Phillips Exeter Academy

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Coordinates: 42°58′48″N 70°57′04″W / 42.98000°N 70.95111°W / 42.98000; -70.95111

Phillips Exeter Academy
Phillips Exeter Academy Seal.png
20 Main Street


United States
TypeIndependent, day & boarding
MottoLatin: Non Sibi
(Not for Oneself)
Latin: Finis Origine Pendet
(The End Depends Upon the Beginning)
Greek: Χάριτι Θεοῦ
(By the Grace of God)
FounderJohn Phillips
Elizabeth Phillips[nb 1]
CEEB code300185
PrincipalWilliam K. Rawson[2]
Enrollment1,079 total
865 boarding
214 day
Average class size12 students
Student to teacher ratio5:1
132 buildings
Campus size672 acres (2.72 km2)
Color(s)Maroon and Grey
Athletics22 Interscholastic sports
62 Interscholastic teams
Athletics conferenceNEPSAC
Team nameBig Red
RivalPhillips Academy, Andover
NewspaperThe Exonian
Endowment$1.25 billion (as of June 2017)[3]
Budget$93 million (2014–2015)[4]
Annual tuition$53,271 (boarding)
$41,608 (day)[5]
AffiliationsEight Schools Association
G20 Schools
Ten Schools Admissions Organization

Phillips Exeter Academy (often called Exeter or PEA) is a coeducational independent school for boarding and day students in grades 9 through 12, and offers a postgraduate program. Located in Exeter, New Hampshire, it is one of the oldest secondary schools in the United States. Exeter is based on the Harkness education system, a conference format of student interaction with minimal teacher involvement. It has the largest endowment of any New England boarding school, which as of June 30, 2017, was valued at $1.25 billion.[6][7] On January 25, 2019, William K. Rawson was appointed by the Academy's trustees as the 16th Principal Instructor. He is the 4th alumnus of Exeter to serve as Principal Instructor, after Gideon Lane Soule (1838–1873), Harlan Amen (1895 –1913), and William Saltonstall (1946–1963).

Phillips Exeter Academy has educated several generations of the New England establishment and prominent American politicians, but has introduced many programs to diversify the student population, including free tuition for families whose income is $75,000 or less. In 2015–2016, over 45% of students received financial aid from grants totaling over $19 million. The school has been historically highly selective, with an acceptance rate of 15% for the 2019–2020 school year, and many graduates attend the Ivy League universities among others.[8][9]

Management of the school's financial and physical resources is overseen by trustees drawn from alumni. Day-to-day operations are headed by a principal, who is appointed by the trustees. The faculty of the school are responsible for governing matters relating to student life, both in and out of the classroom.[10]

The school's first enrolled class counted 56 boys;[11] in 1970, when the decision was made to implement co-education, there were 700 boys.[12] The 2018 Academic Year saw enrollment at 1,095 students with 884 boarding students and 211 day students.[13] The students comprise roughly equal numbers of males and females, who are housed in 25 single-sex and 2 mixed-sex dormitories. Each residence is supervised by a dormitory head selected from the faculty.



John Phillips, the founder of Phillips Exeter Academy
First Academy Building c. 1910, where the school opened in 1783

Phillips Exeter Academy was established in Exeter, New Hampshire in 1781 by Elizabeth and John Phillips. John Phillips had made his fortune as a merchant and banker before going into public service, and financially supported his nephew Samuel Phillips, Jr. in founding his own school, Phillips Academy, in Andover, Massachusetts, three years earlier. As a result of this family relationship, the two schools share a rivalry.[14] The school that Phillips founded at Exeter was to educate students under a Calvinist religious framework. However, like his nephew who founded Andover, Phillips stipulated in the school's founding charter that it would "ever be equally open to youth of requisite qualifications from every quarter."[11]

Phillips had previously been married to Sarah Gilman, wealthy widow of Phillips' cousin, merchant Nathaniel Gilman,[15] whose large fortune, bequeathed to Phillips, enabled him to endow the academy.[16] The Gilman family also donated to the academy much of the land on which it stands, including the initial 1793 grant by New Hampshire Governor John Taylor Gilman of the Yard, the oldest part of campus; the academy's first class in 1783 included seven Gilmans.[17][18] In 1814, Nicholas Gilman, signer of the U.S. Constitution, left $1,000 to Exeter to teach "sacred music."[19]

