New Carving on Steps of Samuel Phillips Hall Sparks Conversation Around Campus

Within the past two weeks, a new carving has appeared in the center of the stone landing on the steps leading up to Samuel Phillips Hall. While no official statement about the carving has been released to the school from the administration, the carving was created by a donor who preferred to remain completely anonymous, according to Amy Whitehead, Director of Donor Relations.

The carving consists of a short Latin phrase, “Fortes Fortuna Iuvat,” or in English, “Fortune Favors the Brave.” The carving is attributed to “MARC 2019.” Since the carving received no publicity, many students and faculty were both intrigued and confused by its mysterious origins.

Mike Gallagher ’20 said, “I think the fact that a sudden quote or saying was carved into the steps of Sam Phil with basically zero information was super unexpected. The ‘MARC’ also seems very ambiguous. I personally don’t mind it, but I can definitely see some backlash given that it’s in a pretty open and well-known location of campus.”

The phrase “is an encouragement to our community to embrace opportunities,” wrote Whitehead in an email to The Phillipian. However, some students and faculty were opposed to the other connotations of the phrase, such as its military connections.

Christopher Jones, Instructor and Chair in History and Social Sciences, believes that the seemingly positive phrase can have widely varying viewpoints based on the audience. Jones added that the meaning of the phrase could potentially conflict with Andover’s “core values.”

Jones wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “My first reaction to seeing the engraving was confusion. Proverbs like this can have various meanings, and what might seem harmless or even laudable to some can mean something quite different to other audiences. In this case, some might read the inscription as a testament to bravery. Others could translate it as ‘Fortune Favors the Strong,’ which carries a different implication and is a sentiment that many of us have trouble reconciling with our school’s core values.”

He continued, “At Andover, we believe in knowledge and goodness and in pursuing a life not for self. We welcome students of all backgrounds into our community. We are need blind, precisely because we want to open our doors to all families including those less fortunate than others. We are not a place just for the strong or the lucky, but for youth from every quarter. I’d rather see these core values inscribed in the stone at the very heart of our campus.”

Students like Will Yun ’20 spoke to the potential military references of the phrase. Yun believes that the phrase stands in opposition to the values of Sam Phil, as well as the school’s “Non Sibi” spirit.

Yun said, “‘Fortune Favors the Strong,’ which is now etched on our oldest and most iconic buildings is a historical military term used to rally the troops in times of war. In some lights, this saying can be seen as a positive quote, however when put in the context of the humanities, it goes completely against what Andover stands for. The phrase is outdated and stands more for ‘Sibi’ and individual success more than anything. Most of the Sam Phil teachers hate it, especially since it just appeared one day and no one from the administration has said anything about it.”

Zenia Bhathena ’19 echoed Yun’s sentiments about the phrase not being aligned with the school’s ‘Non Sibi’ motto. She said, “[It’s strange] how a school that prides itself on Non Sibi has a statement on such a Sibi thing… I think it’s very Sibi and it very weird that a school like this has this carving.”

According to Graeleigh Jones ’21, she and her classmates saw the carving for the first time as she left Sam Phil after her History-200 class. Like many others, she hopes to learn more about the ambiguous meaning behind the carving.

“I walked out of class and I saw the carving on the steps, so I turned to the people next to me and I asked them if it had always been there, since I had never seen it before. Now it’s just there every day… I also wondered how no one noticed the people carving it, and why Andover has been so silent about it. I was confused. I really want to know what the purpose is of someone carving it into the steps, who did it, and the meaning of the words,” said Jones.

Additionally, other members of the Andover community such as Coreen Martin, Instructor in English, also addressed the military references of the quote and its potentially intrusive presence in Sam Phil, one of Andover’s most notable buildings.

In an email to The Phillipian, Martin wrote, “I am bewildered and disturbed by what seems to me the sudden and mysterious appearance of this, dare I say, ‘sinister,’ stone carving, so prominently placed on the steps of our (arguably) most prestigious, central academic building… My first impression is that I’ve seen it associated with branches of the U.S. military, with intimations of violence.”

Martin also emphasized that the ambiguity of the carving seems unjustified, especially due to the fact that the phrase is permanently carved into stone.

“I definitely am in the dark as to the impetus behind the creation and placement of the stone carving, but these gaps only add to the weirdness of it all. I mean, this thing is literally carved in stone! What does it mean? What is its message? To whom is it addressed? Can we have other sayings carved into our buildings and grounds?” wrote Martin.