Exeter Deconstructed: the Bancroft flamingo

The school we love in detail.

Patrick Garrity
February 1, 2021
A student tends to plastic flamingoes on the Brancroft dorm lawn.

Most Exeter customs are sanctified by doctrine or decree or officially hallowed by time. And then there’s the tradition that is the legacy of a lark between a father and daughter on a road trip to Maine 35 years ago.

The story of how an icon of American lawn kitsch came to represent the first girls dorm on campus emerged after the fall issue of the Bulletin included a photo of Bancroft Hall proctor Marymegan Wright ’21 planting plastic flamingoes at the dorm’s entrance on move-in day. 

Allyson Mendenhall ’86 saw the photo and sent us a letter to share the tradition’s origin:

“Circa 1985, my dad came to visit, and as we drove into Maine for a little exploring, I saw plastic pink flamingoes on lawns for the first time. We didn’t have that kind of thing in my hometown of Aspen. My dad thought it was hilarious that I was sheltered from this ubiquitous lawn ornament and promptly pulled over at the next hardware store we passed to buy a pair for me. I came back to campus after the weekend and put them in the lawn in front of Bancroft. Thus started a tradition: boys dorms stealing them in the dead of night, the flamingo gracing dorm T-shirts, the entire dorm sporting pink tie-dye T-shirts and shorts for Field Day senior year, etc. ... I can’t believe it’s still a tradition and the dorm has an enduring mascot 35 years later!”


Editor's note: This article first appeared in the winter 2021 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.