Vincent Avery Ready to ‘Take A Break’ After 34 Years at PA

This profile is the first in an ongoing series about the retiring faculty members in the Voluntary Retirement Incentives Program. Though he still finds pleasure in teaching at Andover, Vincent Avery, Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies, said that he feels great about retiring after 34 years at Phillips Academy. “I am ready to take a break and try something else,” he said. Avery said he intends to use the first year of his retirement as “sort of a sabbatical,” without making any major commitments to anything in particular. “I will live in Durham, New Hampshire, tend my roses, ride my Vespa and explore new opportunities,” he said. Although he is looking forward to his retirement, Avery appreciates the time he spent at Phillips Academy and cherishes the opportunities Andover provided him. “PA constantly gave me the chance to learn new things and to continue to grow spiritually and intellectually,” he said. “I feel very fortunate and grateful for the experience.” Avery began his Andover experience in 1976, traveling to Andover from his home in Manchester, England. Avery first discovered Andover while finishing his doctoral study on moral theology in Rome. When in Italy, he saw an advertisement for instructors at Andover in a catalog of American schools published by the United States Information Service. Avery came into contact with Andover again when he used a book in his research for his dissertation that had been edited by the late Theodore Sizer, former PA headmaster, and his wife, Nancy Sizer. Avery’s correspondence with Phillips Academy eventually resulted in a job offer to be the Roman Catholic Chaplain. But Avery has also served many other positions at PA since then. He has also acted as the Pine Knoll Cluster Dean, a house counselor and the Dean of Studies. Avery enjoyed being the Pine Knoll Cluster Dean because of the relationships he fostered with students. “It was very interesting trying to develop interdisciplinary work between colleagues and helping students find special projects and so forth,” he said. Avery said he also enjoys teaching Introduction to Ethics, a course in Philosophy and Religion, because his students are all Lowers who have not yet taken a class in his department. These Lowers have fresh minds “just beginning to get a taste for philosophy,” he said. But Avery just as much enjoys teaching about bioethics, another one of his course offerings, to Uppers and Seniors because the differing opinions of older students can spark interesting classroom debates. Avery credited his students and colleagues for making his teaching experience at Andover so special. He said that all of the inquisitive minds in the Andover community constantly stretch him and push his limits. Avery said that the students and faculty at Andover are more diverse than they were 30 years ago. Despite many changes, Avery said that the level of academia has not changed. “The academic excellence has stayed the same, and the excitement for learning has stayed the same,” he said. For a teacher who has had such a long history in education, it is ironic that Avery did not want to be a teacher when he was a child. He said that he originally wanted to avoid teaching because both his parents were teachers.