Addie Luce

Year of Graduation: 
2021

“I don’t want to set something in stone when I know that there are so many opportunities I don’t even know exist yet.”

Addie Luce ’21 arrived at Exeter a world-champion tap dancer. She was shy in a crowd and struggled to find her place as a ninth-grade day student.

She will graduate in June as a Division I college rower, poised and popular with her dorm mates and lamenting the time on campus lost to the pandemic.

Hers is an evolution that underscores the Academy as a place for self-discovery. Sitting in the quiet of an empty Saltonstall Boathouse, Luce recounts her journey and looks ahead to her final term of high school and her last season rowing on the Squamscott River.

“Before I came, I was watching all these videos and looking at what the student body looked like, and it made me really excited — but I was like, ‘They’re all really mature and that’s not me,’” she recalls. “And I thought, ‘Maybe one day it will be.’”

She lives in McConnell Hall now, having converted to a boarder her lower year. By then, she had enjoyed two transformative experiences: a debut spring season as a prep with Big Red girls crew and a summer break trip to Yellowstone National Park led by Biology Instructor Townley Chisholm. Both events shaped the three years that followed.

“I left that [Yellowstone] trip designing the courses I would take at Exeter to revolve around Mr. Chisholm’s classes,” says Luce, who has taken every biology course the Academy offers. “I often stayed at the back of the line when hiking to talk to him about anything and everything. His passion for science and biology amazed me — and still does.”

The trip came on the heels of her first time in a rowing shell. An accomplished dancer (“I think I partly got into Exeter because I won the World Tap Dance Championships in Germany”) and a soccer player before PEA, she felt neither pursuit was a fit for her here. Luce and her mother would drive past Lake Cochichewick near their home in Boxford, Massachusetts, on the way to dance lessons and see crews on the water. “‘That is the most beautiful sport,’ my mom would say.”

Luce, looking for an activity to fill a void, took a shot.

“I wasn’t the best,” she reports. “I was on the sixth boat, which is the worst of the novice.” She attended a rowing camp that summer, then hit the weight room in fall of her lower year. Her progress got her noticed.

“There was one day where they were practicing for the Head of the Charles and someone was missing, and they asked me to go on a boat,” she recalls. “That was like, ‘Oh, wow. They believe in me a little bit.’”

“I kind of ran with that,” she says. “I came back lower spring and I was going to be on the top three boats or the top two or three. And then I had an amazing season in my lower year. I found my place.”

Luce credits her crew coaches, Classical Languages Instructor Sally Morris and English Instructor Becky Moore, for dishing out the appropriate portions of support and challenge to motivate her, and the skill and strength of her best friend and fellow captain Nina Weeldreyer ’21 — bound for Princeton’s top-ranked program — to inspire her. The result for Luce is a spot on the roster at the University of Virginia. She signed a national letter of intent last fall.

Rowing is her only firm plan for college at the moment. She has yet to decide on a major and has learned from her four years at Exeter to remain open to possibility.

“I know that things change, and I don’t want to set something in stone when I know that there are so many opportunities I don’t even know exist yet.”