The Andover Campaign is our catalyst.

Under the leadership of Peter and the trustees, and guided by the Academy’s strategic plan, we’ve set big goals – from ensuring that Andover remains need- blind, to building a dynamic campus that can support the needs of leading-edge 21st-century education.

Our work is more important than ever.  Andover’s mission—the charge laid down by our founders to instill both knowledge and goodness—is fiercely urgent and absolutely necessary.

We are living in a time of great change… in education for sure, but also in our society at large…  how we live, work, reason, and grow together… all of it is in flux.  It can be disorienting… for students, for parents, for all of us.

As someone whose research is focused on technological change, I see these effects on education every day on campus.  I also see the impact of our increasingly polarized politics and how hard our students are working to keep open minds and open hearts.

(Pause)

Here’s the good news: Andover is well positioned to thrive in this changing world—if we make the right choices and investments.

In 1959, at the start of another fundraising campaign, Headmaster John Mason Kemper said that schools like Andover needed to meet the great changes of that era “with new ideas, new attitudes, and new techniques and tools, while holding fast to the enduring values of our past.”

That’s even more true today.

Andover’s strength has always come from a special balance of continuity and change.  Our traditions have defined us.  Finis origine pendet is right there on our seal.  But our spirit of innovation is what’s made us excel.  Think of Thomas Cochran leading the way to build our modern campus in the 1920s, with our museums, library, and Chapel.  Ted Sizer bringing coeducation to Andover in the 1970s.  And Barbara Chase and Oscar Tang recommitting Andover to need blind 10 years ago, so that the Academy could live up to its promise of educating youth from every quarter.  In each case, visionary leadership and courageous thinking helped Andover set the platinum standard for secondary schools everywhere.

With Knowledge and Goodness, we’ll double down on Andover’s core values, which provide a foundation in a changing time—an enduring commitment to excellence and inclusion, an ethic of service and citizenship, and a laser-like focus on the minds and morals of our students.

At the same time, we’ll keep innovating. The Tang Institute is an incubator for emerging ideas in education. Our faculty are already adding to their teaching techniques and changing the way students learn.

Our Learning in the World program offers every student the opportunity to study off campus and experience a culture unlike their own. We are preparing global citizens like never before. I can’t think of anything more valuable in our present climate.

And with your help, our need-blind admission policy will continue allowing us to recruit the most talented, creative and diverse student body in the country.

This is what Knowledge and Goodness, The Andover Campaign is all about.  It’s how we’ll make sure Andover continues to change lives for years to come.

We like to say that the end depends upon the beginning.  Well, this is another beginning for Andover.  Right here, with all of you, tonight.  Thank you for your support of our school, our students and faculty and staff, and the values we share.  Thank you for all of it.

Now let’s go change some lives!

# # #

 

Opening All School Meeting, Phillips Academy, 2017-2018

All-School Meeting

John Palfrey, Head of School, Phillips Academy

September 13, 2017

Good morning, Andover!  I am psyched to see you all here.

The main point of this All School Meeting is simply for us to gather, in one space, to celebrate the start of the year.  It’s a great chance to acknowledge the special role that the faculty and staff play in our lives here.  And it’s a moment to celebrate the start to the senior year of the great Andover Class of 2018.

Phillips Academy is not a great place because it’s old.  It’s a great place because generation after generation of faculty and students, staff and alumni, have refused to rest on the laurels of past greatness.  Phillips Academy has always been a place where tradition and values matter a great deal – and you’ll hear much about non sibi, knowledge with goodness, and youth from every quarter during your time here – but also a place where innovation happens, where reform has happened in ways that are consistent with the school’s founding principles.

At this time of year, I always think of footsteps – those left by those who came before us and those that we will leave during OUR time at Andover.

First, let’s think about the effect of our footsteps on our natural environment.  I hope and trust that we are entering a new era of stewardship, in which we are all thinking carefully about how might protect the environment around us and do our part to combat the dangers of climate change.

