A League of Its Own

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The crowd had plenty to celebrate as it filed into the gymnasium for the Phillips Academy's 1908 alumni dinner.

The school, better known as Andover after the Massachusetts town in which it is located, had held its 130th commencement earlier that June day under what the local newspaper described as "perfect skies." Diplomas had been handed out to 81 young men, about half of whom were going on to Yale, while most of the rest were headed to Harvard and a smattering of other private colleges. The event capped a year in which Andover even beat archrival Exeter in baseball after a sixth-inning comeback.

But when the meal was over, Alumni Association President Henry L. Stimson made a solemn proclamation. Andover, he observed in the annual alumni address, was at "one of those turning points of life in which the entire future of institutions, as of men, lies in the balance."

Schools like Andover, he said, sat between two trends. On one side, the rapid rise of the public high school meant more young men could prepare for college tuition-free without leaving home. On the other, the growth of the nation's universities meant they were no longer cozy places that fostered moral development, but had become purely academic institutions in which students pursued their own interests.

Given that, he asserted, the residential high school remained the one place where young men could learn not just subject matter, but also the values of modesty, democracy, and faith. If "our boys are not to lose this invaluable social training," said Stimson, who would later become the U.S. secretary of state and of war, "it is our schools or at least to some of them, that we must look for its perpetuation."

Although Stimson's speech was ultimately a pitch for donations, the school was indeed at a watershed. Over the next 25 years, the academy constructed a new campus that still easily outshines those of many of the country's most prominent colleges. At the same time, it built an already outstanding academic program into one that few other schools in the country could match. In doing so, it became what many people now view as the quintessential American boarding school.

Today, Andover remains an institution with few peers. Its 450-acre campus includes art and archaeology museums, an arboretum, and a radio station. The vast majority of faculty members hold graduate degrees in their academic specialties, and its 1,080 students in grades 9-12 enjoy an average class size of 14. But all that comes at a price. Tuition and board run $24,500 a year--steeper than what many colleges charge--though 40 percent of students here benefit from one of the largest financial-aid budgets in private education.

Andover enjoys so many advantages that it's easy to judge the school as insular, even irrelevant. To be sure, within the membership of the National Association of Independent Schools, boarding students make up only about 10 percent of total enrollment.

As with higher education's Ivy League, however, the role played by such schools has been a disproportionately large one. Not only have they produced more than their share of influential Americans, they have helped pioneer some of the century's most important educational innovations.

Famous Andover Alumni
Of the 20th Century
Philip K. Wrigley, class of 1915, chewing gum magnate and Chicago Cubs owner
Benjamin Spock, class of 1921, child- rearing expert
Walker Evans, class of 1922, Depression-era photographer
Lyman Spitzer, class of 1931, astronomer who designed the first telescope-bearing satellite
Ring Lardner Jr., class of 1932, Hollywood writer
Harlan Cleveland, class of 1934, U.S. ambassador
Robert W. Sarnoff, class of 1935, president of NBC
Robert C. Macauley, class of 1941, founder of relief agency AmeriCares
George Herbert Walker Bush, class of 1942, 41st president
Jack Lemmon, class of 1943, Academy Award-winning actor
Otis Chandler, class of 1946,Los Angeles Times publisher
Alexander B. Trowbridge, class of 1947, U.S. secretary of commerce
Frank Stella, class of 1954, abstract artist
A. Bartlett Giamatti, class of 1956, baseball commissioner
Tracy Kidder, class of 1963, Pulitzer Prize-winning author
George W. Bush, class of 1964, governor of Texas
Jeffrey K. MacNelly, class of 1965, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist
James Shannon, class of 1969, U.S. congressman
John Ellis "Jeb'' Bush, class of 1971, governor of Florida
H.G. "Buzzy'' Bissinger, class of 1972, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author
Dana Delany, class of 1974, television actress
John F. Kennedy Jr., class of 1979, George magazine publisher

But the boarding school's most distinctive feature is the way it fulfills the twofold mission to which Stimson alluded: building character while preparing students for college. To an exceptional degree for a precollegiate institution, it selects who will attend and sets the boundaries for students' lives 24 hours a day. As a result, a boarding school is able to create a total learning environment in a way that no other type of school can.

