OCCASIONAL MENTION has been made earlier of the Secret Societies that existed at Phillips Academy. In the 1940's the question of whether these organizations were desirable came to a head and produced bitter controversy between the Administration and various groups of alumni. The first attempt to abolish the Societies occurred in 1943 and resulted in failure. Under John Mason Kemper, in 1949, elimination of these institutions was finally achieved, and with much less bitterness than had accompanied the first attempt.
The Andover Secret Societies were unique among American secondary schools. To be sure there were various kinds of fraternities at high schools, and some private schools also had exclusive clubs. At Exeter, for example, Societies existed until World War II, but they were a pale copy of the Andover institutions. For one thing, the Exeter Societies rented their quarters, while at Andover there were eight Society houses owned independently of the School by separate corporations. For seven of these organizations handsome new houses had been constructed for the express purpose of providing quarters for them. After a short period of trying to suppress them, the School, under Cecil Bancroft, had decided to allow them to exist and to supervise and regulate them. The School cooperated further by selling land to the various Society corporations when they wished to build their houses. Al Stearns continued the Bancroft policy; indeed, he often turned to the Societies for leadership in undergraduate affairs.
In the 1930's the attitude toward them began to change. In part this may have been the result of the change in attitude toward American society generally that accompanied the New Deal. In part it came about because more and more of the Faculty were becoming disenchanted with the institutions. Though Claude Fuess took a leading part in the first attempt to abolish the Societies, he was in large measure reflecting the attitudes of the country and the Andover community. The issue was difficult and highly emotional; in no sense did it have a purely right or wrong side. Even today, twenty-five years after the abolition of the Societies, it is difficult to be objective about the problem.
There were eventually eight Secret Societies at Phillips Academy, although several were more fugitive and lasted for only a few years. The three oldest, and by far the most prestigious, were K.O.A., A.U.V., and P.A.E. These three, together with P.B.X. and F.L.D., were founded in the late nineteenth century; P.L.S., A.G.C., and E.D.P. were founded in the twentieth, the last in 1915.(1) When these organizations first appeared in the 1870's, the Faculty voted to forbid them, and for a few years entering Andover students were forced to sign a pledge that they would not join any Secret Society.(2) As a result, the early meetings had to be sub rosa, usually around midnight or in the early morning hours.
Yet the Societies were filling a definite undergraduate need. The School provided a solid academic program and was starting to develop an athletic one. Philo, the Society of Inquiry, and the musical clubs offered activities that might appeal to some boys but had no attraction for many. The Andover students of the 1870's were reacting much the same as college boys did a generation earlier when they established Greek letter fraternities. If colleges and schools were not going to provide institutions for the social life of their students, the students would have to develop them themselves.
In the 1880's the Faculty apparently had second thoughts about Societies; if they could not lick them, they had better join them. Accordingly, in 1883 the practice was instituted of each Society's having a Faculty guardian. Professor Graves was chosen guardian for K.O.A. Once this had been accomplished, the School had given formal recognition to the Societies, and from then on, each organization, in order to be in good standing, had to have a guardian, chosen by the members and approved by the Faculty. Once a Society had come out in the open, it was decided that new members had to be approved by the Faculty, with the names presented by the guardian and resting on the table for a week before being voted upon. Apparently in the early days there was no restriction by classes as to which boys could belong, as there was to be later, nor was the number of late meetings that a Society could have determined by the group's scholastic average. Faculty policy toward the Societies can be seen from the charter of the S.A.O. organization, passed in October 1896. First of all, the life of the Society was limited until June 1897, presumably so that the Faculty could check on its progress. The membership was limited to sixteen. The group was to have a suitable house or rooms near the Academy which could be used during regular recreation hours and on alternate Saturday nights until 9:50 P.M. S.A.O. was to have a guardian, and was to initiate no new members without prior Faculty approval.(3) This policy of Faculty supervision was to continue with relatively little change down to the 1930's
A charming account of the early days of K.O.A., the oldest of the Societies, was prepared by Jack Fuess, a member of the organization, on the occasion of their Fiftieth Anniversary.(4) The Society was founded in September 1874, with five members present at its first meeting. The treasury contained five dollars, gained from the dollar initiation fee that the original five had paid in. Monthly dues were twenty-five cents. A fat source of revenue was fines---absence from meeting, twenty cents, disorderly conduct, fifty cents, and the like. Each member had a special societal name---Don Santo, Thersites, Fra Diavolo. The group made a brave attempt to introduce literary exercises at their meetings, but after one session the members voted to abolish them. The Society first held its meetings in a room in the Latin Commons and later in a dilapidated structure below the Academy on the way downtown. Beer was drunk, and some of the meetings were boisterous. In order to get food for these gatherings a "Committee of Plunder" was appointed, and occasionally, when the treasury was flush, a society supper was held, fried oysters being served in one instance. To avoid Faculty detection, the day and time of meetings had to be changed frequently, and in 1881 the annual reunion was held in New Haven lest the Faculty find out about it. In school elections the Society was well organized, had its own tickets, and did surprisingly well. After a Philo election in 1878 the Scribe wrote in the minutes: "A glorious victory for K.O.A. and the gentlemanly element of Phillips Academy." The members also bought a bob-sled for seventeen dollars, painted it with a skull and crossbones, and made a great hit with spectators on School Street. The Society was apparently effective at disciplining its own members. In the mid 1870's, one student was "dishonorably expelled" for some unspecified crime. Interestingly enough the Andover K.O.A. attempted to establish a chapter at Exeter, a task made easier by the presence at Exeter of a boy who had recently been expelled from Andover. The chapter was indeed started, but faded soon after.
As was true with most secret societies in those early days, a major concern of the membership was the initiation ceremony. In K.O.A. the ceremony involved visiting one of the local cemeteries at midnight, various kinds of tortures, running the gauntlet---though the novice was apparently punched rather than paddled, being baptized in a water tank, being hoisted in the air by a pulley, and finally being placed in a coffin, where he was cross-examined by the members. It is interesting to note that in 1882 a black who was serving the Society as janitor was also initiated. Much of what went on may seem childish and unimportant today, but the fact remains that K.O.A. was able to hold the loyalty of its members over the years to become a powerful institution at Phillips Academy and to erect a handsome pillared Society house on School Street.