My thoughts about footsteps this morning relate to treading lightly and carefully during our time here.  Those who are returning students to Andover know the rules when it comes to walking around campus.  One big one is to be sure to press the button before you cross the street, whether the sun is shining or not.  Take out your earbuds.  Look out for cars, make eye contact with drivers, and smile and wave if you are crossing in front of a car.  Please do this 100% of the time.

When it comes to walking on the grass, the rule goes something like this: one may walk on the grass if one is going to a spot on the grass, say, to have a picnic; but one should use the path, if one is merely walking from point to point on campus, across the grass.

And if you must cross the grass to get from point A to point B, returning students, what do you need to do?  Yes, zig-zag.

This rule seems quite sensible; I like it.  Please do play Frisbee and soccer and have picnics on the lawns at Andover.  Shame on us if we don’t take the time to enjoy the natural beauty of this campus, to enjoy the hard work of our friends in OPP, to share the gifts of the landscape architecture of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles Platt, and others.  This rule means that we are both enjoying and respecting the land we have been given, as stewards for the future.

I am reminded, too, of my own first all-school meeting, when I was a student.  It turns out my school called it “assembly.”  And it turns out, in case you haven’t heard, that I was at Exeter at the time.  The only thing I remember about that first assembly, other than the sense of excitement and electricity in the room, was that the head of school, Mr. Kurtz, built his remarks around a single line.  At Exeter at the time, one was not permitted to walk on the grass at all.  The main line of his speech, to his student body, was “keep off the grass.”  It was, of course, a double entendre – for those not taking French, he had a double meaning.  I didn’t forget either of those meanings for the four years I was boarding there.

At Andover, we have a different rule.  You are encouraged to use the grass in one of those two senses.

I underscore the second meaning: do not ignore those rules of community conduct.  Students may not in any instances use drugs and alcohol on this campus.  For that matter, we expect you to uphold all of our community expectations with respect to how we treat one another – in everyday encounters and in intimate moments.  We expect you to know what we mean by consent and to act accordingly – and yes, I am now talking about sex.  If anything about our community expectations is unclear, come see me or a dean or your house counselor or advisor.  It’s essential that we are all on the same page at the start of the year about the rules.

This metaphor is useful in thinking about the balance we seek to strike at Andover.  I encourage you to zig-zag on purpose; not all who wander, as the saying goes, are lost.  Do have fun; do take routes that are not-exactly-linear as you make your way through the school; and do follow the rules, with fidelity, along the way.

A second context for footsteps, meant as a metaphor for the effect of our footsteps on Phillips Academy as an institution.

One small suggestion I have for all of you is that, during your time here, you find for yourselves a favorite spot, somewhere on campus.  We all need a part of the school that gives us a sense of serenity, or happiness, or hope, for those days when we need something to help us to re-center ourselves, to reflect, to recharge our batteries.

Now in my sixth year as Head of School, I have come to love many parts of campus:  the inside of SamPhil, because I teach US History there: this chapel, because I cherish being with all of you (I mean that); the entryway to the Addison; the reading room of the OWH Library; a small library area of Phelps House, where I live with my family.

My very favorite place on campus happens to be a staircase – actually, two staircases.  These stairs are the stairs leading from the first floor to the second floor of Paresky Commons.  There is something about progress upwards, toward the divine, or towards the future, that I like about them.  Perhaps it has to do with the food, which is very good.  But mostly it has to do with the steps themselves.

The steps have indentations in the marble – indentations made by generations of students, faculty and staff who have gone before us.  I love these indentations because they remind me that we are not alone in this journey, not alone today and not alone over time.

As I walk up those steps, I realize that I am making those indentations deeper than they were before.  If I put a foot in the deepest part, I am making that indentation just a bit deeper.  If I step where others have not stepped so often, perhaps closer to the middle of the stair, then I make a tiny mark where others have not so frequently walked.