Certainly the past 100 years have seen dramatic changes in what that environment looks like. The once all-boys and nearly all-white Andover is now half female and 30 percent minority. But the basic modus operandi remains the same. Says Andover history teacher Anthony Rotundo: "What we have is the power to create an intentional community, to create a faculty and a student body that in many ways mirror the world as it is, or the world as we would like it to be."

Before 1900, Andover was a much humbler place than it is today. Until then, the school looked and operated much like the thousands of other American academies established in the 18th and early 19th centuries to provide a broader secondary education than did the Latin grammar schools of the Colonial era. Theodore R. Sizer, who later became one of Andover's best-known headmasters, wrote in the 1964 book The Age of the Academies that they served "the material hope of getting ahead and the political hope of improving the republic."

The Revolutionary War was still under way when Samuel Phillips Jr. founded Andover in 1778 near the mill he owned about 25 miles north of Boston. An uncle founded the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hamphshire three years later.

Adhering to the democratic ideals of the age, Samuel Phillips believed the new nation's survival depended on the cultivation of knowledge and virtue in its youths. As such, his school stressed both utilitarianism and morals, which in his day had an intensely Calvinist bent. Pledging to serve "youth of requisite qualifications from every quarter," Andover's constitution promises to "learn them the great end and real business of living." Its oldest motto is non sibi, a Latin phrase meaning "not for one's self."

With the advent of the publicly supported high school in the late 19th century, however, such academies faced the threat of extinction. A handful, including Andover and Exeter, transformed themselves into modern boarding schools, places with unrivaled educational advantages.

The high school had long been something of a stepchild to the Andover Theological Seminary, which the academy's leaders set up in 1808 to prepare Calvinist ministers.

But by the time Henry Stimson gave his prophetic address, the then-struggling seminary had decided to move to Harvard University and sell its land and buildings to the high school. The sale gave Andover the freedom to reinvent itself.

More than half its students--who were generally older than today's --lived in nearby rooming houses. The school's small cluster of buildings, though stately, bore little resemblance to the campus's current expanse.

But the academy quickly underwent a physical metamorphosis. Trustee Thomas Cochran, an 1890 graduate and a partner in J.P. Morgan & Co., donated millions of dollars to the academy and helped shape the vision of a new campus of wide lawns and elm-covered walks that more resembled a liberal-arts college than a high school.

Between 1910 and 1930, the academy completed more than a dozen major construction projects, even pulling some of its older buildings from their foundations and moving them. The completion of new dormitories meant that by 1929, all boarding students could live on campus. The school continued to serve a small number of day students from the town and surrounding communities, as it does still.

Many of the new structures were named for prominent Americans who had some connection to the academy: George Washington, who had sent his nephews there; Paul Revere, who first cut the school's seal; and the writer Oliver Wendell Holmes, who graduated from Andover in 1825. When the makeover was complete, legend has it that a teacher from Exeter, after taking in the new school, exclaimed: "We're beaten! Exeter can never catch up."

But Exeter did quickly catch up as a result of a windfall of donations that allowed it to rebuild its own campus.

Back then, Andover had plenty of competition. The United States between 1880 and 1910 saw the birth of many of today's most prominent New England boarding schools--Groton, Choate, and Hotchkiss among them.

In large measure, those schools owed their prosperity to the impact of industrialization on American society, according to the 1970 book American Boarding Schools: A Historical Study, by James McLachlan. The industrial boom of the late 19th century created a new circle of wealthy Americans, and many of them became increasingly concerned about what they saw as the growing squalor of urban America, with its vast immigrant population.

Boarding schools offered those parents a chance to remove their children to more tranquil environs. But such an education also, many hoped, promised to secure their children's place in America's leadership class, much as they believed the prominent English "public schools" like Eton were capable of doing. In the 1930s, one out of every 35 living Andover graduates was in Who's Who in America.