The academy's first schoolhouse, the First Academy Building, was built on a site on Tan Lane in 1783, and today stands not far from its original location. The building was dedicated on February 20, 1783, the same day that the school's first Preceptor, William Woodbridge, was chosen by John Phillips.[11]

Exeter's Deed of Gift, written by John Phillips at the founding of the school, states that Exeter's mission is to instill in its students both goodness and knowledge:

"Above all, it is expected that the attention of instructors to the disposition of the minds and morals of the youth under their charge will exceed every other care; well considering that though goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous, and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind."[14]

Harkness gift[edit]

Edward S. Harkness, benefactor

On April 9, 1930, philanthropist and oil magnate Edward Harkness wrote to Exeter Principal Lewis Perry regarding how a substantial donation that Harkness would make to the Academy might be used to fund a new way of teaching and learning:

What I have in mind is a classroom where students could sit around a table with a teacher who would talk with them and instruct them by a sort of tutorial or conference method, where each student would feel encouraged to speak up. This would be a real revolution in methods.[20]

The result was "Harkness teaching", in which a teacher and a group of students work together, exchanging ideas and information, similar to the Socratic method. In November 1930, Harkness gave Exeter $5.8 million to support this initiative. Since then, the Academy's principal mode of instruction has been by discussion, "seminar style," around an oval table known as the Harkness table.[21][22]

Exeter baseball team in 1881, including a student from the Chinese Educational Mission

This informality was for many decades reflected in the school's "unwritten code that there were no rules at the academy until you broke one."[23] Expelled alumni include the journalist David Lamb and the writer and editor George Plimpton.

Student body[edit]

Exeter participated in the Chinese Educational Mission, hosting seven students from Qing China, starting in 1879. They were sent to learn about western technology, and attended Exeter among other schools to prepare for college. However, all students were recalled in 1881 due to mounting tensions between the United States and China, as well as growing realization that the students were becoming Americanized.[24]

The Academy became coeducational in 1970 when 39 girls began attending.[12][25] Today[when?] the student body is roughly half boys and half girls. In 1996, to reflect the Academy's coeducational status, a new gender-inclusive Latin inscription Hic Quaerite Pueri Puellaeque Virtutem et Scientiam ("Here, boys and girls, seek goodness and knowledge") was added over the main entrance to the Academy Building. This new inscription augments the original one – Huc Venite, Pueri, ut Viri Sitis ("Come hither boys so that ye may become men").[26]


Exeter uses an 11-point grading system, in which an A is worth 11 points and an E is worth 0 points. Exeter has a student-to-teacher ratio of about 5:1.[27] A majority of the faculty have advanced degrees in their fields.[28] Students who attend Exeter for four years are required to take courses in the arts, classical or modern languages, computer science, English, health & human development, history, mathematics, religion, and science. Most students receive an English diploma, but students who take the full series of Latin and Ancient Greek classes receive a Classical diploma.[29]

Harkness teaching method[edit]

Most classes at Exeter are taught around Harkness tables. No classrooms have rows of chairs, and lectures are rare. The completion of the Phelps Science Center in 2001 enabled all science classes, which previously had been taught in more conventional classrooms, to be conducted around the same Harkness tables.[30] Elements of the Harkness method, including the Harkness table, are now used in schools around the world.[31][32]

Notable faculty[edit]

Off-campus study[edit]

During the tenure of Exeter's tenth principal, Richard W. Day, the Washington Intern Program and the Foreign Studies Program began.[41] Exeter offers the Washington Intern Program, where students intern in the office of a senator or congressional representative.[42][43] Exeter also participates in the Milton Academy Mountain School program,[44] which allows students to study in a small rural setting in Vershire, Vermont.[45] The academy currently sponsors trimester-long foreign study programs in Grenoble, Tema, Tokyo, Saint Petersburg, Stratford-upon-Avon, Eleuthera, Taichung, Göttingen, Rome, Cuenca, and Callan;[44] as well as school-year abroad programs in Beijing, Rennes, Viterbo, and Zaragoza.[46][47] The academy also offers foreign language summer programs in France, Japan, Spain, and Taiwan.


