A Historic Celebration

On Sept. 15, 1970, the first female students took their seats at the Harkness table, beginning a fundamental and transformative change for the Academy that reverberates to this day. Join us for a yearlong celebration of coeducation at Exeter as we honor the voices of students, faculty, staff and alumni whose journeys have made Exeter a better school and whose potential will continue to shape it for years to come. 

Upcoming Events

December 1 , 2020
Her Voice in Journalism

Mary Lou Teel ’74

A conversation with Teel, producer at CBS “Sunday Morning,” and Mike Lynch ’72, sports correspondent at WCVB TV.

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December 15 , 2020
Her Voice in the Modern Family

Panel discussion moderated by Meghan Williams ‘93

Panelists include: Alanna Brown '05, Abena Higgins '03, Alison Mehan '07, Kit Ulrich '01 and Jean Yun '87; P'22'24.

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Coeducation Timeline

Click through to see important milestones from over the years.
  1. Founders Sign Deed of Gift

    - 1781, May 17

    John and Elizabeth Phillips formalize and sign the Deed of Gift, granting the land and assets for the establishment of Phillips Exeter Academy.

  2. Votes for Women

    Votes for Women

    - 1920, August 26

    The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting American women the right to vote is certified by the U.S. Secretary of State. On Nov. 2, 1920, more the 8 million women across the U.S. vote in elections for the first time.

  3. Survey: No Girls Allowed

    - 1930, March 22

    The Exonian reports results of an annual survey of the senior class. Twenty-eight respondents are reported to be in favor of coeducation at Exeter; 81 are against.

  4. Summer Session Leads Way

    Summer Session Leads Way

    - 1961, July 03

    Summer School admits 13 girls as day students. The following summer, a record enrollment of 237 students includes 62 girls, most of whom reside in Dunbar Hall.

  5. Faculty Panel Pushes Change

    - 1965, January

    A six-person Academic Planning Committee, chaired by Science Instructor C. Arthur Compton, presents to faculty and the Trustees a recommendation to admit up to 250 girls in grades 11 and 12 within two years.

  6. Trustees Reject Recommendation

    Trustees Reject Recommendation

    - 1965, December

    Principal Richard Day announces the Trustees' decision to reject the Academic Planning Committee's recommendation to admit girls but instead seek "coordinate education" opportunities by affiliating with “an independent girls boarding school down the road."

  7. Religion Classes Open Doors

    - 1968, April

    The Religion Department announces that a limited number of Exeter High School students, including girls, will be enrolled in Academy religion classes the following school year.

  8. First Woman Joins Faculty

    First Woman Joins Faculty

    - 1968, September 05

    The school year begins with the Academy's first full-time female faculty member, Anne W. Cunningham, Instructor in Mathematics.

  9. Strongly in Favor

    Strongly in Favor

    - 1969, January

    The Exeter Bulletin publishes results of a survey of students, faculty and alumni about several topics of concern for the Academy. On the subject of coeducation, students (88 percent) and faculty (77 percent) express strong support.

  10. Task Force Convened

    - 1969, March 01

    The Trustees announce the appointment of a committee of trustees, faculty, alumni and students "to carry out a thorough study of the mixed education of boys and girls at Exeter."

  11. Editors: ‘Transform’ Exeter

    - 1970, February 25

    The editors of The Exonian write in an editorial two days before the Trustees gather on campus, "We urge the Trustees to move forward as rapidly as possible towards transforming Exeter into a balanced coeducational school."

  12. Trustees Vote to Admit Girls

    Trustees Vote to Admit Girls

    - 1970, February 27

    The Trustees announce after a unanimous vote that Phillips Exeter Academy will admit girls starting in the fall.

  13. Coeducation Ushers in New Era

    Coeducation Ushers in New Era

    - 1970, September 15

    Principal Richard Day opens school with an address to 891 students, including 39 girls. "Let people say of this year that it was a happy one, a year in which we grew in awareness and understanding of each other, in which we made a fundamental change with wisdom and foresight."

