PA Donors: More than Just Buildings

The past few weeks have seen the deaths of three prominent alumni and significant members of the Board of Trustees: Melville Chapin ’36, former President of the Board; Charles Beard ‘62, trustee from 1997 until his death this spring; and Richard Gelb ’42, donor of the single largest gift in the Academy’s history. Each of these men dedicated a great deal to Phillips Academy—money, of course, as their roles in Campaign Andover suggest – but, more importantly, they gave their time to the institution that had done so much for them. To most of us, these names – Beard, Chapin, Gelb, and many others – mean little. Perhaps our thoughts drift to the oft-mentioned Gelb as we pass through the doorways of the Gelb Science Center. Every now and then, we hear of a decision made by the Board of Trustees that affects us in one way or another. But, for most of us, the Trustees are simply a nameless, faceless entity, far-removed from the Andover of today – far removed from our Andover. The deaths of Beard, Gelb, and Chapin, however, though a significant loss to the Phillips Academy community, did present us with an opportunity to think of all those who have known Andover and continue to support it. As Phillips Academy students, we have seemingly countless privileges: an intelligent, devoted faculty; a beautiful, well-maintained campus; successful, fiercely-loyal alumni; a plethora of interesting, notable visitors to campus; access to resources unparalleled by any other high school; and, as important as any other factor, a talented, diverse student body. If a high school education can be measured by these strengths, we here at Phillips are getting one of the best in the world. In our hectic lives, it is hard enough to appreciate these privileges that we have been given. The quality of our academy becomes woven so deeply into our lives that we simply take it for granted after a while. The names of buildings and landmarks around campus –Ryley, Morse, Kemper, Underwood, Tang – are used so often that their origins escape us. But, there is something to these names. Each name associated with the backdrop of our education belongs to a person who has had an attachment to Phillips Academy. Each of these people chose to give to this school, so our school could continue to prosper. Take, for instance, the Gelb Science Center. The newly-completed science building was constructed thanks in large part to an $11 million donation by Richard Gelb, a giant in the pharmaceutical industry and a noted philanthropist. Because of the expected hoopla surrounding the construction of a new building on campus, much attention was given to the center. But, now that it has been built, what will come of the building’s origins? Soon the name Gelb, like so many others on this campus, will simply become just that: a name attached to a place. But for those of us on campus now, the memory of the generous man whose gift made the center possible will not be lost. The Board of Trustees – and all alumni involved with PA – are not a anonymous group that comes to campus every now and then to make decisions about our lives. They are men and women who care deeply for the school and its continued excellence. Andover did not become the way it is overnight, and, as we strive to appreciate our privileges as students, let us also appreciate those who came before us, and made those privileges possible.