At Andover, the growing affluence was somewhat tempered by the academy's long tradition of financial aid. Around 1900, when the school enrolled about 430 students, Andover gave out some 40 scholarships a year. One of the most successful efforts the school used to recruit needy students was a program that scoured the ranks of the nation's newspaper-delivery boys for qualified applicants.

Still, most students paid full fare, which then amounted to about $310 for tuition and board--no small change at a time when most American families earned less than $1,000 a year.

While the school in the first decades of the century was ethnically more diverse than many other boarding schools, it was still a creature of its time. A few black students were admitted to Andover as early as the 1850s, but some academy officials doubted they could fully benefit from an Andover education. And in the 1920s, the headmaster wrote that "except in very rare instances colored boys ought not to be encouraged to come," according to the 1979 book Youth from Every Quarter: A Bicentennial History of Phillips Academy, Andover, by Frederick S. Allis Jr., then a history teacher here.

Jews were admitted in greater numbers than blacks, but they, too, occasionally faced discrimination. The student-run secret societies, which Andover abolished in the 1950s, rarely accepted Jews, and as late as the 1930s, administrators said it was important to keep their numbers on campus from growing too large. "Did we totally accept them? No," recalls Osborne Day, a 1939 graduate. "It's a horrible thought, but they weren't invited into the fraternities, even though we liked those guys."

Critics around the turn of the century began accusing boarding schools of being "hotbeds of snobbishness." But those charges belied the mission that schools such as Andover saw themselves as fulfilling, according to McLachlan's book. While the school undeniably served large numbers of boys who were privileged by birth, its goal was to turn them into men who merited their positions on ability.

Indeed, social class received no mention when Andover Headmaster Claude Moore Fuess answered his own question in his 1939 book Creed of a Schoolmaster: "What should be our function? I believe it to be the development of character among our students--and character shown, not by the mere avoidance of vice and misdemeanors, but by service to the state."

Andover began acting much like a modern college years before its outward appearance resembled one. It was during Cecil Bancroft's tenure as principal from 1873 to 1901 that the school's classics-laden curriculum was expanded to include a greater emphasis on science, English, and modern foreign languages.

Bancroft also oversaw the institutionalization of many extracurricular activities, including baseball and the student newspaper. And he democratized the operations of the academy by parceling out authority to numerous faculty committees.

Its new curriculum in place, the academy set off to build the caliber of its instructors. Alfred E. Stearns, who was appointed principal in 1903, helped raise $1 million from alumni to increase teacher salaries. (The school changed the title of its top administrator from "principal" to "headmaster" while Stearns held the position.)

The educators Andover sought were experts in their fields, not the graduates of mere normal schools. Many were accomplished scholars, having had their own work published in books and academic journals. The academy considered it a significant victory, for instance, when it lured Dudley Fitts away from Choate. Fitts was a renowned poet and a translator of many important works from Greek, Latin, and Spanish.

Faculty members were uncompromising in the academic standards to which they held their students. If it took a mark of 60 to pass, many didn't hesitate to give out a 59. And the school was willing to expel students not just for bad behavior, but for persistently poor performance, as it did in 1918 when it dismissed Humphrey Bogart, the son of an Andover alumnus.

"They were pretty darn tough on you," Day says. "But you knew many were being tough to help you. I think all of us had the feeling they weren't out to try to get you or humiliate you."

As a boarding school where teachers and students interacted round-the-clock, Andover expected its teachers to possess great intellect and be good role models. To this day, many faculty members and their families spend years living with students in the dorms, and all teachers are expected to supervise students outside the classroom in some capacity.

Some teachers seized on any opportunity to emphasize the importance of good character. Day recalls an English teacher who began a discussion about a comedy that dealt with adultery with this reproachful aside: "As if there were anything funny about adultery."

"The teachers kept talking about what's right and what's wrong, and about ethics all the time," Day says. "And there was a sense that even if you didn't believe [in] them, you knew what they were."

Many of the activities outside the classroom were also geared toward reinforcing values.