The second Society of the seven that would survive until 1950 was A.U.V. The letters stood for Auctoritas, Unitas, Veritas.(5) This organization resulted from a merger of two slightly earlier Societies, O.D.A. and Delta Tau Delta. O.D.A. had been born in the Brick House, formerly a printing shop, located in front of what is now Adams and Bishop Halls. The Brick House was isolated from the rest of the campus, as it then existed, and it was natural that the boys who lived there would develop close friendships. But O.D.A. did not prosper and in 1876 had only four members. Since Delta Tau Delta was not that strong either, and since the two groups had been engaging in a friendly rivalry for some time, they determined to merge, which they did in 1877. A new constitution was drawn up outlining the rules for the governance of the Society and providing for four chief officers---Imperator, Vice Imperator, Scriptor, and Quaestor---with a number of lesser ones as well. Like K.O.A. the Society depended on an elaborate system of fines for some of its income. Unlike some of the other Societies, which tended to become cliques, A.U.V. made a conscious effort to have variety in its membership, and apparently at times pleas would be made to the brethren not to blackball candidates that might provide such variety. Like K.O.A., A.U.V. had an elaborate initiation ceremony. Once a pledge had been approved by the Faculty, he was given a letter with a list of rules he was to follow. He was to be in the cemetery every night from 12:30 to 5:00, deliver a morning paper to each member of the Society each morning, must not comb or brush his hair nor wash his face or hands, smoke nothing but a clay pipe with Lucky Strike tobacco, and not speak to any student except members of A.U.V.
After the pledge had memorized these rules, his letter of instruction was burned. The pledge now became a "scut" and was compelled to learn many mottoes and incantations. On Friday night of initiation week the scut was taken to Hartigan's drugstore downtown and given a "scut sundae," which consisted of pepper, ice cream, oysters, and raw liver. Later that night he reported to the South Church cemetery, where he had to wait for two hours for the members to arrive. There followed the usual horseplay---the scut was used as a tackling dummy, threats were made to lock him in a tomb, and various other ceremonies observed. On Saturday afternoon the scut was taken on a long walk around town, being forced to stop at some houses and ask for food, to urinate on a few porches, and generally to make a fool of himself. On Saturday night came the initiation proper. The scut was prepared by reporting to the cellar in his underwear and having dirt and flour smeared all over his body. He was finally cleaned up and brought to the initiation room, where a solemn ceremony followed, ending with the longed-for words "Let him have light," at which point his blindfold was removed, some oaths were administered, and the boy was finally a member.
A.U.V. had better housing than the other Societies in the early days, for a new lodge was constructed in 1894. In 1902 alumni members of the Society incorporated it, and in 1909 purchased a lot on Wheeler Street from Phillips Academy. Shortly after 1915 the present house was constructed. From then until the Society crisis of the 1940's, A.U.V. continued strong and successful. There were, to be sure, some problems. In the mid-1920's, the scholarship average of the Society dropped abysmally. The members had also been pledging students illegally---without the approval of the Faculty guardian. In one initiation a boy had been so battered that he was unable to run in the Andover-Exeter track meet. The janitor forgot to turn off the water one winter vacation, with the result that the pipes froze solid. Yet the Society managed to overcome these problems and well deserved its position as one of the big three among the school's Societies.
A.G.C. was different in some ways from the other Societies.(6) Its founders---and many of its later members---believed that the true function of a Society should be "real interest in working for the school and scholarship." A.G.C. was also different in that its Faculty guardian---for most of its existence Allan Rogers ("Zeus") Benner---played a much more active role than did the other Faculty guardians. Perhaps this was because Zeus was the only Faculty member of the Society, while most of the others had several, but in any event his influence was profound. A.G.C. was founded in 1904 by ten students, nine of whom were members of the Society of Inquiry, an organization whose purpose was "to make Christianity not merely a pious creed, but the very core of daily living." This seriousness of purpose is reflected in the epithet that other members of the school applied to the members---"Christers." Bishop Henry W. Hobson, until recently President of the Academy's Board of Trustees, remembers the early meetings of the Society:
We'd bring up subjects about the school which we would discuss, and discuss seriously. I mean some of the really important school problems and questions that students had in mind. We had some discussion of the things of the world. There was an occasional prepared paper read by one of the members. While we had a lot of good times together, there was always the underlying idea, that we were there for the purpose of trying to be of some use to the school.(7)
An important reason for the relative seriousness of the membership was the interest that Zeus Benner took in the selection of students as prospective members. A scholar himself, he prized scholarship among the students and often suggested one of his able Greek pupils for pledging. Partly as a result, the scholastic average of the Society was nearly always higher than that of the others. Yet it must not be supposed that the brethren of A.G.C. were dour, joyless young men, forever concerned with life's most serious questions. There is ample evidence that the members had a lot of fun. The Society's first house, called "Bill's" was off Bartlet Street and was the scene of "a lot of good times""feeds," "Hydrox cookies, ice cream, and soft drinks." As one member remembers it, "How moving it was to march up the hill on the clear, crisp nights singing our songs of brotherhood, hearing our rivals singing theirs across campus, and reaching home as the clock struck the hour. There was exaltation in it." The A.G.C. initiation had much in common with those of the other Societies, with a few special twists of its own. The pledge, called the "bird," might be asked to push over a large stone wall---and be paddled when he did not succeed. Or he might be taken on a long walk, asked to flag down the streetcar and then wave it on, ask permission of a farmer to kiss his horse, and finally yell "Cuckoo" three times through a window at a lady playing a piano.(8) The ritual that followed the horseplay bore the imprint of Zeus Benner's composition:
The beautiful badge of Alpha Gamma Chi boasts few symbols, but these are very significant . . . . Its composition is gold and diamond. The former is symbolic of our high ideals; the latter, hardest of stones, suggests to us the difficulties involved in its achievement, as well as the value and worth of our goal, character and highest manhood. The letters knit close in the monogram are indicative of the close bond of friendship and affection that knits our brothers together.
The shield of Alpha Gamma Chi is the facade of a castle, the symbol of strength without and secrecy within. The sum of the numbers on the seal and the number of panels around the door is ten, a number which we emphasize as a tribute to our ten charter members. The Eagle Knocker stands on a cord of many strands, each representing a brother. In its mouth this strongest of birds holds and protects a Key-our Key.(9)
When the ceremony was over, the new brother, according to one initiate, experienced "the warm sense of belonging to a gallant company."
In 1915 the corporation of the Society acquired what was described as a "cottage" on Salem Street so that the Society could be nearer to the School. Apparently it was no real estate bargain. When Mrs. Henry Hobson saw it, she remarked, "If the parents of the boys ever saw it, they'd demand that their sons resign, and if the building inspector or board of health ever came near this corner, they'd close the place up!"(10) A particularly unattractive feature of the building was "the dreadful condition of the porch." Yet the Society thrived in its new dwelling until 1927, when a group of alumni under the leadership of Henry Hobson determined to build a new house for the Society. Money and pledges were obtained, a plot of land was purchased from the School, a brochure entitled "Old Bill's is Crumbling" was distributed as part of the fund-raising effort, and the handsome structure known today as Benner House was built. The backers of the project had unwittingly picked a poor time to build; hardly had the new house been constructed than the Depression hit and for the rest of its existence A.G.C. was never free from financial troubles. Yet at least until Zeus Benner retired in 1938, its morale remained high.
