Exeter Deconstructed: the Academy Building inscription

The school we love in detail.

July 26, 2021

Hic quaerite pueri puellaeque virtutem et scientiam pronounces the Latin inscription across the Academy Building’s marble frieze, two stories up. “Here boys and girls seek goodness and knowledge.” The engraving seems as hallowed as the century-old building itself, but it was only added in 1996 during the school’s silver anniversary celebration of coeducation.

Since the building’s construction, visitors who enter through the front door pass beneath a lintel bearing another Latin phrase: Huc venite pueri ut viri sitis. It translates to “Come hither, boys, that you may become men,” a serviceable motto for generations of boys-only education but well outdated by the time John “Tex” McCrary ’28 visited for a post-60th reunion. McCrary suggested the school add a more inclusive inscription to better reflect a modern-day Exeter.

Trustees debated removing the original inscription, but Principal Kendra Stearns O’Donnell explained to The Exonian in 1996 the decision to keep it while adding a fresher message above it.

“We are respecting and honoring our history by leaving the old lintel as we leave the pictures of the old headmasters up in the Assembly Hall,” said the first woman to serve as Exeter principal. “However, we needed a new symbol to show what we are now, with the hope that it will be a symbol for further generations of Exonians.”

This article first appeared in the summer 2021 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.