On Monday, February 15 at 5:38 p.m., Head of School John Palfrey raised his legendary blue squash racquet above the crowd in Lower Right of Paresky Commons.
This year’s Head of School Day (HOSD) pushed Tuesday’s class schedule to Friday. All classes and sports were cancelled, with the exception of Andover Girls Junior Varsity Basketball.
This announcement came after a week of Instagram images depicting Palfrey’s squash racquet in the hands of different alumni. According to the Phillips Academy Instagram, Palfrey claimed to have been missing his racquet since January 22. There were nine alumni who posed with Palfrey’s famous racquet for the HOSD social media build-up (#HOSD2016), including Kevin Olusola ’06, a member of the a capella group Pentatonix, Matt Noyes ’96, meteorologist for NECN, and Lisa MacFarlane ’75, Head of School at Phillips Exeter Academy.
Palfrey said, “Honestly I did not plan for [#HOSD2016] – it was the fact that a bunch of students clearly thought it was going to be sooner and I got a fair amount of grief for not holding it sooner, and then I felt that, because I was planning to do it a little bit later mostly because the weather had been good earlier, that it made sense to try to have some distraction mode using social media.”
Palfrey collaborated with Jennifer Savino, Director of Alumni Engagement, Tracy Sweet, Director of Academy Communications, and Neil Evans, Digital Communications Lead, to contact alumni for #HOSD2016. Savino contacted the alumni two weeks ago.
“It was actually really hard because we have 25,000 interesting alumni. We had to do some brainstorming, and the list was pretty short and random, but we [chose to contact alumni we] thought were, generally, people that would be recognizable to the current student body,” said Savino.
Palfrey said, “[#HOSD2016] actually came together very, very quickly. We actually had two racquets going. One was the official one and one was the not quite official one, and we had them sent around the country. Our alumni were very pleased to be involved in this conversation with the students so it was not hard to do.”
Cadet Alexi Bell ’13 was also featured on the Phillips Academy Instagram with the magic racquet.
“I thought [#HOSD2016] was so cool! I remember spending pretty much every February evening of my Senior year in Lower Right waiting for someone from the administration to come in and raise the stick. I was honored and so excited to be on to be a part of the other side of it this year,” Bell wrote in an email to The Phillipian.
The timing of the day has always been purposefully ambiguous and at the discretion of the Head of School. This year, the day fell during Penultimate Week.
“It’s a very complex analysis as to where Head of School Day ought to fall but it is always calculated to try to give the maximum relief to students at key moments when it’s needed,” said Palfrey.
“[I hope HOSD was] just simply a break, a chance to smile a little more and do something that [students and faculty] wanted to do and to have a breather from what definitely can be a grind in boarding school and February,” added Palfrey.