Attendance at the school's nondenominational chapel services was mandatory. Athletics served the dual purpose of building character and burning up excess adolescent energy.

By filling students' days--morning till night--with chapel, classwork, homework, and sports, Andover sought to instill self-discipline. The intense regimen was seen as doing more to keep the boys out of trouble than the rules spelled out in the school's code of behavior. "These were tough schools, and not just in the academic sense," says Hart Leavitt, an Exeter graduate who taught English at Andover from 1936 to 1975. "They were demanding in many ways."

In 1944, Fortune published a seven-page spread on the academy headlined "Andover: A Study in Independence." Lauding the school's top-notch faculty, rigorous standards, and tradition of financial aid, the article posited that "Andover is not particularly a rich boy's school, but it is a rich school and has all the opportunities that institutional opulence has thrust upon it."

In one area, though, the academy appeared lacking, the Fortune writer argued. For all its freedom and wealth of resources, the school had contributed little in the way of educational innovations. "Andover's blessings," he wrote, "have induced singularly little pioneering work in either curriculum or pedagogy."

By contrast, Exeter in the 1930s had instituted fundamental changes in its teaching methods by reorganizing classes into seminars.

Soon after the publication of the Fortune article, Andover began to show greater willingness to experiment.

One of the school's first innovators was James H. Grew, the chairman of the French department. He believed that high school students could benefit from the same kind of intensive foreign-language instruction that the military had started using. Grew, around World War II, began teaching all his courses entirely in French.

The approach flew in the face of the idea that students should first learn a language's grammar before striving for fluency. While some instructors at first resisted the method, it proved so successful that, within a few years, it was the universal approach toward language instruction at the school.

The academy also helped pioneer a new style of physical education. In the 1950s, Andover teacher Joshua Miner was dispatched to Europe to observe schools modeled on Outward Bound, which used survival skills to foster the traits of resourcefulness and cooperation. After he returned, the sight of Andover students rappelling down the side of the school's 170-foot bell tower became a regular occurrence. Miner went on to promote Outward Bound throughout the United States.

Midcentury also witnessed the birth of what became perhaps the academy's greatest contribution to American education. While the school had always prided itself on providing the best possible preparation for college, by then some Andover graduates felt so well-prepared that the first year of college seemed boring. As recounted by Allis in Youth from Every Quarter, John M. Kemper, who became headmaster in 1948, complained that "boys from the best independent schools often find that their early courses in college are repetitious and dull."

A graduate of West Point, Kemper began discussing the problem with the heads of other boarding schools and college officials. Before long, Andover embarked on a study of the transition from high school to college financed by the Ford Foundation. Other participants were Exeter and the Lawrenceville School, along with Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.

The group concluded its work by recommending the development of new tests for determining whether high school graduates could skip lower-level classes at college. In 1954, the first Advanced Placement exams were administered by the College Board, the sponsor of the country's most widely used college-entrance exam.

Since then, the incentive offered by the system has spurred tens of thousands of high schools, both public and private, to establish senior-level courses geared toward the exams.

However influential, the changes Andover underwent until the early 1960s would seem like mere tinkering compared with what followed.

In 1965, Kemper appointed a committee of eight faculty members to begin a yearlong study of the school and its place in the modern world. The recommendations in the panel's report covered topics from the recruitment of teachers to the updating of facilities. But student life was the aspect of the school receiving the greatest attention.

Re-emphasizing instructors' responsibilities as role models, the report called for greater interaction between adults and students. The recommendation resulted in a "cluster system," in which the students were divided into groups of roughly 200, each with its own dean and core of faculty members for support.

To render the disciplinary system more humane, the school also shifted its process from one of automatic demerits and reviews by schoolwide panels to one left more to the discretion of each cluster and house master. In a symbolic move, the title "house master" was changed to "house counselor."

More significantly, the steering committee recognized that Andover needed to reflect better the world outside.

The academy had a long, albeit sometimes grudging, tradition of accepting African-American youths. But they had not been actively recruited. That passivity changed dramatically in the early 1960s with A Better Chance. The now 36-year-old program, created by Andover and 22 other prominent prep schools, identifies promising students from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds and helps them apply to member schools. By 1970, Andover had about 50 black students, up from the dozen or fewer accepted 20 years earlier.

