Madhur Deora

Year of Graduation: 

"While I hope that my kids embody the spirit and gift of Exeter in their lives, I feel that I must do the same in ways that I have been too busy or distracted to do so far."

As I sat on the Academy lawn on a gorgeous June morning, surrounded by family and friends of the graduating class of 2022, I was filled with joy, nostalgia and pride. Listening to class president Bona Yoo’s Commencement address, I felt that she spoke to both the parent and the alumnus in me. Her reflections on everything that Exeter has meant to the class of 2022 — deep friendships and community, living up to the school’s mission, growing up during their time there — made me proud and content for my daughters, Krisha ’22 and Naisha ’22, and also brought back memories of my time as a student. It was almost as if she were carrying me back to my time at Exeter and encouraging me to relive my memories and re-understand what the school meant for me.

I turned up at campus 28 years ago, a day after landing in America from India for the first time, unprepared for all that I had signed up for. It was a time when Exeter was more disconnected from the outside world — news traveled slowly, and it was hard to be in regular touch with friends, family or even parents. Exeter felt special in all the ways it still does today, but it also felt like a regular, isolated, small town with a department store, a movie theater and a convenience store where Me & Ollie’s now is.

So much has changed, yet many of the important things have held strong. Just as I learned everything from Shakespeare and Russian to NFL rules (before the Patriots had won their first Super Bowl!) and how to precisely land the perfect squash serve, my daughters have grown in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. While they started at Exeter more prepared — having grown up in a diverse school, and having traveled around the world in their early years — the adults and their peers at Exeter have helped them to expand their horizons and ambition. They have learned to make lifelong friends, push themselves academically and in sports, and find new interests in hobbies and community engagement. It has been incredibly gratifying to see them grow in confidence, independence and intelligence.

From the time we dropped our daughters at Exeter Summer three years ago, we have been enveloped with the generous warmth and care of the Exeter community. We have had the privilege of thanking Principal Bill Rawson at Saltonstall House for the school’s efforts during COVID; running into Dean Weatherspoon and his wife outside Elm Street dining hall; and enjoying numerous Zoom calls with faculty, advisers and college counselors. These opportunities to renew my connection with the Exeter community as a parent over the past three years, the inspiring words of Principal Rawson and others at the graduation ceremony, and the act of writing this reflection have encouraged me to encounter the privilege of my Exeter education (or as I often describe it, “the greatest gift that I ever received”). It has nudged me to pursue a life that lives up to the true potential of an Exeter education and the spirit of non sibi.

While I hope that my kids embody the spirit and gift of Exeter in their lives, I feel that I must do the same in ways that I have been too busy or distracted to do so far. In this way, Exeter has renewed its gift to me, for which I am even more grateful.  

This essay first appeared in the summer 2022 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.