Exeter bids adieu to distinguished faculty

Ten leaders combined for 290 years of service to the Academy.

July 31, 2020

Rich Aaronian

Exeter’s greatest strength is the quality of its instructors. Few institutions can rival the experience and expertise of PEA’s faculty. 

That is why this summer is bittersweet as we say farewell to 10 members of the faculty who are retiring after long tenures at the Academy. Together, they have amassed 290 years of service, shaping the school through their passion for teaching and their devotion to the students. To understate the obvious: They will be missed. 

The PEAN yearbook editors gathered and shared at a virtual assembly testimonials from students, alumni and colleagues honoring the retirees.

Rich Aaronian

Instructor in Science, appointed 1971

"I had never been actively excited about waking up and going to class until Ornithology. Sure, some classes were more interesting than others, but I lost sleep over how excited I was to learn more from Rich, whether it be during a field trip or in the lab reviewing bird specimens. I think being able to inspire your passion in a student is the ultimate challenge for a teacher, and Rich managed to accomplish that with me and a suite of other Exonians who have gone on to contribute to the ornithological world. Exeter will have a gargantuan hole to fill in his absence.”
Henry Stevens ’14

Xitai Chen

Instructor in Mathematics, 1998

“Everyone who knows Mr. Chen talks fondly about his patience with students and rigorous attitude. We all have at some point put up the correct answer to a problem, albeit with lousy procedures, gotten roasted by Mr. Chen and prompted to elaborate our method, and eventually discovered flaws in our argument, or scenarios that hadn’t been considered. Mr. Chen taught me that the beauty of math exists not within the perfect solutions, but within the explorative, logic-based mathematical process.”
Gloria Sun ’20

Jean Farnum

Instructor in Physical Education, 1981

“I’ve loved working with Coach Farnum during my time at Exeter. She wants the best for her players and is always so supportive. She shows the most positivity when we’re competing and during practices. Her genuine personality makes her very easy to associate and communicate with. I’ll miss her light humor when traveling in the car to tournaments and her continuous encouragement.”
Tia Stockwell ‘20


Instructor Richard “Hobart” Hardej

Richard “Hobart” Hardej

Instructor in Mathematics, 1987

“Hobart’s steady hand, his ability to make everyone around him feel appreciated and wanted, and his great work ethic and organizational skills made him a great chair during his five-year appointment. Hobart concentrated on his first love of classroom teaching over the latter part of his career. His knowledge, compassion and empathy made him a student favorite, especially among his many students who profited from his extra help outside of class.” 
— Eric Bergofsky, Instructor in Mathematics

Michael Golay

Instructor in History, 2004

“As a student, I probably spent more time in Mr. Golay’s classroom than any other room on campus. Bleary-eyed and clutching a large coffee, I poked my head in multiple times a day, looking for hr help, support, advice, wisdom, a laugh, a quote, an idea for a headline, a cartoon on the blackboard. I was never turned away. He helped me pick classes, edit The Exonian and navigate tiffs with friends. He sat at the Harkness table and listened, fiddling with a pen and doodling little squares on a piece of scrap paper, as he carefully considered whatever problem I was facing. Mr. Golay’s capacity to listen and to care changed the lives of countless students, advisees and Exonian editors.”
Julia Ryan ’09

Connie Morse

Associate Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, 1997

“Ms. Morse is like a mother, friend and co-worker, all wrapped up in an adorable, curly-haired package of love. She has taken care of all of us in a way only she could. Just the other day I was complaining about how I was in between classes and did not have time for lunch because I had to prepare for my afternoon class. A few minutes later, Ms. Morse appeared in my doorway with a bowl of fruit and a cheese stick. She never forgot a birthday or significant personal event in our lives, and she always went out of her way to recognize us in unique ways. These acts of kindness happened often, and while she would say they are no big deal, they meant the world to me and my colleagues in the Lamont Health and Wellness Center.”
— Michelle Soucy, Chair of the Health Education Department


Cary Wendell

Cary Wendell

Technical Director and Instructor in Theater and Dance, 1998

“I’ll always be grateful for the fruitful conversations, the humility and generosity Cary brought to the table. His miniature 3D models growing into their final forms are forever burned in memory as treasured experiences of the stories we told together. I will forever see him with his painting shirt, scaffold and colored smudges. Perhaps what I will miss most is seeing him amble into the theater in a floral shirt, carrying a cup of coffee, ready to start the day and tackle the next step in our shared vision. Thank you, Mr. Wendell, for all of your years at the Academy.”
— Rob Richards, Instructor in Theater and Dance

Joe Wolfson

Instructor in Mathematics, 1987

“In class, Mr. Wolfson focused on making math interesting and honing in on issues that we might be facing. He made sure that the value of the course was to understand the material and grade you on your mathematical thinking, not just your calculations. I learned more in that class than I think I ever had in any other teacher’s. He made math fun for me, and I started to enjoy doing the homework. I can truly say that Mr. Wolfson has had such a positive effect on me.”
— Ervin Williams ’20

Lee Young

Associate Director of Admissions, 1986

“Ms. Young was really my first encounter with Exeter. I met her at the Exeter Evening in Miami, Florida, an event I walked into with many questions and doubts. By the end of the event, however, I walked out certain of my desire to join the PEA community. When I visited Phillips Exeter, Ms. Young was my interviewer. Through it all, her kindness made me feel like I belonged at Exeter. “
— Tina Fernandez ’20

Amy Schwartz
Instructor in History, 2001

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the summer 2020 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.

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