One final example---E.D.P., the last of the Societies to be founded.(11) As the youngest of the eight Societies, E.D.P. suffered in competition with the others, particularly at first; yet like the others it managed to survive until 1950. When it was first founded in 1915, it was completely secret; it was not recognized by the School and had no Faculty guardian. During these first years it was handicapped because its members were often pledged to other societies as well, which produced divided loyalties to say the least. After four years, however, it was strong enough to apply to the School for recognition, and once that was received, E.D.P. became the eighth Society at Phillips Academy. It determined to be an "open" Society-that is, undergraduates who were not members could visit it, as they could P.A.E., F.L.D., P.B.X., and P.L.S. Three of the Societies---K.O.A., A.U.V., and A.G.C.---were closed, meaning that only members were ever allowed inside. E.D.P. acquired a modest shingled cottage on Highland Road, which remained its house until the abolition of the Societies in 1950. As the newest of the Societies, E.D.P. had trouble attracting campus leaders---particularly the captains of major sports. As one Faculty member put it: "All the fraternities wanted to pledge the same boys but only the name fraternities were able to acquire them. E.D.P. was more fortunate in pledging boys with latent qualities that the prominent fraternities might have overlooked."(12) The three qualities most sought after were athletic ability, personality, and scholarship, though not necessarily in that order. One way in which E.D.P. sought to strengthen its position was by pledging promising lowerclassmen before the other Societies had become aware of them, but the Seniors disliked the idea of having a lot of young kids around, and the idea never got very far.
Since there was a certain amount of confusion in Society affairs, especially regarding pledging, an Inter-Society Council was set up to try to bring some kind of order to the situation, and after its establishment in the 1920's, things did improve, but the members of E.D.P. showed little concern for it. On various occasions proposals for the construction of a new house for the Society were brought forward, but these never materialized, and E.D.P. remained throughout its entire existence the one Society that never had a new house of its own. One description of Society life at E.D.P. reads as follows:
On a Saturday night the only place a Phillips Academy student could sign out for after the movie was his fraternity, where he could sip a soda, light up a cigarette, play cards, pool, ping-pong, or throw the 'bull" with a student or faculty member. The atmosphere was congenial and the people friendly. Softball games, picnics, and special outings added to the social life of the members. The Society provided an oasis for students who were trapped in an age of strict discipline; it was a place where one could escape from the pressures of school, be with people of the same mentality, and have a feeling of belonging. The close proximity among fraternity members did indeed foster a special "intercourse" which was occasionally so powerful that a member would feel more loyalty to the Society than to the school.(13)
In short, though E.D.P. was never as strong as some of the other Societies, it did equally well in providing a place where its members could relax together in good fellowship.
For the first third of the twentieth century, therefore, the Societies prospered and provided a rich experience for many of their members. There can be no question that the friendships formed in these organizations were lasting. Furthermore, the loyalty of the alumni members of the Societies---for example, their return to Andover for reunion dinners each spring---is additional evidence that the Society experience had been meaningful. In most of the groups the alumni members were more than willing to open their purses when things got rough financially, and it is a truism to state the Societies would never have survived without alumni support. Under Al Stearns, undergraduate Society leaders were often asked to help with school problems. John Kemper reported on the following conversation with Al: "He explained to me the way in which they [the Societies] were particularly useful in his day. Whenever he had a problem that he felt the boys could solve better than the faculty---and there are always many such problems---he worked through the Societies."(14) Strong and generally well behaved as they were, they were by no means spotless. A certain amount of drinking went on fairly regularly, all the more so because it was difficult to apprehend the transgressor. Safe within the confines of his house, he was vulnerable only to incursions by the Faculty guardian, and these occurred rarely. In one Society, for example, bridge was played for one twentieth of a cent a point.(15) Occasionally a crap game developed. But most of the boys did not have enough money to engage in any large-scale gambling, and the problem was never serious.
Finally, there was the question of girls---particularly Abbot girls, who regularly took walks in pairs past some of the Society houses. In the "open" houses girls could visit if properly chaperoned, usually by the Faculty guardian. In the "closed" houses none was ever to enter. This did not prevent certain enterprising undergraduates from inviting girls in for a visit in both "open" and "closed" houses without benefit of chaperone. If they got caught, the penalty was often to close the entire house for a lengthy period. In the winter of 1931, for example, an amorous brother of AGC took a young lady into his house. Unfortunately for him, he was observed by the wife of the head of the Math Department, and the house was closed for the rest of the year. On another occasion, when a P.B.X. brother took a girl into his house and was caught, Arthur B. Darling, Faculty guardian, was bemoaning to an alumnus brother how the boys had let him down. The alumnus listened for a bit and then said, "Well, Art, your parents didn't find you under any mulberry bush."(16) There is no evidence that anything very ambitious was attempted during these clandestine visits, but given the attitude of the School and, more important, of Bertha Bailey, Headmistress of Abbot Academy, the mere fact of an unchaperoned meeting between a boy and girl was shocking and intolerable.
During the 1930'S some of the Societies ran into financial problems. P.L.S., for example, found itself unable to meet its obligations in the late 1930's, appeals for alumni support went largely in vain, and the organization was finally forced in 1939 to turn over its new house to the School, which held the mortgage. Hence as the 1940's opened, there were seven rather than eight Societies.
Despite various sins of omission and commission, there was no reason in the 1930's to believe that the Societies were not permanent institutions at Phillips Academy. In 1943 Headmaster Claude Fuess made a sudden attempt to abolish all of them outright. At the start he received the almost unanimous support of both the Trustees and the Faculty; yet it is difficult to determine precisely where the movement to get rid of the Societies came from. To be sure, there were straws in the wind. In 1934 one undergraduate had been killed during the course of a Society initiation. A group of alumni had joined the undergraduates for part of the ceremonies that were held in a barn on the outskirts of Andover. On the way back the initiate rode on the running board of a car driven by one of the alumni. The roads were slippery, and the car skidded and crashed into a telegraph pole, crushing the boy, who died in Dr. Fuess's presence in the hospital a few hours later. According to his own testimony, this tragic episode had a profound impression on Dr. Fuess:
I had known this kind of thing was going on, but up to that time the accidents had been relatively trivial; boys who had been beaten up considerably had emerged with bruises and sometimes with dislocations. But this was the first time anybody had been killed .... I made up my mind that [the Societies] would just have to go .... It was perhaps the most important factor in forcing me to reach a decision.(17)
One might argue that the accident was not directly connected with the Societies as such---a non-Society boy might have ridden on the running board of a friend's auto, for example. Unquestionably Jack Fuess never forgot the experience, and it contributed to his eventual decision to move for abolition. Other forces were also at work: a subtle change in attitude that may have been a result of the New Deal programs, the attacks on special privilege, the egalitarian character of the New Deal philosophy, the concern for the disadvantaged---all put the Societies on the defensive. A natural result of this change in national thinking was an increasing concern for the boys who were not in Societies. Though from the start many students were disappointed or bitter or insecure as a result of not having been chosen for a Society, no one seems to have worried much about it. It was the way of the world, and the unwashed could take their knocks like anyone else. Now there began to develop an interest in this group and also in their parents. Furthermore, the increasing influence that mothers began to have in their sons' secondary education played a part. A father might accept the fact that his son did not make a Society; for a mother such a state of affairs was unbearable.(18) The Faculty, which had accepted Societies without much question up to this time, also began to alter its position. Another straw in the wind came when Alan R. Blackmer, the distinguished English teacher, resigned from K.O.A. because he could not subscribe to what the Societies stood for. An attempt by the Faculty to ameliorate the whole situation came in 1935, when membership was limited to Upper Middlers and Seniors. Yet that exacerbated the situation: 40 percent of those two classes were Society members and 60 percent were not. When all four classes had been eligible, the percentages were not that close. Commenting on this, Dr. Fuess stated that he would be happier when 10 percent were in and 90 percent out, or when 90 percent were in and 10 percent out. Splitting the two upper classes down the middle was, he thought, the worst possible division.(19) Aside from limiting Society membership to the two upper classes, no action was taken on the question in the 1930's, but there were tides running that would have a deep influence on the attitude of people toward exclusive institutions both within and without the School.
