Clemency Chase Coggins AA ’51, John Darnton ’60 and Susan Goodwillie Stedman AA ’59 were honored with the Andover Alumni Award of Distinction (AAAD) on Tuesday. The recipients were also this year’s “Finis Origine Pendet” speakers at All-School Meeting (ASM). The AAAD is awarded to alumni for their accomplishments in their careers, while the “Finis Origine Pendet” speaker series features alumni who discuss their Andover experience and consequent journey at ASM.
**Clemency Coggins AA ’51**
While working on an excavation in Guatemala, Coggins saw priceless artifacts get sliced up and transported to various collections around the globe and immediately decided to take action against cultural destruction.
Coggins, archaeologist, art historian and author, began working on international legislation to ensure the safeguarding of cultural property in 1969. Her article “Illicit Traffic of Pre-Columbian Antiquities,” published in a 1969 issue of “Art Journal,” came at a time when many archaeologists were ignoring the unethical trade of antiquities. The article detailed the illicit exportation of artifacts from Guatemala and Mexico.
“I had no idea I was going to do the things I did. I was drawn into it by the horrible situation: somebody had to make a fuss and point out to people [to] look [at] what’s going on,” she said.
By 1983, Congress passed the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, which stopped the illegal trafficking of cultural and archaeological artifacts.
“Occasionally… [the artifacts] were turning up in museums and collections in the United States and in Europe… We could demonstrate where they came from and that it was against the laws of those countries and destructive,” said Coggins in an interview with The Phillipian.
After graduating from Abbot Academy, Coggins went on to Wellesley College where she discovered her passion for art history. However, it was while attending Harvard for graduate school that a professor inspired her to work in Central America at the site of Tikal.
“It’s immensely satisfying to work on collections of objects and working out for oneself what they reveal. They are puzzles, interesting historical puzzles that can be demonstrated on the basis of what you are looking at,” said Coggins in an interview with The Phillipian.
Coggins credited her Abbot education for broadening her horizons. Before attending Abbot, Coggins attended a progressive school, she said.
“Abbot was a classically strict girls boarding school and an excellent one. The teaching was superb, and the teachers I knew [were] especially supportive and encouraging,” said Coggins during her ASM speech.
“If I have any message learned from the trajectory of my career, it is that, since I ended up working in many directions I had never foreseen, one must always keep open to unimagined possibilities,” she continued.
Now retired, Coggins plans to complete publications on both Yucatan, Mexico, and Tikal, Guatemala. Prior to her retirement, Coggins was also a professor at Boston University.
**John Darnton ’60**
Armed troops patrolled the city’s streets to enforce the imposed curfew as families huddled in their homes with no connection to the outside world: the national borders were closed, phone lines were cut, mail was subject to postal censorship, and all media outlets were shut down.
This was the Warsaw, Poland of 1981 in which John Darnton ’60, foreign correspondent for the New York “Times,” found himself. What was previously a democratic state was now governed under General Wojciech Jaruzelski’s martial law. On December 13, five copies of Darnton’s article that would alert the world of Poland’s new government were smuggled to America in the boot of an American hippie and a cigarette box, among other methods.
In 1982, Darnton accepted the Pulitzer Prize for attempting to deliver the truth to the public in the face of violent punishment from General Jaruzelski’s regime. It was with this dedication to delivering the truth that Danton would approach his future articles, being jailed in some cases for his work.
Initially a copyboy for the New York “Times,” Darnton said that he entered journalism because previous family members had written for the “Times.” Yet despite this history, Darnton did not do any journalism while at Andover or college.
“The first couple of years that I worked… I always felt like I was trying to catch up… so I was consequently nervous a lot of the time at the beginning. Then I remember a period in which I just kind of felt more at ease with it… and then I loved it,” said Darnton in an interview with The Phillipian.
Before his 40-year career at the “Times,” however, Darnton was a student at Andover. During his speech at this week’s ASM, Darnton recalled his character back at Andover as a rebel and said that, although the consequence he faced was harsh, it was not malevolent. After escaping the confines of his room to grab a beer in Lowell, Mass., Darnton was expelled only three months before graduation.
