Pastel chalk drawings and notes graced the patio of Paresky Commons in remembrance of Alice Hoffman ’13, who passed away this past Tuesday in her hometown of Houston, Texas. Hoffman matriculated at Andover 2007 and attended school with two leaves of absence as she battled leukemia.
The news of Hoffman’s death prompted an immediate All School Meeting at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
At 9:47 on Tuesday morning, students received text messages on behalf of the Head of School’s Office that informed them of Hoffman’s death and convoked an All School Meeting in Cochran Chapel.
At the meeting Barbara Chase, Head of School, Becky Sykes, Associate Head of School, Max Alvosetti, Head of Graham House and Reverend Anne Gardner, Protestant Chaplain, acknowledged the tragic loss and grief.
“Some of you did not know [Alice] well, yet we are all sisters and brothers in the Andover family, and so this is a grave loss for all,” said Chase in her All School Meeting speech.
Alvosetti stressed the varying ways in which students deal with grief, and Gardner offered a prayer in memory of Hoffman.
The All School Meeting delayed classes by fifteen minutes, and students were excused from any classes they did not feel ready to attend.
The community expressed its grief in varying ways, some subtle, others open and communal.
In the hours following the news of Hoffman’s passing, students stood in silence in front of the steps of Paresky Commons, stopping to write out a message in loving memory. Hearts, stars and words of encouragement spread across the patio like a pale rainbow.
“I admire so much the respect that every single student has shown for Alice,” said Chase. “Every student took their time to pause, read and respectfully walk around the chalk drawings outside [Paresky] Commons.”
The school also organized the two communal gathering and reflection opportunities held in the Underwood Room, one prior and after Hoffman’s death.
The Phillips Academy community received on email on Saturday, April 9, from Becky Sykes, Associate Head of School, informing them that Hoffman’s health had deteriorated. Last Sunday, students and faculty gathered in the Underwood Room and wrote letters of support to Hoffman and her family.
Following the Tuesday All School Meeting, grieving students gathered in Underwood Room, where shed tears and shared heartfelt reflections on Alice’s time at Andover.
Individual dorms held meetings on Wednesday night for students to offer support and share remembrances with each other.
The wave of support for mourning students that flooded the community following the All School Meeting also brought attention to a cause Hoffman ardently supported. Hoffman had been a dedicated advocate for the “Be the Match” foundation, an organization that helps provide funds for patients who need bone marrow transplants.
Marga Kempner ’12, Alex Morrow ’12, Mallory Tyler ’12 and Christoph von Braun ’12 fundraised for the group by selling orange T-shirts with “Don’t Hassle The Hoff” scrawled across the front in white and black writing.
The students will continue selling the t-shirts, priced at 15 dollars, next week. Anyone interested in buying a shirt can place an order by emailing Kempner directly at her Andover account.
Hoffman had previously designed and planned the t-shirt sales with Kempner.
Thurston Smalley ’11, Sosha Sullivan ’11 and Scherezade Khan ’12 organized a silent candle lighting procession to honor Hoffman on Thursday. Holding 250 lit candles, students gathered at the steps of Sam Phillips Hall to silently walk down the Vista in Hoffman’s honor.
Khan said, “We wanted to do something to commemorate Alice’s death on behalf of the students, not so much organized by faculty because, ultimately, Alice was one of us, part of the student body.”
“I feel as though grief manifests itself in different ways in different people, and so does loss, and letting yourself feel those emotions can be very hard, but it has to be done. And that’s sort of the point of this candlelit walk, to sort of come together, sharing this grief, sharing this loss, but also knowing at the end of the day, Alice isn’t in pain any more,” Khan continued.
Hoffman’s family has asked that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made in memory of Alice Hoffman to Phillips Academy to support financial aid.
This Friday, the regularly scheduled Shabbat will be dedicated to Hoffman and will include a mourner’s Kaddish. The service will be held in Kemper Chapel starting at 5:45 p.m.
A memorial service has not yet been planned for campus, but Hoffman’s parents have arranged one for her in Houston, Texas on Sunday, April 17 at the Bradshaw-Carter Funeral Home.
In an email to parents, Sykes said the school will hold a celebration of remembrance on campus in the next few weeks Hoffman’s family and friends will be included in the planning.