Over the years, numerous successful and intelligent women have played a pivotal role in the history of this ancient and esteemed institution. Some have influenced gender equality and creative expression, displaying leadership and ingenuity.
Kendra Stearns O’Donnell is cherished as the 12th principal of the Phillips Exeter Academy, serving from 1987 to 1997. Being the first female principal of any all-boys school led to more diversity of students and faculty, the change progressing slowly but surely. Years before O’Donnell became principal, in 1970 Exeter admitted women for the first time, altering the campus forever. The transition was steady, numbers of female students rising each year, though O’Donnell felt as if the progression wasn’t complete, needing to place one more step into action. She soon also started to bring in female teachers. By 1987, female students started to obtain prestigious scholarships, and appear on rosters for different sports. Since then, the number of minorities and women in general have also doubled, showing impact from O’Donnell’s time.
Along with faculty and teachers, there have been many students who have influenced change around the campus. Carissa Chen, 2017 graduate, came a long way since attending Exeter. She had started off with playing piano, slowly shifting to the visual arts. At Exeter, her teachers encouraged her to start writing, and showcasing her feelings through words. Carissa started writing poetry for fun, though soon it became more. She started applying for programs, and competitions. Carissa earned a Scholastic Gold Medal Portfolio, giving her $10,000, which she put towards her education at Harvard University. Over the path of discovering what she loved to do, Carissa continues to show growth in the visual arts, paintings, poems, and drawings, portraying social activism.
These are two among many other amazing female faculty and students from Exeter. Both women displayed determination in what they believe in, and carried through with their visions and dreams, giving inspiration for generations to come.