As the decade of the 1940's opened, the position of the Societies at Andover seemed secure. Rumors that the School was considering some kind of drastic action toward them proved unfounded. When Charles L. Stillman, Class of 1922 and an alumnus member of P.A.E., wrote Dr. Fuess on the subject, he received the following reply:
I can say briefly that my object for the past two or three years has been to improve the societies, and I am confident that when you understand what has been done, you will agree with the program which we have undertaken.
A few months after this, Stillman met with Dr. Fuess and others to discuss, among other things, the Society question. Stiliman's report of this meeting included the following statement made by Dr. Fuess:
Fuess said that the society situation was much better than it has been.
There is vast improvement at K.O.A. and signs of more life at P.A.E. If all societies were more like A.U.V., in Jack's opinion, there would be no society problem.(20)
These statements could not but reassure the Society alumni that at least the situation was no worse that it had been; if the School were trying to improve them, the presumption was that they were to remain as permanent parts of Phillips Academy. As we shall see, however, these statements were to return to haunt Jack Fuess when the Society crisis broke three years later.
Then came the war, and most people had more important things to do than to worry about Andover, let alone Andover Societies. In 1942 Dr. Fuess decided to move for the elimination of Societies. According to his recollection he had been discussing the problem with many people, he would have behind him the almost unanimous support of the Faculty, and he was confident of Trustee approval. He therefore met with the undergraduate heads of the seven Societies, told them of his plans, and won their agreement to support the measure. Since Jack's recollections were dictated twenty years after the event, the chances are good that he mixed up his dates. It is hard to believe that an announcement of this kind would not have leaked out long before the explosion in the spring of 1943.(21) Be that as it may, the next step was to get the approval of the Trustees, which was accomplished at their meeting of 10 April 1943, at which the following Resolutions were passed:
VOTED, that it is the sense of the Trustees that the existence of secret societies at Andover is not to the best interests of the school.
VOTED, that after the close of the present school year on June 11, 1943, no boys be permitted to belong to or join any social organization not authorized by the faculty.(22)
On 30 April 1943 the Faculty passed the following Resolution at a special meeting, with two dissenting votes:
VOTED, that it is the sense of the Faculty that the existence of social societies, with restricted membership, is not in the best interests of Phillips Academy.(23)
Both the Trustee vote and the Faculty vote were to be kept in confidence until adequate preparations had been made for presenting these decisions to the Andover community at large. Yet the Societies were apparently wiped out, summarily. There had been no adequate preparation for the step, no opportunity for discussion with interested alumni, no openness. Jack Fuess was later accused of trying to ram the measure through while everyone was busy fighting the Nazis and the Japanese. Although no evidence in support of that charge exists, it is difficult to understand how he thought he could accomplish his purpose of closing down in two months seven institutions, several of which were over fifty years old and all of which represented a substantial financial investment on the part of Andover graduates.
He soon learned that he could not. Although Trustees, Faculty, and the undergraduate Inter-Society Council had all been sworn to secrecy, leaks soon developed, and as the actions became more widely known, the undergraduates of K.O.A. believed that they were released from their pledge of secrecy and sent out an appeal to their alumni to come to their rescue.(24) Then the fat was in the fire, and Jack Fuess was deluged with letters from alumni, most of them protesting not only the action itself but the surreptitious way in which it had been carried out. Two of the more savage attacks follow. In the first a distinguished Andover alumnus telegraphed the Headmaster:
I was called on the long distance telephone by a member of my old society P.A.E. who stated that the Andover Trustees planned to abolish the societies without giving them any hearing. I told him that this sounded so Fascist that I would not believe it. Certainly no such step should be taken without a full hearing at which the proper representatives of the alumni graduates of the societies could be present.
When Dr. Fuess asked him to wait the results of a coming meeting in New York, the alumnus let go another salvo:
I am not interested in post mortems but only in fair play. That the societies have not received. Star chamber proceedings have been out of date since 1688. This telegram closes our communications on this subject.(25)
I have been compelled, after long thought and with regret for a pleasant past, to write ... that I have lost my faith and friendship in you; and that I think your usefulness to Andover has ended.
You yourself have destroyed my friendship and faith .... I have thought long and reluctantly before admitting it. Because I have liked you and backed you where I could for many years gone by.
But I cannot approve the long, obvious, undercover course you have pursued with regard to the abolition of the societies; in our constant meetings you never once spoke of your plan. And secondly I am stricken with amazement at the complete obliviousness of wrong that you show in your letters to me.
. . . in the army they sometimes decide that an officer is no longer fit to command brave troops. I feel that you have shown yourself no longer fit to lead straight-forward young Americans.(26)
He went on to comment on the bitterness toward the Headmaster---"which, to me is amazing in its depth"---and the resentment felt by Andover me in the armed forces who feel that you have used their absence as a further aid to your secret effort." A hornet's nest had been stirred up.