About that time, the school also endowed a new need-based scholarship program for foreign students. Ever since, about 10 percent of the enrollment has come from overseas.

Meanwhile, a number of campus traditions were scrapped in an effort to create an environment that welcomed all students as equals. Dining-hall duty and other chores were no longer the sole responsibility of students receiving financial aid; all students were expected to perform them.

Overall, the academy sought to be a less insular place. The school's summer session, which began during World War II to give extra instruction to Andover students about to enter the armed forces, evolved into a much larger program that mostly served public school students. Starting in the 1960s, students from around the country began to spend several weeks at Andover in intensive study of writing, foreign languages, math, and science.

The academy's course offerings were greatly expanded, and students were permitted to take many more electives than in the past.

New interdisciplinary programs were also created, including an innovative "Man and Society" course, in which students spent a term living and working in either inner-city Boston or rural Mexico.

Theodore Sizer, appointed headmaster in 1972 after serving as the dean of Harvard's graduate school of education, made it his mission to break the academy out of its cloister as much as possible. "Schools that say they're a sanctuary from the world don't interest me," says Sizer, who later wrote the popular Horace trilogy on school improvement and founded the Coalition of Essential Schools, a network of public and private schools. "They shouldn't be sanctuaries; they should be institutions which use their extraordinary strengths to stand for things worth standing for, on behalf of everybody, not just themselves."

In 1964, Andover admitted girls to its summer programs for the first time. Despite the policy's success, the move to bring coeducation to the year-round program took nearly a decade.

Many faculty members believed that if they were preparing their students to attend colleges that had gone coed--and to live and work in a coed world--then Andover should be educating both sexes. But the question was how.

One option was simply to start admitting young women, as Exeter had done in 1970. Another was to remain essentially an all-boys school, but to coordinate some programs and classes with the neighboring Abbot Academy, an all-girls residential school that opened in Andover in 1829. About one-third the size of Andover, Abbot had long been recognized as one of the nation's pre-eminent girls' schools.

The route Andover wound up taking in 1973--to merge fully with Abbot--didn't immediately win the unanimous support of either school's faculty. Some Andover teachers voiced concerns that Abbot's academic expectations were not on a par with its neighbor's. And the fact that the unified school would be called Andover was not lost on Abbot's teachers and alumnae.

"Here were two schools, each of which was perfectly comfortable in their own traditions and success," says Jean St. Pierre, an Abbot English teacher who now works at Andover. "But the world was changing, and coeducation was the wave of the future."

The climate of the merged school felt different to many teachers as the hard-nosed competitiveness of Andover melded with the nurturing atmosphere Abbot stressed. "Andover became a more progressive, humane place for kids after that," says Andover history teacher Kathleen M. Dalton, who has written a book about the school's experience with coeducation.

Coeducation also pushed Andover's enrollment past 1,200, making it one of the largest boarding schools in the country. Because the campuses sat side by side, students could walk between them in five minutes. No one was more pleased with the transformation than parents. Between 1973 and 1980, the number of applications from boys increased 50 percent, while those from girls more than doubled.

Though young women now make up half of Andover's enrollment, Dalton says the legacy of the school's all-male past lives on. Girls rarely hold, for example, leadership positions in student government and on the student newspaper.

In 1994, the academy appointed its first female head of school, Barbara Landis Chase, a public high school graduate who had served as the head of an all-girls school in Baltimore. Women now make up half the faculty, but men still chair two-thirds of the departments.

While pointing out where Andover leaves room for improvement, Dalton adds that she knows of no other boarding school that is working so consciously to find ways to resolve issues of equity between boys and girls. In 1996, for instance, the academy created the Brace Center for Gender Studies, which sponsors research on the role of gender in education.

As fast as Andover was changing in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the pace was not rapid enough for many students. The same unrest that led college students to take over administration buildings and make bonfires with their draft cards ushered in a brief period of turmoil at many boarding schools.