Around a third of Exeter students matriculate into the Ivy League, MIT, and Stanford.[48][9] The five most common college destinations of the classes of 2013–2015 were Columbia (36), Harvard (33), Yale (32), Georgetown (26), and NYU (26).[49]

Student body[edit]

1909 advertisement for the school

The Academy claims a tradition of diversity.[50] During the Civil War, four white students from Kentucky confronted the then-principal Gideon Lane Soule over the presence of a black student at Exeter. When they demanded that the black student be expelled on account of his skin color, Soule replied, "The boy is to stay; you may do as you please."[51][52]

One of Exeter's unofficial mottoes – "Youth from Every Quarter" – is taken from the Deed of Gift, and is widely quoted and emphasized in the introductory course for freshmen in the fall.[53] This phrase has also guided the Academy's admissions policies. Exeter's longtime Director of Scholarships H. Hamilton "Hammy" Bissell (1929) worked for decades to enable qualified students from all over the U.S. to attend Exeter.[54]

For the 2016–17 school year, the Exeter student body included students from 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and 34 countries. Students of non-European descent comprise 41% of the student body[55] (Asian 23%, Black 9%, Hispanic/Latino 8%, Native American 1%).[56] Legacy students account for 13% of the students. Of new students entering in 2017 (a total of 353), 53% attended public school and 47% attended private, parochial, military, home, or foreign schools.[57]

Most Exeter students—80 percent—live on campus in dormitories or houses. The remaining 19 percent of the student body are day students from the surrounding communities.[58]

The Academy uses a unique designation for its grade levels. Entering first-year students are called Juniors (nicknamed "preps"), second-year students are Lower Middlers ("lowers"), third-year students are Upper Middlers ("uppers"), and fourth-year students are seniors. Exeter also admits postgraduate students ("PGs").[59]


Tuition and financial aid[edit]

Tuition to Exeter has increased at rate of 4.11% a year since the 2002 academic year, or 3.47% per year over the last decade. There are mandatory fees for boarding students and optional fees on top of tuition.[60]

Exeter offers needs-based financial aid. Since 2008, students whose family income is $75,000 or less have received a free education, including tuition, room and board, travel, a laptop, and other miscellaneous expenses;[61] many families earning up to $200,000 receive partial assistance. Since 2007, financial aid has been entirely in the form of grants that do not need to be repaid. From 2004–2008, Exeter admissions were effectively needs-blind, but in 2008, the school announced that the decline in its endowment forced it to suspend that policy.[62] In 2018, approximately 50 percent of students receive financial assistance each year.[63]

A previous President of the Academy's Trustees, Charles T. "Chuck" Harris III, a former Goldman Sachs managing partner, attended Exeter on full scholarship. "Everything I am is a result of that experience," Harris has said of financial aid, "and I'd like to think there's some opportunity like that for every kid in the world."[64]


Exeter's endowment as of June 30, 2017, was valued at $1.25 billion.[7] This is the third-highest endowment of any American secondary school, behind the $11.0 billion endowment of Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii,[65] and the $7.8 billion of the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania. Due largely to the successful investments of the school and gifts from wealthy alumni, the school has an endowment of just under $1 million per student.[66]

According to The New York Times, Exeter devotes an average of $63,500 annually to each of its students, an amount well above the 2007-8 annual tuition of $36,500.[66] This money is spent on operating expenses, small classes (with a typical student-teacher ratio of no more than 12 to one), computers for students, financial aid, and Exeter's facilities, which include a swimming pool, two hockey rinks, and the largest secondary-school library in the world. Exeter also has a high-quality cafeteria, which serves such fare as made-to-order omelets for breakfast.[66]

Campus facilities[edit]

The Academy Building

Academic facilities[edit]