  14. Nine Girls Among Graduates

    - 1971, June 05

    Nine girls are among the 183 seniors who take part in commencement exercises, becoming the first girls to be granted diplomas from Phillips Exeter Academy in the school's 190 years.

  15. First Boarders Transform Campus

    First Boarders Transform Campus

    - 1971, September 14

    Classes begin with 81 female boarders among the 128 girls enrolled for the 1971-72 school year. Bancroft and Hoyt halls are established as the first two girls dormitories.

  16. Six Women Join the Faculty

    - 1971, September

    The school year begins with 15 new faculty members, including Carol Ann Block (Music), Deborah Devecchi (Math), Nancy Jackson (English), Jane Scarborough (History), Karen Timmer (Physical Education) and Roslyn Grant (Modern Languages) who was also the first Black female teacher.

  17. Big Red Romps to Win

    - 1971, October 20

    Captain Holly Kistler ’72 scores four goals, and Liz Berman ’72 adds three more as the Exeter girls field hockey squad romps to its historic first victory, 13-0 over Cardinal Cushing.

  18. First Female Trustee Named

    - 1972, November 11

    Mary Patterson McPherson, a dean at Bryn Mawr College, is the first woman appointed to the Board of Trustees. McPherson is the first non-alumnus to become a trustee in a hundred years.

  19. New Tradition for Oldest Rivalry

    - 1973, November 07

    Girls teams compete in the annual Exeter-Andover rivalry for the first time, with Big Red falling to the Blue in girls soccer and field hockey.

  20. Strides Toward Equality

    Strides Toward Equality

    - 1973, December 20

    Three years after opening its doors to girls, the Academy reports the boy-girl ratio at PEA is 3:1.

  21. First Girl Awarded Top Rank

    First Girl Awarded Top Rank

    - 1974, June 06

    Harriet Sue Schwartz becomes the first girl to receive the Faculty Excellence Award (student of first rank), and six other girls are the first to graduate after attending the Academy for four years.

  22. Thomas Named Librarian

    Thomas Named Librarian

    - 1975, March

    Jacquelyn Thomas becomes Academy Librarian, the first woman to hold the post. She stays in the position for 35 years.

  23. Prep Girls Move into Dorms

    - 1977, September

    Ninth-grade girls admitted as boarders for the first time.

  24. Female Faculty Get Boost

    - 1980, April 11

    William L. Dunfey donates funds to further improve the status of women faculty.

  25. Gloria Steinem Highlights Exeter Conference

    - 1983, June 22

    Exeter hosts a national conference of more than 200 female educators on the topic of women educators in independent schools. Conference speakers include Gloria Steinem, Carol Gilligan, Estelle Ramey, Natasha Josefowitz, Pauli Murray and Eleanor Holmes Norton.

  26. Women Add to Faculty Ranks

    Women Add to Faculty Ranks

    - 1983, September

    The school year begins with 33 women on the faculty.

  27. Alumna Appointed to Trustees

    - 1984, Spring

    Susan M. Hunt ’75 is elected to the Trustees, becoming the first alumna appointed to Exeter’s governing board.

  28. Herney Named Dean of Students

    Herney Named Dean of Students

    - 1985, July 01

    Susan Jorgensen Herney becomes the first woman to serve as Dean of Students.

  29. O’Donnell Named 12th Principal

    O’Donnell Named 12th Principal

    - 1987, February 21

    Trustees announce appointment of Kendra Stearns O'Donnell as the 12th principal, the first woman to hold this position.

  30. 'A Place in History'

    'A Place in History'

    - 1987, September 21

    Kendra Stearns O'Donnell delivers opening assembly remarks as Academy's first female principal, welcoming students and faculty "not just to this lovely school . . . but to a place in history."

  31. Student Enrollment Nears Equality

    Student Enrollment Nears Equality

    - 1988, September 22

    The school year begins with a student enrollment of 985, including 424 girls (43 percent).

  32. Stewart Makes StuCo History

    Stewart Makes StuCo History

    - 1991, May

    Carmen Stewart '92, a rising senior from South Carolina, is the first girl to be elected president of Student Council.

