Andover Seniors Fulfill Tradition Of Parting Pranks

The third trimester of Senior year, known affectionately at Phillips Academy as “Senior spring,” represents a time for near-graduates to overlook class work in favor of creating lasting memories of their time on Andover Hill. While some turn to Frisbee and others to the Slip-n-Slide on the Great Quad, many Seniors attempt to leave their mark on the school by executing pranks creative and daring enough to win them the admiration of classes to come. With warm weather and dogwood blossoms comes a rare chance for Seniors to mock the authority of the administration by plotting pranks, an activity that often frustrates faculty. “Seniors are in the first phase of leave-taking and for many of them, the transition is extremely-anxiety provoking,” Assistant Head of School Becky Sykes remarked. “I hope members of the Class of 2003 will be able to channel their stress and strong feelings into positive actions.” Although members of this year’s graduating class have already attempted to explode a stink bomb during an All-School Meeting and to keep their legacy alive through the 2003-2004 Directory by posing as underclassmen during the ID photo shoot, both of these plots were thwarted by faculty. Although this year’s Seniors have yet to create a successful prank, the Academy has a time-honored long tradition of these practical jokes. Two years ago, Seniors tested the administration’s sense of humor by starting a food fight in Commons. The prank was not received well, and resulted in the ending of “seven-to-seven” dining hours. Mrs. Sykes stated, “Pranks that are funny and do no harm are fine. The problem we have with pranks like the food fight is that it was destructive and burdened the staff at Commons with a tremendous amount of clean-up.” Only a few Senior classes have created a prank that perfectly balances humor and harmlessness garnering respect from faculty, students, and future generations. For inspiration, the Class of 2003 should consult James D. Johnson’s 1971 American History spring term paper. Entitled, “Fun and Games on Andover Hill: A Chronicle of Pranks, Riots, and Revolution in an American Prep School,” Johnson ’72 recounted several successful ruses. Among the pranks mentioned include the Class of 1960’s transformation of the newly-renovated Oliver Wendell Homes Library foyer into an auto showroom. Students constructed a ramp and rolled faculty members’ cars over the library steps and into the lobby. The jokesters were asked to return the cars and clean the lobby, but were not punished. The most audacious prank was perpetrated by Roger Colemann Kiley in 1936. Kiley, who was expelled for poor academic performance before graduation, invented a completely fictitious Andover student. A. Montague Fitzpatrick signed in and out of dorms, attended assemblies, and turned in English papers. The trick drove the administration crazy until, after several weeks, they discovered that A. Montague Fitzpatrick did not, in fact, exist. From posting false notices and advertisements to hijacking the Daily Bulletin, many Senior classes have demonstrated their word-play prowess. In 1984, a bulletin circulated announcing that Commons was being converted to a fast food mall, requested all Sumerian-speaking students to audition for the production of the “Best Little Whorehouse in Babylon,” and reminded all atheists that, as usual, mass would not be held on Sunday. Classes with a defined conscience have incorporated political sentiment in their capers. In 1971, six Seniors decided that the school’s system of unexcused absences was unfair. They wrote a letter to The Phillipian threatening to take immediate action if the policy was not changed. A week later, students broke into the basement of George Washington Hall, where attendance records were kept, and stole several file drawers worth of information. Though the administration never recovered the pilfered files and the thieves were not caught, the attendance records were recreated from teachers’ notes. The Class of 1974 perpetrated the most memorable Senior prank. As the first coeducational graduating class, they wanted to leave a memorable legacy to commemorate their historic graduation. Thirty students, male and female, drove to a nearby field and, despite the freezing temperatures, removed all of their clothing. The nude students arranged their bodies to spell out “Mother Phillips” and a Pot Pourri photographer was on hand to capture the moment. Though the editors of the Pot Pourri originally intended for the photo to be printed on the inside cover, the publisher refused to run it without faculty consent. Instead, the photo was inserted into the book as a removable fly leaf and circulated around campus, much to the chagrin of the administration.