  • The Academy Building is the fourth such building. It was built in 1914 after a devastating fire ruined the third. The Academy Building was designed by Ralph Adams Cram of Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson,[67] and houses the History, Math, Religion and Classical Languages departments, along with a small but significant archaeology/anthropology museum.[68] Two wings were added to the original structure in the 1920s and 1930s during a building boom that was orchestrated by Principal Lewis Perry. One of these wings is the Mayer Art Center, which, despite being attached to the Academy Building, is often referred to as a separate building. The Academy Building also houses the Assembly Hall (formerly known as the Chapel). In former times, non-denominational, Christian religious services were conducted in the Chapel every morning Monday through Saturday before the beginning of classes, and attendance was mandatory for all students in keeping with the wishes of the founders of the academy. The bell (visible in the photo of the Academy Building tower) was rung in a succession of rings to call the student body to worship: Ones, Twos, Threes, Fours, and Fives. After Fives were rung, monitors would begin walking down the rows checking attendance on the benches. The bell continues to be rung to mark the end of classes, as well as to mark each hour from 8 AM to 11 PM.
  • The Class of 1945 Library, a famous modern library designed by Louis Kahn. The library has a shelf capacity of 250,000 volumes, and as of 2009 housed 162,000 volumes. This library is the largest secondary-school library in the world.[69] When it opened, Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture critic for The New York Times, hailed the Exeter library as a "serene, distinguished structure of considerable beauty." She said that the library's central space "breaks on the viewer with breathtaking drama." The headline of her review called the Exeter library a "stunning paean to books."[70]
  • Elizabeth Phillips Academy Center (or "EPAC") is the student center of the campus. It houses the Phelps Commons, the McLane Post Office, the Day Student Lounge, the Forum (a 300-person auditorium), the Academic Support Center, and a grill. It also plays host to a number of student organizations such as The Exonian, WPEA, and the Exeter Student Service Organization (ESSO). The building was originally opened in 2006 as the Phelps Academy Center, but the name was changed in the fall of 2018.[71]
  • Goel Center for Theater and Dance was opened in 2018. It houses DRAMAT, the student led drama club at Exeter. It is named for David Goel and Stacey Goel.[72]
  • Phillips Hall is home to the English and Modern Languages departments. On the first floor of Phillips Hall is the Elting Room (where the faculty meets). Phillips Hall was built in 1932 during the tenure of Principal Lewis Perry. The Harkness gift funded the building, and its classrooms were designed for the Harkness tables.
  • Phelps Science Center was designed by Centerbrook Architects & Planners, and was built in 2001. The center provides laboratory and classroom space. In 2004, it received the American Institute of Architects New Hampshire's Honor Award for Excellence in Architecture.[73]
  • Forrestal Bowld Music Center houses the Music Department, the Music Library, three rehearsal halls, several faculty offices, and dozens of rehearsal rooms.[74] It was built in 1995, and was awarded the Honor Award in Architecture Design by the Boston Society of Architects in 1996. The facility was extended recently and includes a recital hall.
  • Mayer Art Center is home to the Art Department and the Lamont Gallery, as well as the College Counseling Office. It was constructed in 1903 as Alumni Hall. It contains a large ceramics studio with approximately twenty wheels and three kilns on the first floor, two printmaking studios and three drawing/painting studios on the second floor, and an architectural and 3-D design studio on the third floor. It also has a 3-D printer, which was added in 2013.

Athletic facilities[edit]