I know that my steps do matter, as your head of school.  But I also know that my steps do not really matter any more than any of your steps.  Perhaps I weigh a bit more than some of you, so my indentation is a bit deeper, or my footfall heavier than yours is, as you sprint more quickly from the first to the second floor.  But none of us can change this place very quickly with our footsteps.  None of us can change those steps, all that much, on our own.  And we will be followed – there will be a sixteenth head of school.  There will be a class of 2048, perhaps with some of your children in it, or my grandchildren.

These steps bring to mind one of the most memorable conversations I’ve had with an alumnus of Andover.  One morning, in my first summer on the job, I was invited to visit with Mr. and Mrs. Paresky, in their home to have a glass of lemonade and to hear about Andover.  I asked them why they loved the school so much and why they had given us the generous gift to renovate the “Commons” into “Paresky.”  I loved what the Pareskys said that day: it had to do with how much the school had given to David Paresky as a student, and to their own daughter Pamela, in particular, when she followed him to the school.

But it also was about the way that Mr. Paresky thinks about obligation: the notion that he had been given much by the school, at an early age; that he had gone out and done well – and many good works, in the true non sibi spirit – in his life; and that he believed that he needed to be a steward of Andover, that he had an obligation to give back.  We all get more from Andover than we give, he told me, and he wanted to be sure that the students at Andover today know about both the wonderful opportunity that you have while you are here – seize it! – and also about the extent to which great institutions like Andover don’t just happen.  They become great because generation after generation, students have been mindful of their own footsteps here and then have given back, when they’ve moved on from life on campus, out of a sense of love for the place and also obligation.

And that’s the key point about the footsteps.  Our words and our deeds while we are at Andover matter, just as they matter after we are gone from here.

As I wrote to you this summer, our theme for the year is citizenship.  As you think about the mark you want to make at Andover, I urge you to do so in the context of the larger world – not just what is going on inside the Andover bubble.  I expect every Andover student to engage in the issues of our time.  This summer gave plenty of examples: senseless violence in Charlottesville and Barcelona; lives disrupted by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma; proposals to end and reform DACA; and on and on.  Andover students come from a long and proud tradition of making a mark in the world through their footsteps.  I expect us to continue that tradition and in doing so, to be informed, engaged, productive citizens of our communities, nations, and the world.

As we do so, we should have fun – good, wholesome fun, of course.  We should have picnics and games on the grass.  We will work hard and we should play a lot too, and enjoy this community that we are so lucky to be a part of.

Before we go, I’d like to do a few quick things.  I’ve been so happy to hear the joyful voices of all of you students lighting up this campus since the Blue Keys started to cheer on the corner as new students arrived.

First: Juniors, Lowers, Uppers: the seniors came in with a lot of spirit this morning.  I want all the juniors, lowers, and uppers, to make some noise in appreciation of those students who go before you.  Let’s hear it for the seniors!

Seniors, you get another shot.  Let’s hear it for the juniors, lowers, and uppers, who are following in your enormous footsteps!  Make some noise!

And last, after this last cheer, the All School Meeting is adjourned.  I want you to do one last cheer – hold on! – and then walk out of this chapel into brilliant sunshine, ideally with a big smile on your faces, and perhaps a little attention, in the back of your minds, to your footsteps as you go.

All students, you are going to do this last cheer.  You are surrounded, in this community, by some of the finest adults I have ever had the privilege of meeting.  This is a mindful, inspired, caring community of teachers – and citizens – who have CHOSEN to devote their professional lives – and in many respects, their personal lives, too, as they live in the dorms with you and eat together and play together – to your education.  For our last cheer of the day, Andover students, and as our last act as we leave the chapel: Let’s hear it for ALL the teachers on this campus!

Thank you – All School Meeting is dismissed.

Start-of-School Message for our 240th Year at Andover

Dear Phillips Academy students:

That school-is-about-to-start feeling is upon us. There are a few summer days left to enjoy, Labor Day weekend still to look forward to, and all the excitement of early fall just around the corner. I write in part just to say that I’m thinking of all of you and excited to see you in person shortly.