While much of the anger was directed at the Vietnam War and racial inequality, boarding school students more generally showed a willingness to question all convention. Administrators were forced to justify or amend numerous policies regulating student life, and the enforcement of long-standing rules often resulted in brazen violations.

At Andover, the affronts to authority occasionally turned frightening. A crude bomb was discovered, improperly armed, in the school's bell tower in 1971, and an attempt to steal disciplinary records prompted a security guard to fire a shot over a student's head, according to Allis' book. That same year, the administration was presented with a petition declaring a "lack of confidence" in the faculty and staff--signed by two-thirds of the students.

Along with the new danger of illegal drug use on campus, such episodes made it an unnerving time for running a boarding school, says John Richards, a retired history teacher who also served as the dean of students during the unrest. "We were confronted on an almost daily basis with demonstrations and pranks," he says. "I think one of the things that bothered the students the most was the fact that they had no say in school policy, and the faculty wasn't about to give them a say--they still don't."

While Andover refused to hand the keys over to its students, it did respond to their complaints. As headmaster, Sizer didn't favor rules for their own sake. When students broke the prohibition against walking on the school's neatly kept lawns, Sizer said it was OK so long as they altered their paths so as not to wear down the grass.

By the mid-1970s, the demonstrations and other forms of rebellion had subsided. Also by that time, the school had given up two of its oldest traditions: the dress code and mandatory attendance at religious services. Though virtually all boarding schools felt compelled to adapt to the social currents of the time, Andover was reputed to have gone further than most. Exeter, for instance, still maintains a formal dress code.

The Andover of today no longer conforms--if it ever truly did-- to the stereotype of the snobbish blue-blooded boarding school as portrayed in books like The Catcher in the Rye. Its immaculate campus of neo-Georgian and Federal brick buildings conjures up images of a buttoned-down past, but the academy's students look much like students anywhere. A few wear ties or other formal clothes by choice, but most prefer the casual wear that predominates on modern college campuses.

When it comes to their work, however, the academy's students are all business. Acting up in class is almost unheard of, and homework typically keeps students up well past midnight.

The school often encourages students in their nonconformity. When the academy held its annual fall art show last year, it showcased a fourth-year student's painting of Jesus kissing St. Sebastian on the mouth. Though the work generated controversy, the faculty agreed that the rendition showed tremendous talent and saw no reason to reject it.

"A lot of adults think of boarding schools as being like prisons, and that's just so far from the truth," says Laura Mistretta, a member of the class of 2000. "There are rules here, and you have to abide by them, but one of the major things about this place is the trust they give you. They trust that if you say you're going to be some place, that you will be."

In most respects, the academy has never been more heterogeneous. Eight percent of students are black; 3 percent, Hispanic; and 18 percent, Asian. The school has also set up support programs for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students. One in 10 students is on a full scholarship, and for many of those, the aid even includes air travel between school and home three times a year. About half of Andover's students attended public elementary schools. By intention, the diversity of the student body has become one of the school's most important teaching tools.

"For me, it hasn't just been about the work or the classes," says Aimionoizomo Akade, another senior who attended a public middle school in Brooklyn before coming to Andover. "It's also been about learning about different people and coming into contact with people who didn't grow up like you. You don't have people from Hong Kong living in Brooklyn."

Yet more than half its families still pay full tuition and board. And even with a $7.5 million financial-aid budget, the school's admissions process is not completely need-blind. Each year, a handful of qualified students are denied entrance for no other reason than their inability to pay. While serving "youth from every quarter," Andover doesn't yet mirror American society as a whole.

But perhaps the most significant privilege enjoyed by Andover's students is the variety of its academic and extracurricular offerings. The academy boasts 30 different sports--from tai chi to Nordic skiing--as well as an observatory, a symphony orchestra, and a state-of-the-art electronic film- editing studio. Its course listings include four-year programs in nine foreign languages and seminars on topics ranging from Victorian England to nuclear-weapons proliferation. Classroom instruction often is augmented by lectures from visiting heads of state, Pulitzer Prize winners, and Nobel laureates.

