Sam Maruca

Year of Graduation: 
1973
A man in a dark suit.

"The school is always striving to be better, to pursue ever more successfully its mission of gathering “youth from every quarter” and instilling in them “goodness and knowledge.”

As a member of the inimitable class of 1973, I am eagerly anticipating a return to campus in 2023 for our 50th reunion. Getting together with classmates every five years has been a high point in recent decades. I treasure those relationships — forged in the fire of a time that included the Vietnam draft and the Kent State shootings, frequent demonstrations (even in New Hampshire) and rather frosty interactions between many of the students and some of the faculty.

I was one of the many “casualties” of those years. Suffice to say, I am an alumnus of my class but not a graduate. From time to time, I am asked, with evident incredulity: “How is it that, even though you were required to leave Exeter, you have given regularly; served as a class agent and class president; sent all three of your sons to the Academy; and now contribute your time and energy as a GAA director and trustee? Why are you so attached to the institution?”

I have a number of answers to that question, two of which you would hear from thousands of other Exonians explaining their allegiance to the school. It’s where I got 90% of my education — the ability to think critically and to write and present effectively, along with the humility to realize that lots of folks are smarter, more athletic and better looking. It’s where I made deep and lasting friendships with a group of extraordinarily talented and fundamentally decent people — the kind you would want in your foxhole. Those friendships have endured for almost 50 years.

I also have a fundamental appreciation for the institution itself. Exeter is far from perfect, and everyone who has passed through the doors of the Academy Building — student, faculty or administrator — is imperfect. But the school is always striving to be better, to pursue ever more successfully its mission of gathering “youth from every quarter” and instilling in them “goodness and knowledge.” It has fallen, and will fall, short of these lofty goals, but I don’t think Exeter will ever simply rest on its laurels.

In the mid-1970s, the turbulent times referenced above, Exeter’s leadership recognized that it had a problem, as dozens of students left or were forced out; students and faculty were virtually at war. This led to changes in leadership and, among other advances, the cultivation of a “kinder and gentler” approach to student discipline. Judging from my experience as an Exeter parent, the school is an entirely different, and better, place in that very important dimension.

Today, perhaps the most pressing issue on campus is racism. Many students of color at Exeter simply do not feel safe, much less respected as equal human beings. Principal Rawson has recognized the urgency and imperative of mitigating, and eventually eliminating, racism at Exeter. He has said that overcoming racism is a predicate to any claim of excellence. Indeed, the campus has more affinity spaces, the Trustees have made the DEI Task Force an official committee, and the school has expanded the Core Values Project curriculum, among other important initiatives.

Exeter has demonstrated a willingness to change. More important, Exeter’s leadership understands that ultimately, the stakeholders will judge the school on its actions, not on its rhetoric. I have faith that, over the next few years, Exeter will continue to make concrete gains in its effort to become a more diverse, and genuinely antiracist, institution. But we all must continue to press constructively for real change, and to support Exeter’s efforts as we are able. With that support, Exeter can and will do better.

I look forward to working with the alumni and Academy leadership to foster continued excellence at Exeter.

 

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the fall 2022 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.