Andy Hertig '57 receives Founders' Day Award

Retired history instructor honored for his lifelong service to Exeter.

Sarah Pruitt '95
May 20, 2022

Andy Hertig ’57 made an impact on the Academy as a student, as an influential instructor and as the father of three Exeter graduates. Friday, that influence was recognized when he was awarded the 2022 Founders’ Day Award at an all-school assembly.

An instructor in the History Department from 1968 to 2013, Hertig also served as department chair, two-time director of the Washington Intern Program, longtime dorm head of Wheelwright Hall and dean of faculty. As a respected leader among his colleagues, Hertig steered efforts to equalize workload across departments and pioneered the step system to make faculty compensation fairer and more transparent.

“Your humility, integrity and steadfast belief in the importance of the faculty voice helped shape the Academy’s faculty into a true community, governed by civility, respect and a sense of utmost care for one another,” said General Alumni Association President Janney Wilson '83 when delivering the award citation.

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Over the course of his career, Hertig received such major faculty awards as the Rupert Radford Faculty Fellowship Award, the Brown Family Faculty Award and the George S. Heyer Award. Parent to three Exonians from the classes of 1983, 1986 and 1988, he is an honorary member of the classes of 1931, 1969 and 1983.

“It has been said that if one likes one’s job, it’s not really work, and I think that generalization applies to me," Hertig said in his opening remarks. “To have such supportive colleagues, who stimulated my thinking, improved my teaching and encouraged me to embrace new opportunities, was indeed a privilege.”

Even more important, Hertig stressed, were the “literally thousands” of students he encountered during his long career. “Their eagerness to learn and tackle the challenges of adolescence inspired me on a daily basis,” he said.

Returning to Exeter

Hertig spoke of his childhood in the Boston suburb of Winchester, and his mixed reaction to his parents’ decision to send him to an all-boys boarding school. He arrived at Exeter as a new upper in 1955, and didn’t particularly enjoy his experience. “I am not athletic nor especially gregarious … and I spent most of my time coping with the workload,” he said. “If you had told me I would spend most of my adult life here, I would have been dismayed, to say the least.”

After graduating from Harvard and serving in the U.S. Army, Hertig entered a Ph.D. program in history at Berkeley, where he was ostensibly preparing for a career teaching at the college level. “I recognized that I was unlikely to find a job at an institution with students as interesting as at Exeter,” Hertig recalled. “So, I returned…and the students met my every expectation.”

In the History Department, Hertig took on the task of shaping the course on Ancient Greece, delighting in drawing parallels between The Odyssey and modern-day life. He and other colleagues also developed a course called “War and Peace,” which used lessons of past conflicts to inform students’ understandings of present ones; it remains on the curriculum today, as HIS508: Understanding Violence, War and Peace.

The advent of coeducation 

Hertig’s early years on Exeter’s faculty coincided with the school’s momentous transition to coeducation, a shift that he focused on in his speech. “The first years were difficult,” he recalled. “Early on, the small number of female students and faculty undoubtedly felt isolated and sometimes misunderstood.”

Hertig and his late wife, Anne, helped ease that feeling for many of those early female students. They moved into Wheelwright Hall when it switched from a boys dorm to a girls dorm, and over the next 16 years made it into a nurturing and fun home for its residents. In 1988, when they moved out of the dorm, a group of Wheelwright alumnae recognized their outstanding dorm parenting by founding the Anne and Andy Hertig Fund for Dorm Life.

As dean of faculty during the administration of Kendra Stearns O’Donnell, the first woman to serve as Exeter’s principal, Hertig advocated for more women in leadership roles and a more diverse faculty overall. He also introduced the step system, which replaced a relatively arbitrary method of faculty compensation with a scale based on teachers’ levels of education and experience.

At O’Donnell’s request, he stayed on as dean of faculty for two additional years past the five-year term, before returning to the classroom full time in 1995. Upon his retirement in 2013, he spoke eloquently in his last faculty meeting, as Wilson recalled in the citation, “of the faculty’s duty to help lead the school, and to be thoughtful, honest and caring with students and each other.”

The need for open dialogue 

In his speech, Hertig praised “early coeducation pioneers” Susan Herney and Jackie Thomas — both past recipients of the Founders’ Day Award — for their work to support women at Exeter and foster open dialogue about the challenges involved with introducing coeducation. He likened some aspects of that transition, and those challenges, to current concerns around balancing free speech and the inclusion of different opinions with the worthy goal of furthering equity and inclusion in the classroom and community.

“One of the lessons I think we can take from the women who led the transition to coeducation at Exeter is the importance of dialogue as a means of reaching some sort of common understanding,” Hertig said. “Threats discourage productive conversation — a serious impediment to learning in a school based on discussion-oriented conversation.”

The Founders’ Day Award was established by the Trustees in 1976, and is given annually in recognition of devoted service to the Academy. In his closing remarks, Hertig spoke of the decision to rename “Founder’s Day” to honor Elizabeth Phillips as well as her husband, John. This was made, he said, after Principal O’Donnell investigated the historical circumstances of the school’s founding and discovered that the money used to finance it came from Elizabeth’s inheritance.

“What else have we yet to learn about our present way of thinking, and how can we maintain a sense of community while still acknowledging our differences?” Hertig asked the assembled students. “That is your challenge. I wish you well.”