This feast of opportunity is largely what continues to attract families, despite a base tuition more than three times what it was in 1981, when it stood at $7,200 a year. (Since the 1980s, hikes have been closer to the inflation rate.) The increasing competitiveness of college admissions has meant that the academy can no longer promise that nearly all its graduates will go on to the Ivy League. But it can guarantee that virtually any interest will find fertile soil here.

While the new deference to students' individual preferences may attract parents, some have worried that this trend among boarding schools may go too far. In a 1996 essay, "The Strange Fate of the American Boarding School," David Hicks, a former rector of St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H., complained that such institutions were becoming "deconstructed." While their tough regimen once was aimed at producing idealistic future leaders, the essay argued, modern boarding schools seem more concerned with letting young people find themselves.

As Hicks wrote, enrollment patterns did suggest something was amiss in the boarding school world. The number of boarding students in America had fallen by nearly 10 percent over the previous decade, even as enrollments in independent day schools had risen dramatically. The decline would have been even greater were it not for a sudden increase in the number of foreign students. All that led Hicks to warn that the boarding school was "an endangered species of the independent school genus."

Andover officials say the academy doesn't fit the unflattering portrait painted in Hicks' essay. Unlike some other boarding schools, Andover hasn't had to increase its percentage of foreign students or day students to maintain enrollment. And admissions at Andover remain as competitive as ever. The average scores of its students who take the Secondary School Admissions Test--an entrance exam used by many private schools--rank at about the 90th percentile.

"I don't think it's any harder to say we believe in honesty, in justice, and in compassion--those things are human values," says Chase, the head of school. "From before the first moment they arrive, they hear that the whole point is not just about coming here and finding yourself, but about learning to live a useful life, including serving the community."

Undeniably, though, the academy has recently entered a period of readjustment. The dorms were remodeled to increase the number of adults living with students. Rules on residential life were tightened somewhat. Students were promised more intensive advising. And in its most radical move, the academy committed to becoming smaller, reducing enrollment from about 1,225 in 1992 to about 1,030 by next school year.

"I think the school had grown very complicated, in its diversity and in its many offerings," says Jane Foley Fried, Andover's dean of admission. "We still want to be able to offer double-dutch rope jumping for some kids, but when you do all that, you need to find ways that kids can make sense of it all."

The recent changes appear to have pleased parents. Since 1992, the school's so-called yield rate--the proportion of accepted students that actually enrolls--has climbed from 60 percent to nearly 70 percent, akin to a gold standard in today's competitive market.

By all appearances, then, Andover's future is as bright as ever. The school this year launched a $200 million capital campaign, an amount double the size of its current endowment and ranking as the largest fund-raising drive in private school history. The money will shore up financial aid and teacher salaries, while also paying for facilities improvements, including the construction of an Olympic-size hockey rink.

Few here doubt that the school, which is older than the U.S. Constitution, will be around in another 100 years. If they're right, one thing is almost certain, especially if the past century offers any lesson. To keep fulfilling its promise of building character while providing superior academic training, Andover will have to keep responding to shifting circumstances, deciding which parts of the outside world to let in and which to keep out.

"The real thing," says Chase, "is deciding what it is that you're never going to change, but also what you are going to change to keep meeting your mission."

PHOTO: Andover has long stressed athletics along with academics. The school's polo program, formed in 1929, was dropped in the 1940s. Today, it offers 30 different sports.
—Courtesy of Phillips Academy
PHOTO: "Schools that say they're a sanctuary from the world don't interest me," says Theodore R. Sizer, a former headmaster, who made it his goal to expose Andover's students to life beyond the campus.
—Richard Graber/Courtesy of Phillips Academy
PHOTO: Dean of Studies Vincent Avery, far right, hands out awards to Andover students in the Cochran Chapel, named for one of the school's most generous benefactors.
—Benjamin Tice Smith

Vol. 19, Issue 8, Pages 34-41

Published in Print: October 20, 1999, as A League of Its Own
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