Whatever chair you are sitting in now, whatever dorm room you are in now, whatever teacher you just had and whatever class that was in, have you ever stopped to think what famous people might have been in that exact same place? What do the authors of the bestsellers Jaws, The DaVinci Code, The World According to Garp and A Separate Peace, the founders of the famous social medias Facebook and Quora, the 14th president, the sons of the 16th and 18th presidents, the guy who is responsible for Texas being a part of the US and 4 female Olympian rowers have in common?
They all graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy.
The 14th US President, Franklin Pierce, graduated in 1820 from PEA. Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Lincoln, graduated in 1860. And Ulysses S. Grant’s son, Ulysses S. Grant Jr., too, graduated from Exeter, in 1870. Although a tough pill to swallow, we will be 50 years old someday, too, so embrace your time here, because whoever our generation’s presidents will be and whoever their children will be are and will most likely be amongst us here at Exeter.
Daniel Webster was a US Senator from Massachusetts who graduated from PEA in 1796. He was responsible for the annexation of Texas in 1845, which meant Texas would no longer be an independent country and instead the 28th state of the United States. He would have been president, too, only he supported anti-slavery which cost him votes in that era.
Authors Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code)–who was a day student and whose dad was a teacher and returns every fall to have dinner with the freshman–John Knowles (A Separate Peace), John Irving (The World According to Garp) and Peter Benchley (Jaws) all attended Exeter. Bret Easton Ellis and JD Salinger didn’t graduate from Exeter, but in his book, American Psycho, Ellis wrote a scene where the protagonist Patrick Bateman attends Exeter before committing a horrendous murder. And in his book, The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger incorporated a chapter in which Holden Caulfield is introduced to a boy who attends Exeter.
Norb Vonnegut also graduated from PEA–he is a cousin of Kurt Vonnegut, one of the most popular novelists and essayists in history.
As for the Olympians, Anne Marden (’76) went on to place second in rowing at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Rajanya Shah (’92) placed first in rowing at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Sabrina Kolker (’98) placed third in rowing at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. And Andreanne Morin (’00) placed fourth in rowing at the London 2012 Olympics.
At Exeter, we don’t just float your boat, we make sure it wins Olympic medals!
In 1952, Exeter, Andover, Lawrenceville, Harvard, Princeton and Yale published the study General Education in School and College: A Committee Report. This report suggested advanced classes be made for high school students to take in order to obtain credit for college. This program evolved into the—you guessed it—Advanced Placement Program. Next semester when you’re up to your neck in AP classes, you now know who to thank. And if you go to Exeter for the regular term, just know you all did it to yourselves.
In the early 2000s, every new and returning student would get his our her own copy of The Photo Address Book, PEA’s student directory. Since “The Photo Address Book” is a long and awkward name, the students renamed it—you guessed it—“The Facebook.” In Mark Zuckerberg’s senior year (he stayed in Kirkland House by the way), the school’s IT department put the full contents of Exeter’s Photo Address Book online.
The website domain name was at http://student.exeter.edu/facebook, with the URL directory—“facebook”—named after the students’ nickname for the physical book. Now, it is the second most trafficked website on earth, second only to Google. And if you have questions that are too big to be answered by Google, no worries, just download the app Quora, which answers just about any question you have about the world. Whoever the founder is, he must have had a darn good education to be so knowledgeable, which is probably true, because Adam D’Angelo graduated from PEA alongside Mark in 2002.
Whether you are posting selfies on Facebook, up to your neck in AP classes, watching or reading some of your favorite classic movies or books or wandering around Texas, just about anywhere you look in the US you can see a manifestation of what originally started out at Exeter. So look around well, because in every direction you look walk some of the most meaningful people of our future society walk as you read this paper.