Faculty Parents Appreciate Older Student Role Models For Their Children

For faculty members with young children, the Phillips Academy community serves as an ideal place to raise their children. “I love the sense of community you get, between students, faculty and the other faculty children,” said Aya Murata, Pine Knoll Cluster Dean. “In a lot of other places there isn’t this distinct sense of neighborhood,” she continued. “The sense of community you feel here reminds me of how small-town America used to be,” said Susan Merrill, wife of Head of World Languages Peter Merrill and resident of Fuess House. “You get to know the other families and kids very closely,” she continued. Merrill said that raising children on campus has afforded her and her kids opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available. “When [daughter Jess Merrill ’03] was in elementary school, some parents put together an after-school science club for girls on campus,” said Merrill of one such opportunity. Merrill said that resources like the science club wouldn’t have been possible in other communities. Caroline Odden, Instructor in Physics and resident of Stuart House, said that Andover is “a nice place to have a family. There’s kind of an old-fashioned community feel.” Contact with older students is another important aspect of raising children on campus. “We call [Andover students] big kids,” said Murata. “My kids feel really special when they see a big kid they know.” Merrill said that interactions with Andover students are a special advantage of growing up on the Andover campus. “I think spending a lot of time out on campus with kids of all ages helps [the children] to be comfortable with people of all ages,” said Merrill. “It’s nice for [daughter] Katie to see bigger kids while she’s in the dorm,” added Odden. Murata said that some Andover students have gone out of the way to help her kids, citing one student who gave her son Aki lacrosse lessons. “My hope is that my kids see the older kids as role models or mentors,” she said. “Big kids fill a role in between parents and peers.” Murata said that growing up on campus might give her kids a view of childhood that differs from most. “Sometimes I wonder, ‘Do [my kids] think this is normal?’” Murata said. Merrill said that before her kids entered high school, she kept dorm matters separate from her kids. “[Peter Merrill] and I were careful not to talk to our kids about anything too serious regarding kids in the dorm. We feel the [residents of the dorm] have a right to privacy.” Despite certain difficulties associated with raising kids on campus and in dorms, most parents expressed that the opportunities far outweighed the drawbacks. “As they get older they’ll have access to all of the different events on campus,” said Murata. Odden said, “Living in a dorm works out well. As long as we put the kids to bed early there isn’t too much interference. Except, of course, when there are fire drills.” Odden and Murata both agreed that living in their place of work made for more time spent with their kids. “I think living in a situation like this actually gives me more time with my family. Compared to friends who don’t work at boarding schools, I spend more time with my kids,” she continued. Murata said “Working [at PA] means I have unpredictable hours, including nights and weekends, which can make [raising kids here] hard sometimes. But working at a school lets me be a full time mom in the summer.” Odden said that with the many faculty in the community, it is easy to find someone willing to sit. Student babysitters are also readily available to faculty parents. “There’s always someone to baby-sit,” said Murata. Merrill agreed that students in her dorm were often willing to watch her children, and added that both of her kids had seemed to like this experience.