Dr. Fuess did not take these attacks lying down. He prepared a memorandum on the Societies in which he stated his views clearly and strongly First of all, he thought, the tremendous changes that had taken place on Andover Hill since World War I made many of the arguments that might have been relevant at an earlier period no longer valid. The improvements in School plant and equipment, the increase in the size of the Academy, the lowering of the average age of students---all had made Phillips Academy a very different place from what it had been a generation or two ago When the Societies were founded, the School made little provision for undergraduate recreational facilities, and they served a definite need. At the time he was writing, with a broad program of recreational facilities, that need no longer existed. If there were no Societies, no one could ever think of establishing them. The Societies had contributed little to the School over the years. Their members' grades tended to decline after initiation, and there had been no Society programs designed to improve School life. Many members cared more for their Society than for the School. Furthermore, the system was promoting exclusiveness and gave official recognition to that exclusiveness. It tended to give members an unjustified sense of superiority---all the more so when the criteria for election were often capricious and sometimes discriminatory. Indeed, the Faculty had no trouble in recognizing the "society type" of student. The system also encouraged School politics and the manipulation of other students. The expense of membership was unjustifiably large. Even more important was the effect that the Society system was having on those who were not members. During the first two years of a boy's career at Andover, he would make friends with a variety of other boys. Then in Upper Middle year came the Society "rushing," and suddenly the class was divided into two groups, often for the most arbitrary of reasons. "The consequences are disappointment, concealed envy, and a sense of injustice, all the more devastating because so seldom revealed." Visitors to Andover were often amazed to learn that the School had Societies---Phillips Academy was the only strong private School in the country still to have them. When the Trustees, Headmaster, and Faculty were all but unanimous in their belief that the Societies should go, it should give proponents of the system pause. The possibility of attacks on private schools by those who wanted the state to control everything was a constant danger. How much more vulnerable would Phillips Academy be if it had to defend these special interest institutions from attack! The Trustees had no intention of eliminating the Societies without replacing them with new recreational facilities. Just what form these new facilities would take would have to await further study, but the time had clearly come to abolish an anachronism and replace it with something more in keeping with the Phillips Academy of that day.(27) Others rallied to the Headmaster's support. Robert A. Gardner, a Trustee and a member of P.A.E., spoke for the Trustees on the matter. He pointed out that all the Trustees but two were members of Societies and that they had reached their conclusion only after a lot of hard thinking, fully cognizant of the storm that would break about their heads once their decision became known. He said that the claim that Society alumni were stronger supporters of the School than non-Society ones simply was not true. As far as financial support for the School was concerned, the support of the Society alumni was slightly less than that of the others. He then took up the problem of boys who were not in Societies and the often made statement that if boys were disappointed, it was good for their character and would prepare them to meet trials later in life. On this point he said that he was willing to take the judgment of the Faculty, who were all but unanimous in favor of abolition, even though most of the Faculty were not Andover graduates and even fewer were Society members. Gardner insisted that the Faculty were in closer touch with what was going on than any other group, including the Trustees, and he did not see how the School could be run successfully if their opinions were ignored. To make this point more emphatic, he used a business analogy: "If anyone were running a business and the department managers were unanimous as to a policy, it would be very poor judgment not to give weight to their advice."(28) There was no question that a strong case had been made for the abolition of the Societies. Unfortunately for the Administration, however, no case at all could be made for the manner in which the votes had been rushed through without any prior discussion or preparation. As a result, the Administration's case was fatally weakened before the issue was fairly joined.
It was the original intention of the Trustees to pass their vote, get Faculty approval of it, notify the Inter-Society Council, and then swear everybody to secrecy until a meeting could be held in New York, at which the decision could be explained to a representative group of Society alumni. Because of the leaks, Dr. Fuess and the Trustees who attended the meeting were forced to adopt an essentially defensive attitude from the beginning, with the storm of protest already raging. On 14 May 1943 the dinner was held, with Jack Fuess, Dr. Fred Murphy, representing the Trustees (President Henry L. Stimson was unable to attend), several other Trustees, and a group of Society alumni. Jack Fuess remembered the dinner as one of the most lavish he had ever attended; before dinner and during the meal everything was very pleasant; then after dinner the Society alumni opened up on the Headmaster. At this time they were not so much concerned with the merits and demerits of the Society system; they rather insisted that they deserved a day in court before such drastic action as that proposed by the Trustees were taken. Dr. Murphy, who, as Vice-President of the Board, was presiding, was ineffectual in support of the Administrative position when he was asked questions, he often replied that he did not know. The only support that Jack Fuess got that evening came from Allan Heely, a former Andover Faculty member, a member of P.A.E., and Headmaster of Lawrenceville. He rose and made a powerful statement in defense of the Administration position.(29) At the end of the evening the Trustees who were present retired, and when they returned, they announced that while their first vote that Societies were not in the best interest of Phillips Academy would stand, they would recommend to the full Board, at their meeting in June, that their second vote closing the Societies in June, 1943, be rescinded and that the actual abolition of the Societies be postponed.(30) Although those present at the dinner may not have realized it at the time, this meant that the movement to eliminate the Societies was dead. There were still many committee meetings to be held and a great deal of ink to be spilled, but no one in power ever again seriously considered abolition at this time.
A major reason why the drive for the abolition of the Societies stalled was the position taken by Henry L. Stimson. Stimson, as Secretary of War, more than had his hands full in Washington and was understandably unable to attend any of the meetings on the Society question. But he had been sent copies of the many letters of protest that had come to the Headmaster and somehow found time to read them all. On 31 May he wrote Jack Fuess a letter in which he said, "The reading of the letters ... has given me the impression that we have made a mistake in bringing such a matter up at this time when all men were under nervous pressure and when harmonious unity in support of the war effort rather than discord on such a minor matter as this should have been aimed at. Furthermore I think we made a mistake in taking action in a way which has given the opponents of the step ground for accusing us of acting without any discussion and an opportunity to them for being heard on the other side." To soften these statements, Stimson wrote the words "may" and "may have" in the margin, so that the statements would read "may have made a mistake." But it was clear that the original phrasing represented his true position. Secretary Stimson went on to say that he thought some more modern reform of the Society system was contemplated rather than "complete annihilation of the societies," and added that he felt sympathetic with some of the Society alumni who had written moderately on the subject. He was impressed, too, by the importance and intelligence of the men who had written in. Stimson concluded:
In short, I am inclined to feel that if it is possible we should not press this thing at present to a ruthless immediate decision. It seems to me the wrong time and the wrong method .... But I am very much impressed with the importance of keeping the unity of the body of the alumni preserved, and frankly I don't think this Society issue is one on which we should break it. I know enough of the men whose names appeared as signers of these matters to feel that they represented an opposition which the Trustees should not brush aside as an unimportant minority .... it is needless to say that I shall loyally accept any decision the Trustees make.(31)
The Stimson letter was gentle but firm. A Headmaster who would have proceeded with abolition of the Societies without the support of the President of his Board would have been very rash indeed.