  • The George H. Love Gymnasium was built in 1969, and is named for George H. Love (1917).[75] It houses squash facilities with 10 international sized courts, one swimming pool, three basketball courts, a weight-training room, a sports-science lab, gym offices, two hockey rinks, locker rooms, and visiting team locker rooms.[76]
  • The Thompson Gymnasium was built in 1918, replacing the old gym which was demolished in 1922, and was a gift of Colonel William Boyce Thompson (1890). It has a basketball court, a dance studio, visiting team locker rooms, a cycling training room, a second swimming pool and a media room.[67]
  • The Thompson Cage was built in 1931 and was also a gift of Colonel Thompson. It is an indoor cage with two tracks; one has a wooden surface and the other a dirt surface. The open dirt-surfaced floor is a multipurpose area. A wrestling room and gymnastics space are attached. In 2015, Academy Trustees approved the removal of the Cage and the construction of a new field house in its footprint.
  • The Thompson Fieldhouse was opened in 2018 on the grounds of the former Thompson Cage. It is an 84,574 square-foot facility connected to the Love and Thompson Gymnasiums, housing four indoor tennis courts, two batting cages, a wrestling room, and an indoor track.[77][78]
  • Ralph Lovshin Track is an outdoor all-weather 400-m track named for the long-serving track coach Ralph Lovshin.
  • The Plimpton Playing Fields are used for various outdoor sports. They are named in honor of alumnus and trustee George Arthur Plimpton (1873).[67]
  • Phelps Stadium is used for football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey. It was converted into turf surface in 2006.
  • The William G. Saltonstall Boathouse was built in 1990, and is the center of crew on campus, on the Squamscott River. It is named for the academy's ninth principal.[67]
  • Amos Alonzo Stagg Baseball Diamond was named after alumnus Amos Alonzo Stagg.
  • Hilliard Lacrosse Field
  • Roger Nekton Championship Pool is named for the long-serving former swimming and water polo coach.
  • The Downer Family Fitness Center was built in 2015 guided by a donation from its namesake, the Downer family. It features many weight lifting resources, aerobic machines, and turf space.
  • 19 outdoor tennis courts
  • Several miles of cross-country and running trails
  • Wrestling practice room[79]

Other facilities[edit]

Phillips Church in 1911
View from the tower of Phillips Church in 1911, showing Alumni Hall (1903, now Mayer Art Center), and third Academy Building (1872–1914)
Abbot Hall
  • Phillips Church was originally built as the Second Parish Church in 1897 and was purchased by the Academy in 1922.[67] The building was designed by Ralph Adams Cram. Although originally a church, the building now contains spaces for students of many faiths. It includes a Hindu shrine, a Muslim prayer room and ablutions fountain, a kosher kitchen, and a meditation room. Services that are particular to Phillips Church include Evening Prayer on Tuesday nights, Thursday Meditation, and Indaba—a religious open forum.
  • Nathaniel Gilman House was built in 1740. The Gilman House is a large colonial white clapboard home with a gambrel roof hipped at one end, a leaded fanlight over the front door and a wide panelled entry hall.[80] This home, as well as the Benjamin Clark Gilman House which is also owned by the Academy, were built for members of Exeter's Gilman family, who donated the Nathaniel Gilman House to the academy in 1905. The home now houses the academy's Alumni and Alumnae Affairs and Development Office.
  • The Davis Center was designed by Ralph Adams Cram as the Davis Library. Today it houses the financial aid offices as well as the dance studio.


Exeter first organized its PEA Baseball Club on October 19, 1859, and on September 6, 1875, Exeter had the first meeting of the Phillips Exeter Academy Athletic Association. Captains of all Exeter's athletic teams were awarded the right to display Exeter's "E" on their sweaters, along with a certificate from the Phillips Exeter Academy Athletic Association authenticating their rights in writing.[14] The school's traditional rival is Phillips Academy (Andover), and the annual Exeter–Andover Football game has been played since 1878. Similar boarding school traditions include the Choate–Deerfield rivalry and Hotchkiss–Taft rivalry.

Students are required to participate in intramural or interscholastic athletic programs. The school offers 65 interscholastic teams at the varsity and junior varsity level as well as 27 intramural sports squads. Other various fitness classes are also offered.

Interscholastic sports[edit]


1903 football poster

Exeter's main rival is Phillips Academy (Andover). Exeter defeated Andover 12–0 in the first ever baseball game played between these two academies on May 2, 1878. Andover, in turn, defeated Exeter 22–0 in football on November 2, 1878. One of Exeter's most notable football games took place in 1913 with a 59–0 victory over Andover. Exeter and Andover have competed nearly every year in football since 1878;[81] currently Andover leads in the number of games won, including the most recent meeting between the schools on November 8, 2014.

Other athletic opponents include New England schools such as Belmont Hill School, Berwick Academy, Deerfield Academy, Northfield Mount Hermon, Brewster Academy, Choate Rosemary Hall, Groton School, The Governor's Academy, Loomis Chaffee, Tabor Academy, Milton Academy, Avon Old Farms, Worcester Academy, Cushing Academy, and various other northeastern prep and boarding schools.[82]


The boys' water polo team has won twenty-two New England prep school championships. Until winter of 2008, boys' swimming had won 15 of the last 17 New England championships, placing runner-up both losing years. The cycling team is the defending champion. Wrestling has won the New England tournament 13 times.

