English Instructor Jean St. Pierre Receives McKeen Award for Forty Years of Teaching

This evening, Instructor in English Jean St. Pierre will receive the McKeen Award for her forty years of teaching in both the English and Theater and Dance Departments at Phillips Academy and for her help in creating a healthy, coeducational environment at PA. “I am so honored to be receiving this award,” Ms. St. Pierre remarked. Given annually by the Executive Board of the Brace Center for Gender Studies, the McKeen Award was created in 1998 in the spirit of Philena McKeen, the first principal of Abbot Academy. Now in its fifth year, the award is given to a member of the Phillips Academy community who best exemplifies “inspired and dedicated leadership in education.” Director of the Brace Center Diane Moore explained Ms. St. Pierre’s strong character and incredibly teaching ability, remarking, “The most significant thing about [Ms. St. Pierre] is her generosity of spirit and pervasive kindness, [her] unrelenting hope about education itself, and about the power of education to transform people. She really understands that gender itself is not the defining feature of an individual.” Though she has taught at Andover for four decades, Ms. St. Pierre feels that she was impacted the most by the merger of Abbot and Phillips academies in 1973. “One of the things I’m happiest about is having had the opportunity to witness and celebrate the legacy of Abbot Academy and to witness the birth of the ‘new school’,” she said. While Ms. St. Pierre called the merger “one of the most exciting things that’s happened to this school,” she added that “at the time, [the merger] was not without its pains… The girls in the class of ’74 started going to this school that wasn’t their’s anymore, where everything was run by boys.” After graduating from Wheaton College and receiving her M.A. in English Literature at Columbia University, Ms. St. Pierre began teaching English and directing theater at Abbot Academy in 1963. Ten years after her arrival, the girls’ school merged with Phillips Academy. After the merger, Ms. St. Pierre was one of the few faculty members at Abbot who was hired to continue teaching at Phillips Academy. Ms. St. Pierre brought the same enthusiasm and creativity to her classroom at Andover as she did at Abbott. She became the first female chair of a major department in 1982 and also served as Interim Chair of the Theater Department. Though this year marks her fourth decade of teaching at Andover, Ms. St. Pierre has continued to keep busy inside the classroom and out. In addition to teaching the basics of English to Juniors and Lowers, she also teaches the high-demand Senior elective “Man and God.” An active member of the Theater Department, Ms. St. Pierre has directed numerous Theater 520 productions. Her recent shows have included “Death of a Salesman” in 2000, “The Importance of Being Earnest” in 2001, and last year’s “Arsenic and Old Lace.” She is currently working on this Spring’s production of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.” Ms. St. Pierre is also the coordinator of the Abbot Academy Association, a foundation that was founded at the time of the merge. Created to foster and nurture the ideals of Abbot Academy, the association has given over a million dollars to help start the Religion and Philosophy Department and the Brace Center and has funded numerous Community Service projects and other school functions. Though she looks forward to the 225th anniversary of the founding of Phillips Academy, the 175th anniversary of Abbot Academy, and the 30th anniversary of the merger of the two schools this spring, Ms. St. Pierre said that she is planning to “graduate” with the class of 2004. Despite her imminent retirement, Ms. St. Pierre remarked, “I really do love each piece of what I do. I love the teaching. I love directing the plays, as corny as that sounds.” “PA without Jean St. Pierre is unimaginable,” Dr. Moore said. “It’s the human qualities that Jean represents that ultimately create the community and school that we aspire to represent.” Previous recipients of the McKeen Award have included Marion Finbury in 2000, Carroll and Elaine Bailey in 2001, and most recently, Ted and Nancy Sizer in 2002. Director of the Brace Center Diane Moore described the award as one that “essentially honors people who have contributed in a significant way to create… the co-educational Phillips Academy.”