Eleanor Bolker

Year of Graduation: 
Picture of Eleanor Bolker speaking at a microphone

"Despite popular belief, it’s actually possible to take time off and get eight hours of sleep and do perfectly fine academically."

Every week, Eleanor Bolker ’22 dons a headset in the basement of the Elizabeth Phillips Academy Center and takes to the radio waves to share her love of literature with the Exeter community. A self-described “radio nerd” who has been involved with WPEA since her prep year, Bolker hosts “Aloud,” which airs on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. On one recent show, she read from one of her favorite classic novels, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway; on another, she curated a selection of letters between the Romantic poets John Keats, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

“Each week I pick a theme, or a longer work to read an excerpt from,” Bolker explains. “A lot of times it’s something that feels relevant or seasonal. I’ll have some music that goes along, and fun facts about the authors or the pieces.”

It’s no wonder that Bolker counts English classes as among her favorites at Exeter, and is enrolled in two senior English electives this winter, with plans for two more (including a senior project) in the spring. She’s also passionate about physics, and has enjoyed history classes on pre-colonial Africa, modern India and the contemporary Middle East in particular.

Bolker says she fell in love with radio in seventh grade, when she became a National Public Radio junkie. She would race home each day after school and have a tight window to finish her homework before the start of “All Things Considered” at 4 o’clock. 

A native of Dover, New Hampshire, Bolker spent her first two years at Exeter as a day student, but moved into Hoyt Hall, her affiliated dorm, at the start of her upper year to avoid the 45-minute commute on Amtrak. “I think it’s allowed me to feel more integrated into campus than before,” she says of the move. She’s now a proctor in Hoyt, and appreciates the chance to “give back in that way, and get to know some people I hadn't known as well before.”

Besides Hoyt and the radio station on Wednesdays, Bolker has made a home base of Phillips Church, where she has regularly attended Meditations since her prep fall, and as co-head of the Exeter Jewish Community (EJC) helps plan a weekly Shabbat dinner, among other events. She is also part of J Squared, the Jewish affinity group on campus.

Bolker’s engagement with her faith expanded after she was selected as a recipient of the prestigious Bronfman Fellowship, an educational program that focuses on studying Jewish texts and fostering conversations between young Jews of different backgrounds around pluralism and social responsibility. Last summer, she spent five weeks at a retreat center in the Berkshire Mountains in northwestern Connecticut — a pandemic-era stand-in for the program’s usual trip to Israel — with 25 other Jewish teenagers from all over the country.

“One thing that I've always been after…is a community that has a critical mass of people who are really excited about being Jewish and about Jewish learning,” Bolker says. “That was a really wonderful summer, and has continued to be a wonderful set of friendships.”

Her experience in the fellowship program, combined with an exhausting spring term her upper year, inspired Bolker to revise her observance of Shabbat during the school year. While during her first three years, she simply refrained from using her computer or doing homework on Friday evenings, in her senior fall she began staying completely away from technology and all schoolwork from Friday evening through Saturday evening.

“Despite popular belief, it’s actually possible to take time off and get eight hours of sleep and do perfectly fine academically, which I think is something that more people should realize,” she says. “It’s been very rewarding to take that time off, and I think it’s also meaningfully improved my quality of life at Exeter.” 

— Sarah Pruitt '95