The Exeter Way

Principal Bill Rawson ’71; P’08
October 1, 2022
Principal Bill Rawson walking along a path on Exeter's campus.

Exeter’s mission, captured powerfully in our Deed of Gift, to educate youth from every quarter in both knowledge and goodness, will never change.

During my Opening of School address in September, I told students, “What you will accomplish in life, how you will live useful lives and the difference you will make will be shaped by what you learn and do here.” Our commitment to graduating compassionate, lifelong learners influences everything we do at Exeter, just as it did 51 years ago when I entered the school as a new lower.

We do not stay excellent, however, by staying the same. The 50th anniversary of coeducation, which we will celebrate next year, is a profound reminder of that. The admittance of girls to Exeter critically redefined “youth from every quarter” and challenged our school community to think more broadly about the diversity of our student body — establishing, in the process, a greater need to ensure every member of our community has a deep sense of belonging and an equal opportunity to thrive here.

Our success or failure in this pursuit is measured one individual at a time, and we continue to put students first in all that we do — their health and wellness, their feelings of belonging, and their appetite for rigorous academic inquiry and thoughtful discourse. Each student should be able to thrive outside and inside of the classroom, and we see the two as related, not independent.

Last year, I hosted more than 30 events at Saltonstall House that included students. I have opened my doors to students again this year, and look forward to a year spent alongside them at the Harkness table, as well as through their dorm activities, extracurricular pursuits, athletic matches, performances, and other activities.

As a community, we are strong and in good health, but there are many opportunities for us to build upon the hard work already underway. I am grateful to work with a community of adults whose mindset of constant examination and innovation positions us to consider the future with great anticipation. We must steward Exeter with courage, confidence and humility to grasp our opportunities and to address our challenges. We will do this the “Exeter way,” with an unfailing commitment to excellence and personal growth; an accountability to oneself and others; respect, gratitude, humility and generosity of spirit. 

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the fall 2019 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.


Two students on the roof of Love Gym at Phillips Exeter Academy.

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Students work on a math problem together around a Harkness table.

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