Phillips Exeter Academy

From Academic Kids

Phillips Exeter Academy (also called Exeter or PEA) is a co-educational independent boarding school located on 471 acres (1.9 km²) in Exeter, New Hampshire, USA, one hour north of Boston.

Photo of the Academy Building
The Academy Building
Missing image
PEA Seal

The Academy Seal
School Type Private Boarding School
Founded 1781
Religious Affiliation None
Principal Tyler C. Tingley
Location Exeter, NH, USA
Campus Surroundings Township
Campus Size 471 acres
Number of Buildings 126
Faculty 191
Enrollment 1052 Total
845 Boarding
207 Day
Average Class Size 12 Students
Student/Teacher Ratio 5:1
Average 2004 SAT Score 691 Verbal
699 Math
Athletics 21 Interscholastic Sports
62 Interscholastic Teams
School Color(s) Red and White/Gray
Mascot Lion Rampant
Web Site

Exeter is widely considered among the preeminent boarding schools in the world, alongside Phillips Academy and Eton. It is perhaps most well known for its demanding and rigorous academics. Graduates typically matriculate to the elite colleges, a tradition that has solidified long-standing relationships with Ivy League and other prestigious liberal arts colleges.

The school was established in 1781 by John and Elizabeth Phillips. It shares a time-honored rivalry with its sister school, Phillips Academy, also known as Andover. Like Andover, the Academy's primary Latin motto is Finis Origine Pendet, meaning "the end depends upon the beginning," and it is scrolled across the bottom of the school seal. The school's secondary motto, Non Sibi, located in the sun, means "not for one's self." The Deed of Gift, written by John Phillips at the founding of the school, articulates a second pedagogical philosophy in addition to that of self-sacrifice: "Though goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous." Every year, the principal is required to speak on this theme at the school's opening assembly.

Since a 1930 gift by the oil magnate and philanthropist Edward Harkness, the Academy's principal mode of instruction has been by discussion, "seminar style," around an oval table (known as the "Harkness table.") Classes are restricted to small sizes to encourage participation of all the students. "Harkness" classes are Exeter's trademark, and they are considered the world's finest method of teaching-- so effective, in fact, that schools from around the world have attempted to copy the method. However, Exeter still remains the home of Harkness teaching and education. No where else are Harkness classes taught with such dedication or so central to the identity of the institution.

Phillips Exeter has been co-educational since 1970, prior to which it was an all-boys school.

The Academy greatly values an international perspective which is reflected in the student body and the numerous study abroad programs offered. Currently, 31 different countries and five continents are represented in the student body. In addition to the traditional year-long programs offered in China, Spain, Italy and France through the School Year Abroad (SYA) program, the Academy sponsors semester-long programs in Stratford, England; Grenoble, France; Krasnodar, Russia; Göttingen, Germany; and Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Athletics are an important part of the school's history. The Exeter/Andover football rivalry is the oldest in the country, and is considered by its participants to be one of the most important rivalries in all of sports. Exeter's hockey, lacrosse, and crew teams are also a big source of pride. The Academy has produced Olympians and professional athletes.

The campus is known for its modern library, designed by Louis Kahn. At present, the Class of 1945 Library houses 145,000 volumes and has a shelf capacity of 250,000 volumes. It has a unique architectural shape, formed to resemble four books resting against each other. It is the largest secondary school library in the world.

Phillips Exeter currently has the largest endowment of any secondary school in the United States at a market value of about $639,000,000 (as of June 30, 2004). This yields a per-student endowment of $600,000, higher than the per-student endowments at Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, U-Penn, and Cornell. In the fall of 2004, Exeter announced a capital-raising program: Exeter Initiatives. Exeter Initiatives is the most ambitious capital-raising program in the history of secondary schools; it is intended to raise $305,000,000. The Exeter Initiatives is also the most ambitious capital-raising program per capita (dollars/number of alumni) in the history of American education.

Phillips Exeter was the inspiration for the Devon School in John Knowles' novels, A Separate Peace and Peace Breaks Out.

As Exeter, New Hampshire, was the birthplace of author John Irving, it is said that the town and the school appears in many of his books, most notably, A Prayer for Owen Meany.