  33. Kendrick Honored as First Emerita

    Kendrick Honored as First Emerita

    - 1993, July

    Dolores Kendrick, the Vira I. Heinz Instructor in English, becomes Exeter's first retiring woman instructor to be extended emerita status.

  34. 25 and Counting: Coeducation Celebrated

    25 and Counting: Coeducation Celebrated

    - 1995, September 25

    The Academy kicks off a yearlong celebration of 25 years of coeducation with an assembly that included honoring some of the first female faculty members.

  35. Academy Building Gets Facelift

    - 1996, April 16

    Academy Building facade receives new Latin inscription honoring the first quarter century of coeducation: "HIC QUAERITE PUERI PUELLAEQUE VIRTUTEM ET SCIENTIAM" ("Here, boys and girls, seek goodness and knowledge").

  36. O’Donnell Announces Retirement

    O’Donnell Announces Retirement

    - 1996, May 13

    Principal Kendra Stearns O'Donnell announces in a special all-school assembly her plans to step down at the end of the 1996-97 school year.

  37. Eggers Takes Over as Dean of Faculty

    Eggers Takes Over as Dean of Faculty

    - 2000, July 01

    Barbara Eggers, an instructor in history, becomes Dean of Faculty. She is the first woman to hold this position.

  38. 50-50 Split: Enrollment Evenly Divided

    - 2000, September

    The 2000-01 school year is the first in which male and female enrollment is evenly distributed, Director of Admissions Thomas Hassan reports.

  39. Cabildo Given Phillips Award

    Cabildo Given Phillips Award

    - 2011, November 01

    Maria Cabildo ’85 is the first alumna to receive the John Phillips Award, given annually to an Exeter graduate whose life emulates the founders’ ideals of goodness and knowledge united in noble character and usefulness to mankind.

  40. First Alumna to Head Trustees

    First Alumna to Head Trustees

    - 2015, May

    Eunice Johnson Panetta ’84 is formally elected president of the Board of Trustees. She is the first alumna to hold the position.

  41. Dress Code Sports New Look

    - 2015, May 11

    The faculty adopts revisions to the dress code to conform to gender-neutral guidelines. The new regulations no longer require boys to wear neckties and all students to wear a dress shirt, sweater, turtleneck, dress or ethnic attire to appointments.

  42. All-Gender Housing Offered

    - 2017, March

    The first all-gender housing options are announced, to open in fall 2017. Williams House and Kirtland House will serve to meet the needs of all students regardless of gender expression, gender identity, sex or sexual orientation.

  43. Director of DEI hired

    Director of DEI hired

    - 2018, July 26

    Stephanie Bramlett is hired to serve as the Academy’s first director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

  44. EPAC: Academy Center Renamed

    - 2018, September 07

    The Academy Center is renamed to honor Elizabeth Phillips, the wife of John Phillips, who equally devoted her money and care to establishing Phillips Exeter Academy in 1781. It will now be known as the Elizabeth Phillips Academy Center.

  45. Phillips Award Renamed

    Phillips Award Renamed

    - 2018, October 26

    Principal Rawson announces that henceforth the John Phillips Award will be renamed to the John and Elizabeth Phillips Award.

Coeducation News

From course studies to assembly speakers and special events, see how our community honors the legacy of coeducation, practices its values and looks toward the future.

Artists on identity

Artists on identity

11/17/20

Students share inspiration behind pieces featured in the Lamont Gallery’s “CRITICAL JOY” exhibition.

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Exeter alumna addresses challenges of vaccine allocation

Exeter alumna addresses challenges of vaccine allocation

11/16/20

Dr. Alison Buttenheim '87 spoke to an Exeter assembly about her work deciding who gets what, when.

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Coeducation pioneers

Coeducation pioneers

11/05/20

The faculty members who opened the doors for others. 

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Do you have a story to share?

Add your voice to this yearlong celebration by submitting a story on coeducation’s impact. Tell us about your time on campus or about how you are using your voice today — in your professions or within your community. 

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