Janet Yang '74 recalls Exeter's 'inclusive' environment

Filmmaker shares stories of her experiences as one of the first girls to enroll.

October 6, 2020

Janet Yang’s Hollywood career as a producer stretches 35 years and includes films such as “Empire of the Sun,” “The Joy Luck Club” and “The People vs. Larry Flynt.” Her most recent screen work is must-see viewing for Exonians.

The class of 1974 graduate spent a recent evening in a Zoom conversation with actor Jeff Locker ’89, recalling her years as an Exeter student and the impact they had on her life and career. The hourlong discussion was presented to PEA alumni as part of the Academy's celebration, "Her Voice at the Table: 50 Years of Coeducation at Exeter."

Yang arrived at Exeter from Long Island in 1971 among the school's first 81 female boarding students. The Academy was only in its second year of coeducation, and Yang remembers the gender disparity in the enrollment as being “a little weird” at times. More so, Yang recalls a “cross-section of people that will never be replicated in my life.”

“We didn’t talk about it much at the time, but it was an incredible mix of talent… Incredible, superlative people in so many different ways,” said Yang, who counted an artist, a pianist and an Olympic skater among her friends. “It was inclusive before inclusive became a trend.”

“So many people from such completely different backgrounds, and yet, there we were, in a very intimate setting — around the Harkness table, at the cafeteria, in a dormitory. So, there was a very natural way to interact. Even someone from Colorado to me felt exotic,” she laughed. “It was pretty cool.”

Watch the full conversation below:


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