Exeter is a fixture in New England championship tournaments in nearly all sports, missing the championship in both boys' and girls' soccer in 2005, and winning the New England Class A Championship in football in 2003 and 2009. In 2007, the boys' squash team finished second at the New England Division A Interscholastic Championship and fourth at the National High School Team Tournament. Both the men's and women's cross country teams have won the Division 1 NEPSTA Championship multiple times in the past decade, with the boys' team winning four straight titles from 2011–2014. The wrestling team has won more Class A and New England Prep School Wrestling Association titles than any other team, most recently winning the Class A tourney in 2007 and 2003 and the New England tourney in 2001. It has also crowned a National Prep Wrestling champion, Rei Tanaka, in 1990. Both the girls' and boys' ice hockey teams have won New England championships recently.

When future major league baseball player Sam Fuld attended Phillips Exeter Academy, he led the baseball team to a league title as a junior in 1999, as he batted .600.[83] Fuld was named a 2000 Pre-season First Team All-American by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, USA Today, and Fox Sports.[83] He was also listed 19th among the 100 Top High School Prospects of 2000 by Baseball America, and selected the New Hampshire 2000 Gatorade High School Player of the Year.[83][84][85]

The boys' crew took first and fourth place at the U.S. Rowing Junior National Championships in 1996, 2002 and 2008 respectively.[86] In 2012 the boys' crew went to Henley-on-Thames in England to compete, but did not make it past heats. The boys' crew was the first organized sport at Exeter, and over its more than 100 years of competition has produced several Olympians, National Team members and numerous Division I rowers.

The girls' team took sixth place at the 2006 U.S Rowing National championships, fourth in 2007, third in 2008, second in 2009, and fourth in 2011. EGC swept the New England Championships in the 2009 and 2011 and has won the Gilcreast Bowl (overall team points) in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 1999, 1996, and 1994. Olympians include Anne Marden '76, Rajanya Shah '92, Sabrina Kolker '98, and Andréanne Morin '02. Many Exeter Girls' Crew graduates are recruited to Division 1 collegiate rowing teams and onto various national teams. In the past, many rowers at Exeter have pursued and achieved recognition on the US Junior National Team while still attending Exeter.

In 2012, Exeter Girls' Crew attended Women's Henley Regatta in Henley-on-Thames, England. All races are "dual" races with only two crews competing at a time, but the bracket is single-elimination with no repechage races or petite finals. In the final, Exeter raced against Mount St. Joseph Academy of Flourtown, Pennsylvania. Mount St. Joseph were favored going into the final, having won at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta. In a photo finish, Exeter triumphed by a mere two feet–equivalent to less than one-quarter second. For their victory, Exeter won the Peabody Cup and received memberships into the Vitrix Henley Women's Regatta Winners' Club.[87]

In November 2014, the boys' cross country program won their fourth consecutive NEPSTA title to establish themselves as the team with most consecutive titles in league history.

Student life[edit]

Exeter had a gendered dress code until June 2015.[88] Boys were required to wear collared shirts and ties or turtlenecks. Girls were required to wear non-revealing, appropriate attire. Skirts and shorts must reach finger-tip length, and straps may not be less than two fingers wide. Jeans were allowed for boys and girls; however, "hoodies," graphic T-shirts, and athletic wear are not permitted. The new dress code is gender neutral, and no longer requires ties. Dress code is required only in the classroom setting and Assembly.[89]

The academy has over 100 clubs listed. The number of functioning and reputable clubs fluctuates; several of the listed clubs on the website do not hold tables on Club Night. The Exonian is the school's weekly newspaper. It is the oldest continuously-running preparatory school newspaper in the United States, having begun publishing in 1878. Recently, The Exonian began online publication.[90] Other long-established clubs include ESSO, which focuses on social service outreach; and the PEAN, which is the academy's yearbook. Exeter also has the oldest surviving secondary school society, the Golden Branch (founded in 1818), a society for public speaking, inspired by PEA's Rhetorical Society of 1807–1820. Now known as the Daniel Webster Debate Society, these groups served as America's first secondary school organization for oratory and prepared students for the communication skills required for success at Harvard University.[91] The Model UN club has won the "Best Small Delegation" award at HMUN.[92] Exeter's Mock Trial Association, founded by attorney and historian Walter Stahr,[93] has since 2011 claimed seventeen individual titles, five all-around state titles, and a top-ten spot at the National High School Mock Trial Championship.[94]