Notable alumni

Books or movies with portrayals of Exeter alumni, students, or staff

Exeter slang and jargon

  • 333 - The title of the American history course required of all uppers, and also the name of the paper required by the said course. The best papers are often published in academic journals.
  • Academy Life Day - A day set aside early in the fall term to allow students and faculty to engage in some special activities in dorm, adviser/advisee, or day student groups.
  • Bubble - The semi-circular glass enclosure on the North side (facing Webster Hall) of Wentworth Hall.
  • The Cage - Building across from the soccer and baseball fields which housed the indoor track, wrestling room, and provided indoor training facilities for numerous other sports during inclement winter weather.
  • D-Hall - Either one of the Wetherell or Elm Street dining halls.
  • Dick - A verb form of dickey, meaning both the act of a student missing a class and the act of a teacher turning in an absence slip, as in, "I dicked that class," and, "I just got dicked." The term dates back to the 1930s when Wells Kerr served as the Dean of Students (actually Mr. Kerr served in that position from 1930 to 1953). The students of the time viewed Mr. Kerr as being very honest and fair-minded. They made a connection between Mr. Kerr and Dickey Kerr, the one honest starting player employed by the White Sox during the scandalous 1919 World Series and so began calling Mr. Kerr, "Dickey." Notes received from Mr. Kerr (which were often about attendance) were eventually referred to as "dickeys," and the rest evolved from there.
  • Dickey - An absence slip. (See Dick.)
  • Discipline Committee - Also known by its initials, D.C., a committee composed of faculty and non-voting students who convene to determine the disciplinary response to a rule violation after hearing from the student(s) involved.
  • D.H.M. - A term used by students to describe their quest to understand a text--that is, to uncover or discover the Deep Hidden Meaning of a text. One of the hallmarks of the English Department.
  • E.P. - (See Evening Prayer.)
  • Evening Prayer - Also known as E.P. A non-denominational service, held weekly (Tuesday evenings, 9:30pm) in Phillips Church. Typically quiet and candlelit, this service usually involves performances by student musicians or readings from various traditions. Very popular with students, perhaps because of the inspiration found in a typical service, perhaps because underclassmen can check-out of their dormitories forit, or perhaps because it is known as a nice way to spend some time with someone you like very much or on a first date.
  • Exonian - The student newspaper, the longest continuously published secondary school newspaper in the country.
  • Fac-Brat - A term of endearment (we believe) used to refer to the sons and daughters of faculty, usually those who live on campus.
  • Fac-Proc - A regular meeting of the faculty and proctors of a dormitory. Here the well-being of individual students as well as general dorm issues are discussed.
  • Facebook or Face Book - The Photo Address Book. A source for student, faculty, and staff photos, phone numbers, home addresses, etc. The print version is available for sale in the Academy Bookstore. A digital version is available free of charge on the on-line campus computer network.
  • Fat Block - Class meeting of 1 hour and 15 minutes, each format has one of these perr week, used for labs, extended classes, or testing.
  • Fishbowl - Windowed dining room in Wetherell Dining Hall.
  • Grill - Snack bar found in the basement of the art building. Traditionally, Exonians omit the article “the” when referring to it, as in: “Let’s go to Grill.”
  • Illegal V’s - Visitations (see definition under “V’s” in this lexicon) that do not enjoy faculty permission and may be outside the allowed times for visiting.
  • Late-lights - Preps and lowers who have not completed their work by 10:30 may ask faculty on duty to extend their bedtime (varies from dorm to dorm).
  • Marking Period - The points in a term when teachers report a student’s progress in his courses, done at the midpoint and the end of each term. Midterm grades are not final, but are used to gauge students’ academic progress.
  • Meditation - Thursday mornings, Phillips Church, speakers from Academy community talk for 20 - 25 minutes about something important to them. Attendance is not required.
  • Lower or Lower-Middler - A 10th grader, sophomore.
  • Midnight Scream - This ritual involves yelling out the nearest dormitory window at midnight on the last night of each term.
  • Opt - Sports option. An upper or senior can choose not to participate in a physical education activity or sport for one term each year. Doing so is referred to as “opting.”
  • Out-of-Towns - Written permission required for students to leave the Academy for a day trip out of the Exeter area or for an overnight visit somewhere.
  • PEAN - The yearbook. Greek for "song of praise" and a pun on the name of the school.
  • Petition - If a student needs to miss a required Academy appointment (class, sport commitment, Assembly, dormitory check-in, etc.) for any reason, she should =complete a petition form as early as possible. The Deans consider these requests during their regular meetings.
  • P.O. - The Academy Post Office. When Exonians refer to it, they omit the article “the.” For example: “Are you going to P.O.?”
  • PG - A post graduate student. A student that has already graduated from another high school and is doing an additional year of high school.
  • Prep or Junior - A 9th grader, freshman.
  • Psych - Little treats, notes of encouragement, signs, etc. given to athletes by teammates, managers, coaches, or friends on the day of a contest.
  • R.A.L. - Reporter-at-large paper written by uppers (third-year students) for their English class.
  • Red Bandits - Students (usually seniors) who aim to ignite school spirit at athletic contests, particularly the Exeter/Andover contests.
  • Senior Spring - The final term in an Exonian's time at Exeter, typically consisting of an easy course schedule, hanging out with friends, and having a last hurrah. However, a failed course during this term will result in the awarding of no diploma.
  • Smurfs - A nickname for Andover students. (Their school color is blue.)
  • Spaz - a.k.a. prep-spaz or Prep Program. A fond nickname for the ninth-grade physical education program required of all preps not playing a varsity or JV sport in a given term.
  • Study Hours - Those periods of the day when classes or Assemblies are normally held, and after 8 p.m. every night except Saturday.
  • Upper or Upper-Middler - An 11th grader, junior.
  • Visitations or V's - Visitation privileges required to have a member of the opposite sex in one's dorm room. An unauthorized visitation is called an Illegal V, and can result in disciplinary action.

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