The good 'Life' returns: Dorm day an Exeter ritual

Academy Life Day gathered Exeter students near and far for some laughs and, for some, a little friendly competition.

Patrick Garrity and Adam Loyd
September 27, 2021

Team Flannel — aka Lumberjacks — talk last-minute strategy before their loser's bracket final victory in Wentworth Hall's dodgeball tournament.

There are sure to be some sore arms in Wentworth Hall this week.

The 77 residents spent most of Monday morning whizzing dodgeballs at each other from close range during a fierce double-elimination tournament in Thompson Gym. The last men standing were the boys on the black-clad team calling itself “Dark White,” which rode the right arm and quick feet of Beau Keough ’22 in the final to the title.

The rest of Academy Life Day wasn’t nearly as tense. Nor as sweaty. 

For the better part of 30 years, Exeter has pressed pause on classwork on an autumn day to gather by dorm and house and connect as neighbors. Last year, the tradition was a casualty of health and safety protocols. On Monday it returned, with more than a thousand students fanning out across campus and at stops around the Seacoast region for informal bonding sessions. Several dorms took advantage of the gorgeous late September weather and hit the beach. Others raced go-karts, went apple picking or stayed put to paint pottery. Working up a sweat was not a prerequisite.

Still, some did. Across Hill Bridge from Wentworth's dodgeball bonanza, the echoes of “Two coming up on your right!” could be heard as the boys of Main Street Dormitory renewed a tradition with their annual game of capture the flag. This year’s installment stretched from Hatch Field through Phelps Stadium to the adjacent soccer field with no clear out of bounds. Cyrus Braden ’22 tested the limits of the boundaries and emerged from a marshy area by the river with mud up to his knees and his reconnaissance mission foiled. Ben Martin ’23 left his post as a flag guard to chase off one of the two attackers identified by his teammates shouting from elevated posts. After a couple of rounds, the separated combatants reformed as one united dorm and made their way back across campus for a cookout.

Meanwhile, most dorms spent the morning more peacefully. The girls of Amen Hall were armed only with sunscreen and cell phones to capture their apple- and pumpkin-picking session at sunsplashed Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury, Massachusetts. Dunbar painted mugs to give away as gifts. Webster and Cilley were among the dorms which spent part of the day seaside.

There was at least one more competition on Academy Life Day, however: A faculty go-kart race at Hilltop Fun Center in Somersworth.

For the record, Modern Languages Instructor Diego Ardura steered his sky-blue racer to the checkered flag.