Close to 80% of students live in the dormitories, with the other 20% commuting from homes within a 30-mile (50 km) radius. Each residence hall has several faculty members and senior student proctors. There are check-in hours of 8:00 pm (for first- and second-year students), 9:00pm (for third years), and 10:00 pm (for seniors) during the weekdays and 11:00 pm on Saturday night.[89]

Student body, Phillips Exeter Academy, ca. 1903

Religious life on campus is supported by the Religious Services Department, which provides a vintage stone chapel and a full-service ministry for the spiritual needs of students.[95] The chapel was originally built in 1895 and has been updated. It accommodates worship for "twelve religious traditions including Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Quaker, Buddhist, Catholic among others"[96] as well as Secular Humanism.[95]

Weekly attendance at the religious service of their choice was required of students until 1969, after which religion at Exeter languished until it was revived by a new approach "as concerned with the religious dimension of all of our lives as it is with the particular religious needs of any one of us." A renovation of Phillips Church, completed in 2002, provided spaces for worship and meditation for students of diverse religious persuasions.[97]

An incident of sexual misconduct that occurred in the basement of the church in late 2015 brought criticism to the school.[98]


Academy seal[edit]

Exeter has two chief symbols: a seal depicting a river, sun and beehive, incorporating the academy's mottos; and the Lion Rampant. The seal has similarities to that used by Phillips Academy—an emblem designed by Paul Revere—and its imagery is Masonic in nature. A beehive often represented the industry and cooperation of a lodge or, in this case, the studies and united efforts of Academy students. The Lion Rampant is derived from the Phillips family's coat of arms, and suggests that all of the Academy's alumni are part of the "Exonian family".

Exeter has three mottoes on the Academy seal: Non Sibi (Latin 'Not for oneself') indicating a life based on community and duty; Finis origine pendet (Latin 'The end depends on the beginning') reflecting Exeter's emphasis on hard work as preparation for a fruitful adult life; and Χάριτι Θεοῦ (Greek 'By the grace of God') reflecting Exeter's Calvinist origins, of which the only remnant today is the school's requirement that most students take two courses in religion or philosophy.[99]

School colors and the alumnus tie[edit]

There are several variants of school colors associated with Phillips Exeter Academy that range from crimson red and white to burgundy red and silver. Black is also a color associated with the school to a lesser extent. The official school colors are lively maroon and gray. The traditional school tie is a burgundy red tie with alternating diagonal silver stripes and silver lions rampant.

Notable alumni[edit]

Letter from President Abraham Lincoln to Mary Todd Lincoln, written from Exeter, where Lincoln was visiting son Robert Todd Lincoln, then an Exeter student. March 1860

Early alumni of Exeter include US Senator Daniel Webster (1796);[100] John Adams Dix (1809)[101] a Secretary of the Treasury and Governor of New York; US President Franklin Pierce (1820);[102] Abraham Lincoln's son and 35th Secretary of War Robert Lincoln (1860);[103] Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. (1870);[104] Richard and Francis Cleveland;[105] "grandfather of football" Amos Alonzo Stagg (1880);[106] Pulitzer Prize-winning author Booth Tarkington (1889)[107] and Hugo W. Koehler (1903), American naval spy during the Russian Revolution and step-father of United States Senator Claiborne Pell.[108][109] John Knowles, author of A Separate Peace and Peace Breaks Out, was a 1945 graduate; both novels are set at the fictional Devon School, which serves as an analog for his alma mater.[110]

