Andover Revives Old Tradition With Means Essay Declamations at All-School Meeting

For the first time in several decades, Andover students had the opportunity to listen to the finalists for the Means Essay Declamation at Wednesday’s All-School Meeting. The Means Essay is awarded by the English Department for a “personal essay written at any time over the school year,” according to the departmental listing of English prizes. The three finalists, in order of their presentations, are Givens Parr ’11, Jennifer Schaffer ’10 and Jean Eun Lee ’11. ? Parr’s essay, “Acupuncture,” focused on Parr’s positive experience with acupuncture, a therapeutic technique of inserting needles into the body to relieve pain. Parr said she felt the competition was not advertised as well as it could have been. “I don’t think many people are aware of the English Department Prizes, and that is regrettable,” she said. Parr’s English 200 teacher informed her of the Means Essay Prize. “I turned in an essay that I wrote during fall term. At the time, I didn’t think much about the prospect of a public declamation, so I was really surprised when the English Department notified me last week that I was a finalist and would be reading my piece at All-School Meeting,” said Parr. She added, “I find public speaking, especially in the context of sharing a personal essay, very frightening. But it’s good for me.” ? Parr said that she has never classified herself as a writer but found the competition process very affirming. She added that she hopes to improve her writing as much as possible. Schaffer’s essay, “Chicago Streets,” detailed Chicago throughout the four seasons of the year. Schaffer, Editorial Board Chair of The Phillipian, said she has been writing “since I could hold a crayon.” “I used to bang out nonsense on my dad’s old typewriter, before I could even talk,” she said. She said, “The whole writing thing just clicked. It was a way of expressing what, in my heart, needed to be expressed. And when it’s all out on the page, it’s like a breath of fresh air.” Schaffer said her love of Chicago gave her inspiration for her essay. “I wanted to do the city some slight form of justice, so I wrote,” she said. ? In Lee’s essay, “The Pearl Necklace,” she depicted the sacrifices her mother made so that Lee could pursue her interests, such as ice skating. Lee compared her mother to a mother oyster, which sacrifices its shell so that a pearl can grow within it. Michael Ma ’10 said, “I thought all the essays were engaging. They really showed the depth of talent at Andover; I was really impressed.”?? Jonathan Stableford, Chair of the English Department, raised the idea of showcasing the finalists for the Means Essay to Carlos Hoyt, All-School Meeting Coordinator. Stableford said he fondly remembered the Means Essay Declamation from his time at Andover from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. “For the last few years the teaching fellows have been in charge of deciding the finalists and the winners,” said Stableford. “This year there were about 30 entries, and the three teaching fellows in English chose the three finalist essays based on their criteria.” The Means Essay, the oldest English prize at Andover, was first awarded in 1868, and was funded in 1867 by William G. Means.