The Academy’s Mission and Values

The Academy Building on campus at Phillips Exeter Academy

In his Opening of School 2020 assembly address, Principal Bill Rawson '71; P'08 introduced an updated, modern expression of Phillips Exeter Academy's mission statement to: 

Unite goodness and knowledge and inspire youth from every quarter to lead purposeful lives. 
 

Each word is derived from the school’s Deed of Gift, drafted in 1781, and reaffirms the Academy’s commitment to providing students with an education grounded in excellence and the timeless values on which the school was founded.  

A small group of trustees and faculty crafted the mission statement and values, which were then approved by the Trustees. In his remarks, Principal Rawson said, “These five values reflect the character of our school and the reason that we are all here today — to prepare you to lead purposeful lives.” He encouraged them to “take these words to heart” and to see the mission as “an invitation to open your minds and to seek out new avenues of discovery in all that you pursue here.”

PEA classroom with students and a teacher seated at a Harkness table.

Values

Knowledge and Goodness

"Above all, it is expected that the attention of instructors to the disposition of the minds and morals of the youth under their charge will exceed every other care; well considering that though goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous, and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to [hu]mankind." Exeter today continues the commitment to unite knowledge and goodness. The challenges that students meet at Exeter and the support they receive have a common objective: to stimulate their development as individuals and prepare them to lead purposeful lives.

Academic Excellence

Academic excellence is a signature strength of Phillips Exeter Academy. In every discipline and at every level within our curriculum we inspire students to develop critical thinking skills and seek complex truths. Intellectual exploration through rigorous inquiry and thoughtful discourse at the Harkness table nurtures inquisitiveness, creativity, insight, empathy, independent thought and mastery in our students.

Youth From Every Quarter

“The Academy shall ever be equally open to youth of requisite qualification from every quarter." We seek to build an intentionally diverse community of students and adults. We are committed to teaching the skills, modeling the behaviors, providing the resources and cultivating the inclusion and equity that are required to unlock the richness of that diversity. Our Harkness pedagogy is grounded in the belief that we are all better equipped to learn and to lead when our thoughts are tested by others, particularly by those whose ideas, perspectives, experiences or identities differ from our own.

Youth Is the Important Period

The “time of youth is the important period” to instill a lasting capacity to nurture one’s self, develop a sense of one’s own potential and consider one’s place in the larger whole. Our residential community encourages students to explore emerging interests — academic, artistic, athletic and extracurricular — with similarly motivated peers and in the process develop their values and passions and the agency needed to carry these forward.

Non Sibi

Non Sibi, or Not For Oneself, inscribed on Exeter’s seal, attests to the philosophy that wisdom gained here should be used for others as well as for oneself. Exonians are motivated by this philosophy to face the challenges of their day. Teaching and living the principles of a just and sustainable society — environmentally, economically and socially — are fundamental to this philosophy today. Exeter seeks to graduate young people whose ambitions and actions are inspired by their interest in others and the world around them.

In the values above, text in quotations is taken from the Academy's Deed of Gift (1781). 

Exeter student body inside Assembly Hall

Mission in Action