The last employee to have worked at both Abbot Academy and Andover, Liz George, Staff Assistant to the Abbot Academy Fund (A.A.F.), retired on October 2 after 48 years of service to the school. Since joining Abbot Academy in 1972 and moving up the hill during the Andover-Abbot merger of 1973, George has worked in the College Counseling Office (C.C.O.) and assisted in a number of offices on campus, including the Offices of the Head of School, Dean of Students, and Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD). Prior to her retirement, George had served in her role with the A.A.F. for 12 years.
George was first introduced to Abbot Academy by former co-director of Abbot college counseling Marion Finbury. Finbury, who happened to be one of George’s neighbors and family friends, asked if George would be interested in applying for a job as her secretary. George says hearing the word “Andover’” will always remind her of Finbury, who passed away five years ago.
“I’ll always be grateful to [Finbury] for offering me the position that became a lifetime career… No day was ever the same. Many of my colleagues in the office remain good friends, especially Gerda Mosca who sat next to me for 19 years. She replaced me as office manager when I left, and continues to do some work for [Andover],” said George.
When Abbot and Andover merged at the end of her first school year at Abbot, George recalled the general apprehension about the merger. Arriving on the Andover campus, George recollected how she and her colleagues challenged convention by wearing pants to work. She was one of the few Abbot staff members who continued to work at Andover.
“Most people were very welcoming, but there were some who were not happy to have us there. I would say that I found the environment to be a little more formal than at Abbot. I remember the first winter at [Andover], on a snowy day, I came to the office wearing a pantsuit. I was told by a staff member in another office that ‘we don’t wear pants here, we women wear skirts no matter what the weather is.’ I laugh, remembering that it wasn’t more than a couple of weeks later that a number of women staff members were coming to work wearing pants. I think it didn’t take too long for most of us to feel at home at Andover,” said George.
Many of George’s favorite memories at Andover took place in the C.C.O., which was located in the basement of George Washington Hall. When she began working at Andover, the C.C.O. was led by Finbury and co-director Robin Crawford, a part-time counselor, alongside two secretaries, George and Ianne Knight Watson. The office worked with 400 students in the first year of the merger, with Finbury managing an enormous group of 200 students that year.
According to Mosca, who worked alongside George in the C.C.O. for 19 years, George has a terrific sense of humor and was universally adored by her colleagues. Mosca recalls a notable quote from a student about George that was immortalized on the back of a rocking chair gifted to George when she left the C.C.O.
“‘Mrs. George – she rocks!’ That was a student comment during an annual review when students were asked how they felt about the College Counseling Office and some of the people in it. The comment…nicely sums up how students felt about Mrs. G. She knew the college application process inside out and backwards and the students, teachers, and her colleagues all knew it. Students loved Mrs. George for her kindness, how she would go to any lengths to help them with a process fraught with anxiety,” wrote Mosca in an email to The Phillipian.
Alice Pruington, another former colleague of George’s, echoed Mosca’s thoughts on George’s experience and ability.
Pruington wrote, “[George] knew it all… the ins and outs of the processes, the college representatives who regularly visited us, most of the Uppers who were then Seniors… She also knew each of the college counselors and our challenges and joys every step of the way. We worked very hard, planned, imagined, laughed, cried and celebrated. We were a team. Liz was our captain.”
A memory that stands out to George was the time a computer was first brought to the C.C.O., one of the first places on campus to start using computers.
“Our office was one of the first to start using computers. I recall how afraid I was that I would delete everything that I had entered every time I touched the keyboard. I have learned a lot since those days… Before the days of computers, we would type college recommendations using carbon paper for multiple copies. Paper records were everywhere. We worked throughout the winter holiday break to put together student records and recommendations for colleges, in order to have them postmarked by the January 1 deadline,” said George.
During her time in college counseling, George loved working directly with students to help them through the application process. She still keeps in touch with several students from over the years. Following her retirement, George will remain home due to the ongoing pandemic, but she plans to tackle some projects and stay in touch with friends and family.
“Right now, my husband and I are not doing much outside of our home, due to Covid[-19]. Our two children and three adult grandchildren live in the area, so we are lucky to be able to see them from a distance on occasion. Other traveling is on hold. We had hoped to spend more time in warm weather during the winters, but doubtful that that will happen this year. I will now again tackle some projects at home that I had planned to do long ago and will continue to spend time on the phone with relatives and friends,” said George.
Abbey Siegfried, Instructor in Musical Theatre and Dance, worked with George as the Liaison to the Abbot Academy Fund for six years. Siegfried appreciated George’s organization, kindness, insights, and listening skills, and she recalled how George would comfort students or assist faculty with questions on grant applications or policies.
Siegfried wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “I miss her dearly… but, Liz and I stay in touch. She is one of the strongest, smartest, most compassionate women I know and I am so incredibly grateful—for me, and for all of Abbot and Andover, that she has spent so much of her energy changing our lives.”