Exeter Principal Announces Departure

Phillips Exeter Academy Principal Instructor Lisa MacFarlane ’66 has announced her departure from the school. At the end of this academic year, MacFarlane will leave Exeter and rejoin the faculty at the University of New Hampshire, where she taught for 28 years before being hired as Exeter’s 15th Principal Instructor in 2015.

Tony Downer, President of the Trustees at Exeter, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Principal MacFarlane has decided that, at this time she wishes to return to the classroom and reconnect with her love for teaching, a love which sparked initially as an intern here at the PEA English department.”

MacFarlane made her announcement last Friday in an email sent to the Exeter community by Downer. The email began with a letter from Downer, followed by a letter written by MacFarlane herself.

In his letter, Downer wrote that MacFarlane advanced Exeter’s strategic planning process and programs for student safety and wellbeing. She created the new title of Director of Student Wellbeing, currently held by Christina Palmer, and helped develop the school’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program. Additionally, MacFarlane also helped the school respond to past cases of sexual misconduct that were brought into light during her tenure.

“Principal MacFarlane brought to the school an exceptional intellect, an uncommon devotion to the school and its core values, an inexhaustible work ethic, [and] a focus on the many elements which make up student wellbeing,” wrote Downer in an email to The Phillipian.

Under MacFarlane, Exeter also launched Open Gender Houses and built a new Fieldhouse and Center for Theater and Dance.

“She has been a passionate advocate for the community values of equity, diversity and inclusion, of financial equity and for bringing closure to the PEA survivor group,” wrote Downer in an email to The Phillipian.

According to Downer, Exeter’s Trustees will select an interim Principal Instructor for the 2018-2019 academic year. Furthermore, the Trustees, faculty, and staff at Exeter will form a committee to conduct the search for Exeter’s 16th Principal Instructor.

Downer wrote to The Phillipian, “[MacFarlane’s] legacy will last long, long beyond June 30th, and Exeter will be all the better for having served as she did. Our challenge will be to find leadership to succeed her and to keep the school moving into a most interesting future.”

Downer continued, “ [MacFarlane] and I have worked quite closely together, so I will very much miss our regular – and our very frequent communications. But I know how happy she is going to be in the classroom, once again [experiencing] the direct connection between teacher and student, so, while I will miss our encounters, I know that she will be thriving.”

In her letter to the Exeter community, MacFarlane thanked the Exeter students for their curiosity, humor, and kindness.

MacFarlane wrote, “As I leave Exeter, I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over the past three years, and proud to have done this work with each of you.”