On 10 June the Trustees met. They accepted the advice of their members who had attended the New York meeting and rescinded their April vote, which would have closed down all Societies on 11 June of that year. At the same meeting a delegation of Society alumni requested permission to attend for a while, a request that was granted. They were bitterly hostile to the Headmaster, and their aim was to force his resignation. According to Jack Fuess's account, they realized that they could not accomplish this on the Society issue---for one thing the coverage in the national press had been universally favorable to the Administration position.(32) They believed that the new policy of treating each discipline case on its individual merits was a pernicious one that confused the present undergraduates and demanded a return to the old system where punishment was automatic for a particular crime. They charged Dr. Fuess with being "soft" and generally incompetent in the field of discipline and grilled him on the handling of recent cases. He explained that all disciplinary matters were now handled by a Faculty Discipline Committee, a competent group with whom he had no intention of interfering. After the Society group left, the Trustees gave the Headmaster a full vote of confidence, and he learned shortly thereafter that the Faculty had met on their own and passed a similar vote.(33) All this was encouraging and reassuring, but a personal tragedy was to cause Jack Fuess to give up the battle. His wife, Elizabeth Goodhue Fuess, had not been well for some time; in the spring of 1943 she became so desperately ill that it became more and more difficult for her husband to meet his appointments. On 26 July 1943 she died. Of the effect of her death on him he wrote:
The situation was such, however, that with my wife as ill as she was, and with the necessity of my being with her virtually all the time, that I finally made up my mind that I would just let the thing lapse. And in a period of great emotional strain, during the summer, I simply dropped whatever steps I had made up my mind to take with regard to the societies. I think for a short period I was almost incapable of action, not because I was seriously ill but because I was emotionally disturbed.(34)
Secretary Stimson invited Jack Fuess to spend August with him and Mrs. Stimson at the Ausable Club in the Adirondacks, and there he recovered his composure. If he needed further encouragement to drop the Society question, Stimson provided it. He had, he said, received many letters from Andover alumni on all sides of the Society question, but one thing most of them agreed on-that it was unwise to try to settle the matter in the middle of a war. It was clear that Henry Stimson agreed with them.(35)
In the meantime, at the suggestion of the Trustees, a committee of Society alumni was formed to consider what improvements might be made in the existing Society system, since it soon became clear that the Trustee vote to rescind the closing of the Societies was to be more or less permanent. This Committee met with a Faculty committee twice in the summer of 1943 in long sessions and worked diligently to come up with something constructive.(36) Yet it soon became clear that there could be no real meeting of minds, for the two groups---the Faculty and the Society alumni---had basically different concepts of American society. The Faculty were generally egalitarian in outlook; they were primarily concerned with the boys who were not chosen for Societies, they disliked anything that smacked of special privilege, they believed that the influence of the Societies on their members was at best neutral, at worse negative, and they resented the air of superiority that Society students often bore. The Society alumni had what might be called for want of a better word an "individualistic" outlook on society. They believed, first of all, that it was absurd to claim that all men were equal, when they obviously were not. They insisted that disappointments like not making a Society were normal experiences in life and that Andover undergraduates would profit from learning how to accept such disappointments. They were convinced that the Societies had for years provided the School with an elite leadership that had done much for the institution. And they believed strongly that if there were things wrong with the present system, it should be reformed rather than abolished. Given these two diametrically opposed set of values, it is easy to see why agreement between the two committees was difficult to obtain.
Since Societies were to remain in existence, the Society committee set itself to devising programs for their improvement. Attempts were made to devise a system of Clubs for the non-Society boys, but this program was abandoned as unworkable. When the report finally came out in October---it was written by the Alumni Committee---it recommended essentially that the existing rules governing the Societies be kept, with the exception of a change in pledging procedure. Since 1936, all Upper Middlers had been pledged at one time, focusing too much attention, it was believed, on Society membership. The report proposed a return to the old system when boys were pledged individually throughout the year.(37) The report also reviewed the various reasons why the Societies were in trouble, as well as the changes that had taken place at Phillips Academy since 1930. The report put particular emphasis on the growing paternalism at the School, with the boys being subject to Faculty supervision in almost everything they did. In short, the report was unhappy about developments at Andover since 1930 and wanted the School to return to the good old days before 1930 when, it was believed, Phillips Academy was a stronger institution.(38) With the submission of this report, there ended what might be called Round 1 in the Society battle. As might have been expected, the undergraduate members of the Societies, realizing what a close call they had had, behaved in the most exemplary fashion for the next few years. Indeed a Faculty Committee appointed to supervise the Societies published a highly complimentary report for the School year 1943-44, in which they gave the boys top marks in almost every category. Especially noteworthy were instances of the Societies contributing to the School---establishing prizes, entertaining visiting teams, purchasing history books for the Library, and the like.(39) For the time being, at least, the Societies seemed to be safe.
Round 2 occurred in 1947, when Frederick S. Allis, Jr., Faculty Guardian of A.G.C., sent out a letter to the alumni of that Society expressing his concern over the condition of the Society. The undergraduates were having financial problems, the morale of the organization seemed to the Guardian to be far from high, and the Society's future seemed problematical. Allis added that he was becoming more and more uncomfortable as Guardian of an institution that he really did not approve of and was continuing more out of respect to "Cap" Benner than anything else. He added that he could find no qualified members of the Faculty who were interested in taking over the Guardianship. Shortly after this the undergraduates sent out a letter to the alumni insisting that they were a viable organization and asking for alumni support. On 6 June 1947 the annual meeting of the A.G.C. corporation was held in its house at Andover. After routine business had been disposed of, Brother Henry W. Hobson, newly elected President of the Board of Trustees, took the chair, and the meeting proceeded to a discussion of the future of the Society. First the undergraduates presented their case. They insisted that the Society was in good shape, that the financial difficulties had been straightened out, that the members were taking an active part in the life of the School and making important contributions to its welfare. Next the Faculty guardian stated his position and was politely mauled by the undergraduates for his pains. Bishop Hobson reported on the letters that had been written by alumni members unable to attend---some fifty in all. Of this number roughly one third unequivocally favored continuation of the Society, one third unequivocally favored dissolution, and one third qualified their position so much that it was impossible to categorize them. The meeting was then thrown open for general discussion, from which the following points emerged: It was agreed that the financial condition of the Society should not be a determining factor in any decision made about its future. A majority believed that the Society deserved to be continued. A minority believed that the Society was not in the best interests of the School. A majority wanted to know what the position of the Trustees was on Societies in general, quite apart from any particular problems of A.G.C. Finally, late in the evening, Bishop Hobson agreed to state that position. He reminded the brothers of his many years of loyalty to A.G.C. and of the leadership he had provided in the construction of the present Society house. He added that he had been strongly opposed to the action taken toward the Societies in he had been unable to attend the meeting in April 1943, when abolition had been voted, but he was confident that had he been there, he could have prevented that vote. Ever since his first arrival in Andover in 1909, he had been a loyal Society man.