“Even if things look dark, it doesn’t mean they… will always be dark. Be ready to go with changes, not just freeze, paralyze and panic if something goes wrong. Life is very long, and life has a way of ironing out some of these problems,” Darnton said.
“Life is serendipitous, and the events that may seem insupportable at the time may turn out to have positive results. Don’t despair, never despair,” he continued.
While at Andover, Darnton was the editor of “The Mirror,” a creative writing literary publication, served as a Blue Key Head and participated in the Philomathean Society and Boys Varsity Soccer.
Darnton has also written several books, including three science adventure novels, two satire novels and a memoir about his father.
After working for the New York “Times” for over 40 years, Darnton retired in 2005. He is now the curator of the George Polk Awards in Journalism.
“We give annual awards to the best reporters who have undertaken intrepid assignments or investigations, and we’ve been expanding on that program to give grants to reporters who want to investigate things,” said Darnton.
“[Darnton] has an incredibly strong ethic about true beat reporting, covering the day to day stuff but then also an exploratory journalist. So he’s sort of digging deep to find the real truth of the story,” said Jennifer Savino, Associate Director of Alumni Engagement.
**Susan Stedman AA ’59**
A year after graduating from Stanford University, Susan Stedman AA ’59 found herself in Mississippi, working in the midst of a massive campaign to register African-American voters and to repress violence by white supremacists.
While at Abbot Academy, Stedman served as Student Body Vice President and was a dedicated member of both Fidelio and an a capella group called the Silk Stockings.
“I came to Abbot as a sanctuary from the chaotic jungle that my high school had become,” Stedman said.
While the academic rigor of Abbot inspired Stedman to push herself, it was the way the school embraced skills of all types that she loved most, she said.
“I thought all the girls [here] would be prim and proper. My god, they were Amazons! I mean, lacrosse and hockey, and all this stuff I’d never played. But it didn’t matter! Because I was valued for other things,” said Stedman in her ASM address.
After graduating from Abbot, Stedman studied French at Stanford, then traveled to West Africa just two weeks after graduating college, where she discovered her interest in race relations.
“I found a dog-eared copy of ‘Time’ magazine [there] about the Martin Luther King, Jr. March on Washington. I had grown up in a [predominately] white community, but I thought, ‘This is a terrible problem, and I want to be part of the solution.’ And so I decided to come home and get involved with the Civil Rights Movement,” said Stedman.
Stedman regards her gender as the biggest obstacle during her career, recalling her experience of interviewing with the Ford Foundation for a job position overseas in 1963 while earning her master’s degree.
“I went in, and the woman who was interviewing said, ‘Oh my dear, you must be mistaken. These are overseas positions.’ [I replied] ‘Right, I’m getting my master’s degree in international relations.’ [She replied] ‘We don’t take women.’ I mean, you can’t believe this was legal,” said Stedman.
She served as the Executive Assistant to Dorothy Height, President of the National Council of Negro Women.
Additionally, Stedman has held various positions that involved working in West Africa. Stedman served as the second-in-command for the West Africa branch of the Ford Foundation. While working with the Ford Foundation, Stedman launched a program in Burkina Faso that is still running today.
Stedman also became the first Executive Director of Refugees International, an independent organization that works to provide assistance and protection for displaced people and solve displacement crises, according to the Refugees International website.
In her speech, Stedman challenged students to take advantage of all Andover has to offer.
“Here you are, in the beautiful Andover bubble, a world full of opportunities. Don’t let it go to your heads. You know the real world is a very different place. Let Andover nurture, inspire, challenge and equip you to take your many gifts in to the world beyond, to lead, to help [and] to inspire others,” said Stedman.
Stedman now lives in Maine, where she serves as the Co-Chair of the Juniper Hill School, a Pre-K to fourth-grade school that uses place-based education to teach young children.