Time flies quickly, numerous changes take place in the world — PEA is no exception. In this 100th summer, we wondered what it was like here years past when the session was six weeks or even longer. We invited some senior teachers who have long been contributing their talents to Exeter to talk about their experiences during the good old days.
I have taught in the English and History departments since 1980.
Where students are from:
I have always loved having students come to Exeter from around the United States and around the world. Twenty-five years ago students came from 38 states in the U.S. and 26 countries, and this summer there is almost the same number of states represented (37), but many more countries, 51. One important difference is that students now come from the People’s Republic of China, Eastern European nations such as Poland, and countries that used to be part of the former U.S.S.R. but are now independent. When I started teaching at Exeter, Germany was divided between the East and the West, and the only students from Germany came from the western part. Happily, now Germany is one nation.
Who the students are:
When I first taught at Exeter, my students lived mostly on the Academic side of the campus and in a separate series of sports camps the young athletes lived closer to the gym on the library side of campus.
Believe it or not, the lines were much longer for the Dining Hall.
Since there are no longer sports camps, the smaller total student population has enabled the Dining Hall to serve a much greater variety of food, including healthier options such as a large salad bar and vegetarian meals.
Better or Worse?
With a six week session, there were more choices of classes (which were smaller), more trips, and exciting cultural opportunities like two plays and several student musical performances.
But today there are many more total students who attend Exeter, with classes for both Access and Upper School. And the students who come to Exeter are just as motivated and thoughtful and kind as those in previous summers. And with the increase in diversity in recent years I have loved teaching students who come from both large cities in China and California to small towns in Mississippi and the island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
For students, having a smooth system of wireless connections means that one can email papers to teachers, sign up for trips, and chat with others in a matter of seconds. In the last century (!) when I began here students had to line up to see deans in person, use typewriters to write papers, and enter their dorms with keys instead of the swipe card.
At the end of the session, students said goodbye on a Saturday departure day at 7 a.m. as buses lined up on Tan Lane. Back then students could only stay in touch by writing letters or making expensive long distance phone calls. Now all can stay connected with modern technology, a great improvement. I hope they stay connected with each other, and and build on their Exeter experiences in positive ways.
I’ve been teaching at Exeter Summer School since the summer of 1983, so this is my 36th summer, or would be if I hadn’t missed a total of five summers in the 1980s and 90s.
I’ve seen many changes in the years I’ve been here. To begin with, up until about the year 2000, the Summer School lasted six weeks (in earlier years, before my time it was seven weeks!). When it was six weeks long, the atmosphere was a little more relaxed: there were no 90-minute “fat blocks,” but five 50-minute classes each week; each class skipped one day a week, for a free period. For example, there was no A-Format on Tuesday. With the longer session, some classes, like art and theater, were able to do bigger projects.
Another change has been more dormitories available, which has allowed more students to attend. When I started teaching in 1983, there were about 500 students; now we have over 750. Access Exeter, serving students in seventh and eights grades, was added to the Summer School around the year 2002, bringing younger students to a program organized in clusters rather than individual courses. It has been a great success and has grown in size every year since its foundation.
The new buildings that have been added in the 36 years since I started make the campus ever more exciting, inviting, and beautiful. New buildings include the Grainger Observatory (when I first came to Exeter there was no observatory and I had to drive to University of New Hampshire to borrow small portable telescopes to do any astronomy at all), the Phelps Science Building (the old Thompson Science Building has been changed into the Phelps Academy Center; you can see the exterior wall of the old building inside the new as you enter from the quad), and the spectacular new field house and theater which are just being finished now. In addition, all the dorms have been renovated to make them more comfortable, and the sport fields are constantly upgraded. Many buildings are now air-conditioned, making them much more comfortable on the hot summer days. We can hope that in the future all the dorms will be air-conditioned as well.
First, my jobs at Exeter Summer have been to work in and run dormitories (as a dormhead and dorm advisor) and also, starting in 1995, I became the Intern Coordinator for Residential Life and have been doing that ever since. So obviously, residential life has always been very important to me – to make sure that all of the students who come to Exeter feel at home.
Years ago, the Exeter Summer School was half the size it is now – there used to be a number of sports camps that were in session simultaneously so that the Summer School students only lived on the academic side of campus. Both programs shared the dining hall but were very separate programs. Once the sports camps ended, Phillips Exeter could dramatically enlarge its academic numbers and after that happened, Access Exeter was also introduced to allow a younger group of students to attend. The Summer School has always been international but it is better than ever now so that all of the students get to experience the “The World” coming to this New Hampshire school to share in the most amazing kind of learning – cultures are shared, Harkness learning takes place which gives every student a voice, and young people are given the chance to learn personal responsibility.
I would say that the biggest change, and most exciting one that I have seen over the years is the increase in scholarship opportunities offered here at Exeter in the summer. We still have more work to do to fundraise, but today, more students than ever are getting to experience this amazing learning opportunity. If I had one wish for the future of the program, it would be that we all could continue to give back and create even more scholarship opportunities for bright young students to come, study and grow here at Exeter Summer.
Coach Jim Tufts:
One of the difference would be the Field Day. It used to be on Sunday from 2 pm to 5 pm.
There used to be several competitions between Andover and Exeter during the afternoon. Andover brought all the students up to the Exeter campus and competed with Exeter in tennis, basketball, swimming and so forth.And the next year, we would bring all the students up to Andover to compete in sports with them. But we stopped doing this as Exeter became much bigger.
Also, there was a major production play at the end of Summer School and students could have 5 weeks to prepare for it. But now there are only one play which would be smaller as students have less time to practice.