Parents’ Weekend Tradition Began with Abbot Academy

Abbot Academy brought two important things to Andover: girls and Parents’ Weekend. Parents’ Weekend was solely an Abbot Academy tradition before the Phillips-Abbot merger in 1973, according to Tim Sprattler, Interim School Archivist and Assistant Director of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library. “Parents’ Weekend was Abbot’s response to formalize parent visits to the school. In the past, parents would visit the school on many different occasions. The event created one specific weekend for all parents to visit,” said Sprattler. “It wasn’t held at Phillips and you don’t see any mentions of it through the Phillips Academy history until after the two schools merged,” he added. Sprattler said that Parents’ Weekend most likely continued after the merger to preserve Abbot traditions. The school decided to move Parents Weekend from the spring to the fall in 1978, five years after the Phillips-Abbot merger, as reported by The Phillipian in 1978. Sprattler said, “Eventually the school moved Parents’ Weekend to the fall. They felt springtime was too far away from the beginning of the year for new students. The earlier date would give parents the ability to see how their kids were adjusting at the beginning of the year versus at the end.” This weekend, parents will have the opportunity to attend student classes, listen to lectures, attend receptions and panels, watch Grasshopper Night performances and experience the thrill of Andover athletic competitions. According to Sprattler, Parents’ Weekend has become more structured over time. “In my 25 years of being here, the school has increased the number of events for parents to attend. I think in the earlier years, the school would provide one or two [activities] for parents and then parents could watch athletics,” he said. “Now they have more talks and provide a couple more receptions. It’s taken on a much more formal structure,” Sprattler continued. Many Andover teachers remember past experiences teaching classes in front of parents. Therese Zemlin, Instructor in Art, said, “Teaching the class is always a lot of fun. One year, students were sculpting facial expressions using animals or people. One student had used his dog as a starting point. His parents walked into the class and the woman exclaimed, ‘Oh my god, that’s our dog!’” Temba Maqubela, Dean of Faculty and Instructor in Chemistry, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “I once had an argument with a parent about a demo I did in chemistry. The parent was relentless in stating he was right.” “I stood my ground only to find out after class from a colleague, the late Mr. Sherrill, that I was arguing in front of parents with a Nobel Prize Winner in Biochemistry,” continued Maqubela. “I thought I was going to impress the parents. I never did the demo on Parents’ Weekend again,” he added. Peter Neissa, Instructor in Spanish, recalled one parent who committed the same gaffe many students do in class. “One parent, who had come in on the red-eye flight from California, fell asleep and fell out of his chair,” Neissa wrote in an email to The Phillipian.