Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

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June 27, 2013

Adams left a conservative mark on Phillips

The following article appeared in the Phillips Academy newspaper, The Phillipian, on Feb. 1, 1967. It highlights events at the school during John Adams’ reign in the early 1800s:

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While John Adams, the fourth principal of Phillips Academy, was “ruling” with his iron hand, a good many minor revolutions took place.

By 1815, the trustees had established an entrance fee of $5. The regular cost of tuition “to be used for fuel, incidental expenses and tuition” was soon set at $5 a quarter, twice that of 1780.

The second academy building, built on the spot of the present armillary sphere, was manifestly inadequate in terms of the requirements of the growing school. When it was destroyed by fire in January 1818, Adams made a vigorous appeal for funds, and $13,252.73 was appropriated to construct the present-day Bulfinch Hall.

A catalog of the school was printed for the first time. In 1820, at Adams’ suggestion, the trustees arranged prescribed studies for a diploma, the required courses being outlined under 20 heads, of which 13 were classical and two mathematical. Every boy also had to learn to sing and to take lessons from a writing master. It was during this period that the school came closest to satisfying the desires of its founders.

Adams’ influence, however, was exhibited most decisively in the field of morals and religion. Himself a devout and earnest man, he felt a sense of responsibility for the spiritual welfare of his students. Dancing was of course forbidden, and when a rash Frenchman proposed starting a dancing academy in town, Adams attempted with eventual success to have him ejected by the citizens of Andover (”An Old New England School,” Claude Fuess). Smoking, although it was something the principal himself indulged in, was considered to be a heinous offense when committed by students.

The height of Adams’ success at Phillips Academy was probably around 1825, when the attendance at the academy was the greatest it had been since the school opened in 1778. “Even then, a change was foreshadowed. Younger men of a new era were molding the policy of the trustees, and Adams, with his conservative nature, found himself out of accord with their views.”

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