But things had changed. Now the present Board of Trustees---all but one of whom was a Society man---had all but unanimously reached the conclusion that the Societies were a detriment to the School and that sooner or later they would have to go. He said that the Trustees planned no immediate action but he was not sure how long they would wait if the Societies did not dissolve themselves voluntarily. Bishop Hobson then presented six points on which the Trustee position was based. First, the opinion of the Faculty. With well over 90 percent of the Faculty in favor of abolition of the Societies, he found it difficult to believe that such a large majority could go wrong. He added that he had talked to many Faculty members and was convinced that they were not, as some had charged, simply echoing the Administration position. Second, the loss of promising prospective students. Bishop Hobson had had an opportunity to examine Exeter's admission correspondence and had found a disturbing number of letters that specifically stated that a family's choice of Exeter over Andover was the absence of Societies in the one, the presence in the other. Third, the increasing protests of parents and alumni. Bishop Hobson said he had been receiving a large number of letters on the Society question from parents and alumni. On the basis of these letters he would estimate that a large majority of parents and non-Society alumni and about half of the Society alumni favored dissolution. The School simply could not afford to have the Andover "family" split in this way. Fourth, the testimony of a New York fund-raising organization. The Trustees had engaged this firm to make a survey of the greater Andover community to determine strengths and weaknesses for the coming fund drive. The report of this firm stressed the Society problem as a serious handicap both for a successful fund drive and the selection of the best possible new Headmaster. Fifth, the testimony of educators throughout the country. Bishop Hobson said he had talked to many educators, both school and college men, and could not find one who thought that Societies were desirable in a secondary school. Sixth, the problem of choosing a new Headmaster. Bishop Hobson had heard from a number of quarters the statement that no really good man would consider the Headmastership of Andover as long as the Society question remained unsolved. He added that the choice would be the most important decision that the present Board would make.(40) The Bishop's speech was extraordinarily effective, as evidenced by the fact that no one rose to challenge him when he had finished. After the speech some of those present wanted to move immediately toward dissolution of the Society, but instead a resolution was passed expressing the Society's willingness to cooperate with the Trustees in whatever proved to be for the best interests of the School and suggested the formation of a committee of Society alumni to work on the problem. The A.G.C. meeting accomplished little of a positive nature. What it did do, however, was to provide a platform from which Henry Hobson could explain the Trustee position. What he said that night went far beyond the confines of the A.G.C. house and did much to prepare the way for the final dissolution of the Societies in 1949.
John Mason Kemper became Headmaster of Phillips Academy in the summer of 1948 and realized from the start that one of the major problems facing him was to resolve the Society question. He started by doing an extremely thorough job of research on all aspects of the question, determined to approach the issue with an open mind. He talked and corresponded with many representatives of the Andover community---Faculty, undergraduates, Society alumni, non-Society alumni, parents, and educators. In the meantime, the Inter-Society Alumni Committee, aware that a basic change was bound to come, had been meeting regularly in an effort to devise some plan short of complete dissolution. Much of the bitterness that had arisen from the ill-advised attempt to eliminate the Societies at one fell swoop in 1943 had disappeared; and there was a widespread desire to support the new Headmaster as he took over the reins. Yet some still refused to compromise on the issue. For example, an alumnus sent the following communication to the Inter-Society Alumni Committee:
I feel that the action to abolish Societies was a distinct move to the Left, in the first instance, and that the present set-up is the beginning of the end of Andover as it has been known in the past .... Their term "un-democratic" or "democratic" as applied to Societies is a Leftist term, applied whenever Leftists subtly plan to undermine the foundations of an institution . . . . Is Andover going to join the parade of traitorous educators by glorifying socialism and atheistic internationalism? . . . I hope Bishop Hobson is there [at the meeting. I have documentary evidence of his being associated with or sponsoring several Communist Front organizations or groups.(41)
John Kemper was not only studying the past history of the Societies but also seeing at first hand the effect they had on the School. He found that the Society boys were having a good time and were behaving in an irreproachable way, but also had to deal with a boy who tried to run away because he was unhappy over not being in a Society. He also became aware of four outstanding boys who were not considering Andover for their schooling because their parents disapproved of the Societies, and he began to wonder if Andover could have both Societies and full enrollment. He came to the wise conclusion that the arguments for and against Societies in the abstract tended to cancel each other out, and that no one who felt strongly on the matter could be induced to change his position by prolonged debate. But the unhappiness of non-Society boys at Andover and the unwillingness of many parents to send their sons to a School with Societies were disturbing facts that could have a profound influence on the future of the School. The conclusion was unavoidable that some kind of change must be made. Yet John Kemper kept an open mind on what that change should be and refused to close out any suggestion for reform.(42)
In his recollections, Jack Fuess describes his first talk with John Kemper on the Society problem and speaks of their being in "complete agreement.(43) This may well have been so, but any similarities in their approach to the difficult problem stopped there. Where Jack tried to ram through his program with no previous preparation among the interested parties, John Kemper took infinite pains to give everyone his day in court. While Jack tried to justify the abolition of Societies on ideological grounds, the Kemper approach was to avoid such emotion-packed areas and focus on the practical problems. While the Fuess plan plumped for complete, immediate abolition, John was willing to consider any alternative solutions that might be presented.
