Exeter Deconstructed: The Gavit Cup

July 25, 2022

Joseph Lamont Gavit, class of 1917, arrived at Exeter at the beginning of his upper year. A gifted writer, Gavit took after his father, John Palmer Gavit, himself a play-wright and newspaperman. “He is a very wizard with his pen,” the yearbook said of him, but the younger Gavit also made his mark as president of the debate society, a church monitor and secretary-treasurer of the senior council. 

Sadly, just three years after graduating from Exeter, Gavit died of typhoid fever while a student at Harvard. His grieving parents established an annual prize in his name to be awarded to an upper “chosen by classmates and the principal of the Academy in special recognition of character and quality … in conduct, work, and play.”

In a letter to Principal Lewis Perry, Lucy Lamont Gavit and John Palmer Gavit specified that “the choice should not be made primarily on the basis of scholarship or marks, or primarily on the basis of athletic prowess or distinction; or of any other single factor,” but rather for “character as a whole.”

Gavit’s father presented the Gavit Cup to the first recipient on graduation day in 1923. “His mother and I have come here today to present to this school a modest token in his memory,”  he said. “A symbol of no great intrinsic value, but of exceptional significance.”

This spring, the Gavit Cup was awarded for the 100th time, one of the school’s longest enduring prizes among the scores awarded to deserving Exeter students. Krish Patel ’23, a day student from Dover, New Hampshire, is the newest holder. His challenge is to strive to live up to the cup’s legacy.

At the cup’s first awarding, Perry said: “A great many memories cluster around the name Joe Gavit. Those of us who were here in 1917 remember him with great affection. I hope that Joe got something from Exeter; I know that Exeter got much from Joe.”  

This story first appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.