Alice Purington Retires to Cope With Illness After 24 Years at Andover

This profile is the tenth installment in an ongoing series about the retiring faculty in the Volunteer Retirement Incentives Program. Alice Purington, Associate Director of College Counseling and winner of the Edward Wall Award for Service and Leadership in College Counseling, will be retiring from her post at the end of the year due to an illness. Purington is currently battling pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that scars the lungs. “A couple years ago, this illness began to catch up with me,” said Purington. “The school has been wonderful in working out an arrangement that still allowed me to work despite my medical issue.” In order to better accomodate her medical condition, Purington began working part time at Andover. She shifted her focus from working with students to dealing with paperwork. “I wish that I could report that my husband and I will be walking the Milford Track in New Zealand, where I used to live, growing organic veggies for the local farmer’s market and our local Bistro, as well as making regular visits to nursing homes with my therapy dog,” said Purington. “Alas, real life often takes an unplanned journey. In our case, it is because I have [pulmonary fibrosis],” Purington continued. However, Purington remains optimistic despite her illness. “Even so, I can whip up a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies, tend the gardens in the warm months, exercise in our indoor pool, and entertain family and friends. I’ve also taken to water color painting and am serving as a trustee of our local Hurd Library as well as the North Berwick Historical Society,” said Purington. After obtaining her A.B. at Vassar College and M.D. at Tufts University, Purington became the Associate Dean of College Admissions at Wellesley College. “I had always been interested in academia because I loved the opportunity to work with students. I get to understand their dreams, strengths and their overall uniqueness,” said Purington. Following her time at Wellesley, Purington became Director of College Counseling at Williston Northampton High School. “My husband had been the swimming coach at Andover for years as well as teaching math and coaching at the Pike School. That [in combination with] a referral to Andover by a former College Counselor at Abbot Academy got me interested,” said Purington. When Purington learned that Carl Bewig, a colleague and the current Associate Director of College Counseling, would also be taking a position at Andover, she knew that Andover was where she wanted to be. Purington thus began her Andover career in 1986. “By my count, I have been college counselor or advisor to over 2000 Phillips Academy graduates,” Purington said. “Most current Phillips Academy students don’t know me personally because I haven’t been working full time for several years.” Over the years, Purington has developed strong bonds with the students and faculty she interacted with. “Each morning I woke up for a puppy play group with Mr. Hodgson, [Instructor and Chair of the Religious Philosophy Department] and some other faculty in Rafferty Field,” she said. “Throughout the day I met with students discussing all of their college options, trying to be realistic. In all actuality, students need to find the best match for them, not the school that has the most prestigious reputation,” she continued. Today, Purington is still in touch with many of the students she has counseled over the years. “In my retirement, I had hoped to visit students of mine in South Africa and China and all that is preventing me from doing so is my illness,” said Purington. Purington commented on “positive change” in the Andover College Counseling Program. She said, “In the early days, I was college counselor to over 120 students in a year. Luckily, over the course of my time at Andover, this number has been lowered significantly. I became able to become even more personal with my advisees.” Purington also mentioned that college admissions has become increasingly competitive over the years. “It used to be that students with good grades could get into NYU or Tufts without a problem, but now it is a real challenge. Harvard is at least twice as hard to get into as it was at the time.” “To, me, it’s far more important to make sure the student is happy then to know that the student has gotten into an Ivy,” said Purington. “All of my kids have been amazing and they all take different courses through life. I hope that I made them feel supported and that my time with them taught them to be proud of what they have done,” Purington continued. “I have the warmest memories of many wonderful years at an extraordinary school that I shall always cherish.”