By the spring of 1949 the Headmaster had come to the definite conclusion that some kind of change was imperative. Once he had made up his mind---and he had canvassed the situation thoroughly---he determined to act. He believed that further postponement of the issue would be cowardly on his part; once his determination had been made, he believed he owed it to the whole Andover community to proceed. In addition, as a purely tactical matter, he believed the alumni would be much more likely to support him during his first year on the job than if he were to wait. Accordingly, the Headmaster arranged with the Inter-Society Alumni Committee to have a meeting in New York on 13 May 1949, at which he told the group that he believed some definite change in the present Society system should be made. The Committee then presented what came to be known as the K.O.A. plan, whereby all Seniors would be taken into the Societies and, to provide continuity, ten Uppers would be elected by each Society in the spring. The Headmaster was asked to present this plan to the Faculty and the undergraduate Inter-Society Council as soon as convenient. It was characteristic of John Kemper that he agreed to do this. On his return to Andover, he called a Faculty meeting on the question. The Faculty reaffirmed (with one dissent) their vote of 1943 that Societies were not in the best interest of the School, thus demonstrating that there had been no change of opinion over the past five years. They then took up Plan A, as the K.O.A. plan was now called. They believed first of all that the boys would not like it, and they objected to the selective feature in the election of the Upper Middlers. As a result they voted Plan A an unsatisfactory solution (no dissenting vote). Shortly thereafter the Headmaster met with the undergraduate "Kings" of the various Societies. They were generally cooperative and understanding, though naturally apprehensive about what was in store for the Societies. Like the Faculty they could not accept Plan A and preferred complete abolition to it. The Headmaster believed their opposition to Plan A stemmed from the fact that they could not accept sharing their secrets and ritual with boys whom they had not elected. The next day the Headmaster took on all the undergraduate members of the Societies for a two-hour session. Many of the boys could see nothing wrong with the present system and presented eloquent statements in its defense. The Headmaster stressed a point he was to make again later---that the School must answer not the objections to the present system but the objectors, and that he doubted if they would be convinced by these arguments. Thus the Headmaster had presented his views and engaged in discussion with the Society alumni, the Faculty, the undergraduate "Kings," and the whole undergraduate Society group. Everyone directly connected with Andover had had his day in court.(44)
The climax came during the Commencement weekend of 1949, in a series of meetings. At a gathering on Friday afternoon the undergraduate members of the Inter-Society Council made a last-ditch effort to defend the existing system. The case against it was by no means conclusive, they said, but added that they would prefer complete dissolution to some compromise position like Plan A. Headmaster Kemper reiterated his position that the School had to answer the objectors, not objections in the abstract, and based his own case on two points: the harm done to non-members and the adverse effect the existence of Societies had on enrollment. Several alumni present thought that to take action at this time would be too precipitate and asked that discussion be continued for another year. Headmaster Kernper and others insisted that discussion had gone on since 1943 and that no useful purpose would be served by prolonging it. Dean Oswald Tower suggested that the best service the Societies could perform would be to abolish themselves voluntarily. At this point the meeting reached dead center. It was clear that if John Kemper were to ask the Societies to dissolve, they would do so to support him; this he was unwilling to do. At the same time, it was clear that the Headmaster hoped the Societies would move on their own initiative; this they were unwilling to do. To break the impasse Bishop Hobson, who had been sitting quietly in the back of the room signing diplomas, was asked to give his views. As he had done at the A.G.C. meeting two years before, the Bishop gave a masterful presentation. He reviewed his own dedication to Societies over a thirty-year period and refused to attack the institutions as bad in themselves. Most of the material in his statement was familiar to his audience; it was the tone---gentle and conciliatory---that gave it fresh vitality and power. When he was through, no one present could have resented anything he had said. If the proponents of the Societies were unable to agree with the Bishop's conclusions, they were at least able to accept them with no loss of self-respect.(45)
That same evening each of the seven Societies held a meeting to discuss the whole question and to take whatever action seemed appropriate. On Saturday afternoon the interested parties convened again to learn of the action taken by the individual Societies at their meetings and to see what further steps might be taken. As the individual Societies reported, it became clear that a widely varied series of actions had been taken. Two---P.A.E. and A.G.C.---had voted to dissolve their organizations and to take steps to arrange for the transfer of their property to the school. Two others ---A.U.V. and K.O.A.---needed a two-thirds vote for action. The other three promised cooperation with a program of dissolution but had taken no formal vote. In the discussion that followed it was made clear that if the Societies were to be dissolved, next year's Seniors would be allowed to continue as members; they would simply not be allowed to elect any Upper Middlers. A final attempt was made to resurrect Plan A, but it soon became clear that support for it was minimal.
Toward the end of the meeting Bishop Hobson was asked if the Trustees were requesting dissolution, which indicated that there were still some who would find it easier to accept the decision if they were asked to do so by either the Trustees or the Headmaster. Bishop Hobson said the Trustees did not want to act for the Societies and much preferred that the Societies act together as a group in this matter, rather than for some to delay and thereby appear reluctant to support the decision. Thus ended Round 3 in the Society fight.(46) There were, to be sure, many loose ends to be tied up, but never again would an organized group of alumni attempt to preserve the Society system at Phillips Academy.
In the course of the next year the remaining Societies took the necessary steps to disband and to turn their property over to the School. Some financially strong ones established scholarship funds bearing the Society's name. In contrast to the bitterness that had characterized the earlier struggle, these final steps were accomplished in an atmosphere of good will that augured well for the future of the School. The Administration had no trouble finding uses for the Society houses, despite the fact that they had not been constructed for educational purposes. F.L.D., P.B.X., and E.D.P. became Faculty houses, which were much needed in a period when the Faculty was expanding. P.A.E., renamed Cooley House, became an extraordinarily useful social center for teas after athletic contests, alumni meetings, informal discussion groups, undergraduate and Faculty dinners, and the like. A.U.V., located as it was behind the chapel, became a center for the Religion Department and more recently for the School's counseling service. K.O.A. has been used for many purposes-as an alumni center, for Faculty housing, and for informal meetings. Finally, A.G.C., renamed Benner House after Zeus Benner, was remodeled to become a grill for the undergraduates, where refugees from the Commons could buy hamburgers, cokes, and so forth. It is difficult to estimate the value of the real estate and invested funds turned over to the School, but the total must have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.(47) Whatever the precise value, the donations represented an extraordinary act of generosity on the part of the Societies and gave the lie to those who said that Society members were more loyal to their institutions than to the School. Phillips Academy owes a debt to these people that it can never repay.
So the Societies disappeared from Andover Hill. In bringing this about, John Mason Kemper deserves high marks for his eminent fairness, his insistence that everyone have his day in court, and his willingness to keep an open mind regarding alternative solutions. Yet it is doubtful if this difficult problem could have been resolved without Bishop Henry W. Hobson, the President of the Board of Trustees. His eloquence and perceptiveness convinced many of the proper decision to take and made it easier for all to swallow the bitter pill. It has now been over twenty-five years since the Societies were abolished. Few undergraduates today know anything about them, except as one may ask how a particular house came to be built in its present form. And the School has accomplished its two major purposes with the dissolution. The problem of unhappiness among boys who are not Society members has obviously gone. No longer can alumni write as did one who was at School in the 1920's:
The only unhappy hours were Saturday nights in the Winter Term when the men with whom I had spent the whole day at classes, meals, sports and games would leave to go to their houses for the evening. The great event was when the fraternities were abolished.(48)
Nor could the Societies affect admissions. Generally speaking, the number of applicants has grown steadily each year, but whether the absence of Societies was responsible for this growth would be hard to prove. With the disappearance of the Societies, the School worked hard to provide alternative recreational facilities. The new dormitories constructed around Rabbit Pond all have common rooms, television, pool, and ping-pong tables. In an effort to bring the West Quadrangle dormitories up to date, a series of appendages was constructed to give them similar common room facilities. The undergraduates take these improvements pretty much for granted. Some had hoped that loyalty to dormitory---or more recently to cluster---might replace loyalty to Society, but for the most part this has not happened. In short, the School has never been able to find a replacement for the loyalty a Society man had for his Society. This is not surprising. The Societies became obsolete because they no longer represented the kind of social system that most Americans approved of. In the 1930's and the years following World War II there developed in the country an egalitarian outlook that was death on special privileges. In this atmosphere maintaining the Societies would inevitably have hurt the School. Those who said that Andover would never be the same without them were correct. Those now working at Phillips Academy hope that it is better. Certainly it is different.