The years I spent at Andover were the worst years of my life.
I was a kid from Kansas, a very smart kid, if I do say so myself.
So smart, in fact, that my father had planned years in advance
that I should attend Phillips Academy (aka Andover), because
he could live out his fantasies vicariously--albeit unconsciously--
through me. My dad had grown up during the Depression dirt
poor, but he also was very bright and was determined to escape
the hellhole he had survived through sedulous work and Her-
culean effort, and thus became very rich. I, of course, had never
heard of Andover. I was content to go to public schools in Topeka,
Kansas, had many friends, got virtually straight-As, and enjoyed
immensely all the athletic teams I had played on. Also, I was elected
president of the student council in junior high. But all of that didn't
matter to my dad. Andover, and only Andover, was my dad's plan for
me. I had never heard of Andover, but dad had. He used to spend
countless hours reading books about rich and successful men
while lying on his bed at night. So, in due course, I was admitted
(not an easy thing to do) to Andover, and dad flew with me to
Boston, then rode in a cab with me some twenty miles north to
Andover in the town of--you guessed it--Andover, Massachusetts.
Andover is the oldest boarding school in America, founded two years
after our country was, in 1778. Paul Revere designed and made
the school's seal. George Washington sent his nephew there.
The campus was breathtakingly beautiful. Dad had met John
Kemper, Andover's headmaster, and had noticed what kind and
style of shoes he was wearing, so dad went out and bought me
the replica of Kemper's shoes. How weird, I thought. I received
at Andover plausibly the best secondary school education in the
world, but at an exorbitant social and emotional cost. A small
number of my classmates, principally from Greenwich and Darien,
Conneticut, though intellectually brilliant, were simply mean.
They were "the drops of poison," if you will, that turned Andover's
ambiance into an emotionally corrosive environment that affected in
an insidious way students and teachers alike. I managed to endure
this horror; others did not. I chose to attend Columbia, not Yale,
because four more years at Yale would have been like spending
four more years at Andover, anathema for me. Columbia was liber-
ating. It's Core Curriculum made you learned for life, and living in
and exploring for four years New York City, the veritable capital of
the world, made you a citizen of the world for life, even if you decided
to reside somewhere else after graduating, which I did. I live now in
Boulder, Colorado, far away from Greenwich.
Copyright 2020 Tod Howard Hawks
A graduate of Andover and Columbia College, Columbia University, Tod Howard Hawks has been a poet and human-rights advocate his entire adult life. He recently finished his novel, A CHILD FOR AMARANTH.