In spite of this excitement and the joy I feel in anticipating your return to campus, I’m also mindful of the powerful effect of recent events in Charlottesville. The violence that we witnessed exposes the lingering force of white supremacy in this country, which must be condemned in no uncertain terms. As a school devoted to educating youth from every quarter, we cannot stand idly by in the face of racial hatred and violence. We are committed to equity and inclusion in our community and in the world at large. We renounce – in our teaching, in how we run the school and how we interact with one another – the idea of a racial hierarchy. And we renounce the violence perpetrated in the service of this pernicious hatred.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had a similar conversation over and over again. It’s a conversation about the United States of America, globalization, the media, and this moment in history. It’s also a conversation about education, learning and teaching, and how to be good citizens. As we start our 240th academic year, these issues are at the forefront of my mind and the minds of our faculty and staff at Andover.

In planning for how we will engage with you this year on campus, we re-affirm today our commitment to knowledge with goodness. Our job as adults at Andover is to teach the skills and impart the wisdom that you will need to be able to thrive after Andover – finis origine pendet. We seek to model the kind of goodness that we hope for you to embody as you develop and grow. Goodness calls for respect for one another; a commitment to learn with and from one another; civility in our interactions; support, empathy, and love for our peers in good times and in bad. Goodness means also that we hold ourselves and one another to a high moral standard. In so doing, we stand together in solidarity against hatred, bigotry, and violence.

Long before the summer took hold, we decided that the theme for this coming year at Andover will be about citizenship. As our theme for the year, citizenship strikes me as more apt than ever as we approach this particular fall. With all of you, I look forward to exploring what it means to be a citizen, both in the United States of America and in the countries from which many of you hail. I look forward to pushing hard on questions of civic duty, of moral obligation, of voting and participation. I look forward to asking hard questions about whether there can be such a thing as global citizenship in a world with so many different cultures and countries. As a United States History teacher, I can’t wait to explore with students the narrative of this country, what events and themes inform and connect to today’s events, and our hopes for a brighter future together. In All School Meetings, in advising groups and dormitories, in Paresky, in the Addison and the Peabody and OWH Library, and in all manner of classrooms, we will grapple with what it means to be citizens in a 21st century republic. I have every confidence that knowledge and goodness will emerge in ways large and small from this labor.

Enjoy these sweet last days of summer – and see you soon.

Sincerely,
John Palfrey

Head of School Bookshelf, 2016-2017 edition (combined)

Last academic year I kept up my tradition of putting out free copies of books on a bookshelf outside my office each term for the faculty to take and read but I didn’t manage to post the lists here on this blog as I went along.  (Not that anyone complained!)  I thought I’d put the lists out all at once before we launch into a new school year.

Fall 2016

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010)

Timothy Garton Ash, Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World (Yale University Press, 2016)

Roberto Gonzales, Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America (University of California Press, 2015)

Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014)

Lauret Savoy, Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape (Counterpoint Press, 2016)

Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow (Viking, 2016)

Winter 2017

Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power and Passion of Persistence (Scribner, 2016)

Note: Prof. Duckworth visited with Tang Institute fellows and staff last Fall and will be back again on September 13 for a public engagement at PA. We expect to make many copies of her book available again courtesy of one of our trustees.

Nicholas Guyatt, Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation (Basic Books, 2016)

Joi Ito and Jeff Howe: Whiplash: How to Survive our Faster Future (Grand Central, 2016)

Zadie Smith, Swing Time (Penguin, 2016)

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (Harper, 2016)

Bonus entry:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 2015)

Note: Astute observers will know that Mr. Coates’ book appeared on a previous HOS bookshelf.  It flew off the shelf at the time. I brought it back again as it was meant to be the subject of a town-wide reading program this spring.

Spring 2017

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (Knopf, 2017)

Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown, 2016)

Hisham Matar, The Return (Knopf, 2016)

Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays (Penguin, 2016)

Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Chessboard & the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World (Yale University Press, 2017)

Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel and Grau, 2014)

I am working on this fall’s list and always welcome ideas of things to read!