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Philips Exeter Academy


My father's experience of prep school
Donald Hall Poet
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After two years of Hamden High I went to a prep school - what we call prep school - secondary private school... boarding school, in New Hampshire, but way south of here, called Exeter... Phillips Exeter Academy. My father had... it came from my father totally... he had gone to the local public high school, and it had been a miserable time for him. He had no aptitude for mechanical things, somebody told his parents that a good thing for a boy to take in high school was mechanical drawing, so he took mechanical drawing and he was depressed and miserable and did badly. He was second shortest in his class, obviously trodden down, working for his father in his spare time, but then somebody else told his family that... they were becoming prosperous, it was 1920, and suddenly in 1920, if you were a prosperous self-made business man, your kids went to college... they hadn't known that. But to go to college he would have to go to prep school, take some language, so after four years graduating from high school, he spent one year at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, and that changed his life. He grew four inches in that year. He was happy. He took Greek rather than Latin, just to be different and continued with some Greek when he went to college, and he flourished in his classes. He loved history. He loved English, and went off to Bates College where he enjoyed himself. He majored in history, my mother majored in English, and that's where they...they met, but he went back to Cushing and taught for two years, and that it was that he had to give up the teaching which he loved, and go back to work for his father, in order to marry my mother and have me. I was always aware of it, and I couldn't quite be guilty for my existence.

The 14th US Poet Laureate Donald Hall (1928-2018) was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, then earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1951 and a BLitt, from Oxford in 1953. He published many essays and anthologies of both poetry and prose including String too Short to be Saved: Recollections of Summers on a New England Farm, White Apples and the Taste of Stone, Without: Poems, and Ox-Cart Man, a children's book which won the Caldecott Medal. Hall was editor of the magazine Oxford Poetry, literary editor of Isis, editor of New Poems, and poetry editor of The Paris Review. He won many awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships and a Robert Frost Medal. At the end of his first Oxford year, he also won the university's Newdigate Prize, awarded for his poem Exile.

Listeners: Kendel Currier

Kendel Currier started working for Donald Hall in August of 1994 as his correspondence typist. Later she took on his manuscript typing as well, and in October of 1998 moved 100 meters down the road from Donald and became his personal assistant, adding many various new tasks to her work. As well as working for Donald for the last 10 and-a-half years, Donald Hall and Kendel Currier share a set of great (or for Kendel great-great) grandparents, making them distant cousins and part of a similar New Hampshire heritage.

Tags: Hamden High, New Hampshire, Phillips Exeter Academy, Cushing Academy, Ashburnham, Massachusetts, Bates College

Duration: 2 minutes, 10 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008