Exeter alumni pursue careers in various fields. Other alumni noted for their work in government include Gifford Pinchot,[111] Lewis Cass,[112] Judd Gregg,[113] Jay Rockefeller,[114] Kent Conrad,[115] John Negroponte,[116] Bobby Shriver,[117] Robert Bauer[118] and Peter Orszag.[119] Alumni notable for their military service include Secretary of Navy George Bancroft, Benjamin Butler,[120] and Charles C. Krulak.[121] Authors George Plimpton,[122] John Knowles,[110] Gore Vidal,[123] John Irving (whose stepfather taught at Exeter),[124] Robert Anderson,[125] Dan Brown (whose father taught at Exeter),[126] Peter Benchley,[127] James Agee,[128] Chang-Rae Lee,[129] Debby Herbenick,[130] Stewart Brand,[131] Norb Vonnegut[132] and Roland Merullo[133] also attended the academy.

Other notable alumni include businessmen Joseph Coors,[134] Michael Lynton,[135] Tom Steyer,[136] Mark Zuckerberg,[137] David Goel,[138] and Stephen Mandel;[139] lawyer Bradley Palmer;[140] entrepreneur and presidential candidate Andrew Yang,[141] journalist Drew Pearson,[142] Dwight Macdonald,[143] James F. Hoge, Jr.,[144] Paul Klebnikov,[145] Trish Regan,[146] Suzy Welch,[147] and Sarah Lyall;[148] actors Michael Cerveris,[149] Catherine Disher,[150] Jack Gilpin,[151] and Alessandro Nivola;[152] film director Howard Hawks;[153] musicians Bill Keith,[154] Benmont Tench,[155] China Forbes,[156] Ketch Secor,[157] Win Butler[158] and William Butler;[159] historians Robert Cowley,[160] Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.,[161] and Brooks D. Simpson;[162] writers Roxane Gay[163] and Joyce Maynard;[164] screenwriter Tom Whedon;[165] baseball players Robert Rolfe[166] and Sam Fuld;[167] educators Jared Sparks[168] and Benno C. Schmidt, Jr.;[169] composer Adam Guettel;[170] humorist Greg Daniels;[171] mathematicians Shinichi Mochizuki,[172] David Mumford,[173] and Lloyd Shapley, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in economics;[174] economist Paul Romer, winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in economics,[175] computer scientist Adam D'Angelo (co-founder of Quora);[176] and philosopher and evolutionary biologist Daniel Dennett.[177]

Other academic programs[edit]

Summer school[edit]

Each summer, Phillips Exeter hosts over 780 students from various schools for a five-week program of academic study. The summer program accommodates a diverse student body typically derived from over 40 different states and 45 foreign countries.[178]

Exeter's summer school is divided into two programs of study: Upper School, which offers a wide variety of classes to students currently enrolled in high school who are entering grades ten through 12 as well as serving postgraduates; and Access Exeter, a program for students entering grades eight and nine, which offers accelerated study in the arts, sciences and writing as well as serving as an introduction to the school itself. Access Exeter curriculum consists of six academic clusters; each cluster consists of three courses organized around a focused central theme. Some of Exeter's summer school programs also give students the opportunity to experience studies outside of Exeter's campus environment, including interactions with other top schools and students, experience with Washington D.C., and travel abroad.[179]


The Academy offers a number of workshops and conferences for secondary school educators. These include the Exeter Math Institute; the Exeter Humanities Institute; the Math, Science and Technology Conference; the Exeter Astronomy Conference; and the Shakespeare Conference.[180]

The "On Beyond Exeter" program offers one-week seminars for alumni. Most courses are held at the Academy, but some meet in the locations central to the course's topic.

Historical endeavors[edit]

In 1952, Exeter, Andover, Lawrenceville, Harvard, Princeton and Yale published the study General Education in School and College: A Committee Report. The report recommended examinations that would place students after admission to college. This program evolved into the Advanced Placement Program.[181][182]

In 1965 Exeter became the second charter member (after Andover) of the School Year Abroad program.[183] The program allows students to reside and study a foreign language abroad.

In popular culture[edit]

Several works are based on Exeter and portray the lives of its students. Many are written by alumni who disguise Exeter's name, but not its character, such as John Knowles and his novel A Separate Peace.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elizabeth Phillips was recognized as co-founder of Phillips Exeter alongside her husband John in 2018.[1]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]