The Fall edition of The Archon is now available for viewing online and features a story about Headmaster Dr. Peter Quimby ’85 P’14,’15. The story, Honoroing Our Traditions, Embracing Our Future, is written by alumnus Aruthur H. Vesey ’68. Please enjoy an excerpt of the article below.
“He who is to be a good ruler must have first been ruled.” ~ Aristotle
On a crisp October morning in South Byfield workers move in and out of Phillips, fixing the damage caused by minor floods that inundated several campus buildings. Amidst the commotion Peter Quimby is relishing his new surroundings and the warmth in his voice is evident. Directing his visitor’s attention to a pastel portrait of Carrie Ambrose he explains, with admiration, that Carrie was the first female to be awarded a diploma from nineteenth century Dummer Academy, having unofficially completed the rigors of scholarship at the previously all boys school. For many years it hung in the old Ambrose dormitory above the mail table. Girls have long since become a part of the campus and several, temporarily displaced by the flooding, have moved into the Mansion House. Peter and his wife Laurie quickly adjust to the role of dorm parents, observing study hall habits and handling bed check duties until Doggett Dormitory is declared habitable once again. The chaos seems like a homecoming for the 28th Headmaster of the oldest boarding school in the country.
Peter H. Quimby entered the academy as a sophomore in the fall of 1982 making the six hour drive with his parents from central upstate New York. It was a fresh and exciting opportunity, yet life at a New England boarding school was not easy as Peter remembers.
“I was afraid to be myself– to let others see me for who I really was. I often felt lonely, out of place, homesick, and had a hard time fitting in.” But early on in that first year something happened that he found remarkable. Dave Williams, a master of some distinction, spied him in the dining hall one evening and called him over. Although Mr. Williams had no daily contact as Peter’s teacher, coach or dorm master, he asked him how he was doing. Like most new students, away from home for the first time, he feigned that he was fine.
“No, really, how are things going?” was the tall, lanky, senior faculty member’s response– a gravelly voice that silently said: I know what you are feeling and if you ever need someone to talk to I am here. It was a powerful moment and the beginning of a transformation as Peter recalled it in his opening chapel talk to this year’s student body; one that has been, and will again be replayed many times at the academy– teachers and coaches reaching out to help shape the lives of students who arrive as children and depart three or four years later as confident young adults.
The 1985 school president and Academy Prize recipient pursued his higher education at Bowdoin College where he majored in Government and Russian, graduating Magna Cum Laude before earning his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin. The result has been a career in education spanning more than two decades from Colby-Sawyer College to the University of Wisconsin, Yale University where he was Dean of the Davenport College and a Political Science lecturer, and most recently Princeton University where he served as Deputy Dean of the College. Now he has made the leap, some would say backwards, to the position of modern-day headmaster. When asked why he made the change he expresses his motivation with disarming candor. “As much as I enjoyed my work at Princeton, I did not find it to be as personally fulfilling as I wanted it to be. To me the choice was a prestigious position versus the important work of shaping lives.”