December 01, 2018

Honoring President George H. W. Bush ’42

Andover reflects upon the legacy of our alumnus from the Class of 1942

John Palfrey P’21, Phillips Academy head of school, released the following statement today, mourning the death of President George H. W. Bush, a graduate of Andover’s Class of 1942:

On November 30, 2018, the United States and global community lost a legendary statesman, international diplomat and war hero who devoted his life to serving his country. Our hearts are heavier still, given the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush just months ago.

The Phillips Academy community extends thoughts and prayers to the Bush family and President Bush’s many admirers who stand on both sides of the political aisle. And we reflect upon the legacy of our alumnus from the Class of 1942.

From Andover class president to Commander-in-Chief, George Bush embodied the school’s founding principle non sibi (not for self) and embraced the belief that public service—in support of one’s neighbor, community or country—is the noblest calling.

Setting aside our individual politics, the Andover community remembers President George Herbert Walker Bush for his leadership as the 41st President of the United States, the first vice president to be elected president since 1836.

His legacy extends from the White House to Andover Hill. We celebrate his many contributions to our campus community, including those as class leader, varsity athlete and loyal alumnus. “Poppy,” as he was known during his Andover days, brought his kind spirit, sharp wit and fair-minded leadership to 16 years of service as a trustee. We are grateful for his generous philanthropy and optimism; we remain deeply moved by his expression of hope for future generations of students.

Accompanied by Mrs. Bush, the president last visited campus on Sept. 30, 2015, making a surprise appearance during All-School Meeting. At 91 years old, the president was energized by the standing ovation of a Cochran Chapel audience brimming with students, faculty and staff. “Thank you for that warm Andover welcome back to the school that has meant so much to me in my life,” he said.

“It always gives me great joy to return to Andover,” he reflected, after sharing a private lunch with students. “The lessons learned and the relationships forged here have meant so much throughout my full and adventurous life, and I could wish nothing more for every student who is so blessed to walk on this campus.”

I will forever be inspired by President Bush’s devotion to Andover, his long-held belief in our school’s mission and his heartfelt interest in the lives of students across generations. What an extraordinary privilege for our campus community to have shared that special September day with President and Mrs. Bush, and for many in our extended alumni community to have known him as a friend and their country’s 41st president.

—John Palfrey P’21, Phillips Academy Head of School

President Bush & Andover

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Baseball captain George Bush with Andover coach George "Flop" Follansbee. Circa early 1940.

Official headshot as a Charter Trustee for Phillips Academy. Bush served as a Charter Trustee from 1967 to 1980. Circa 1967.

The US Ambassador to the UN attends Phillips Academy's 193rd commencement, serving in the ceremony as a Charter Trustee, as well as a father to a graduate—Jeb Bush '71. Circa 1971. Photo by Richard Graber.

The Chairman of the RNC visits campus in 1973, on the heels of impeachment orders filed against President Nixon by the house. Here, he discusses “The State of the Two Party System Today” with students. Oct. 26, 1973. Photo by Richard Graber.

Vice President Bush visits campus in 1987. Here, he grants the student radio station, WPAA, an interview in which he discusses the Reagan administration's controversial policies in Central America. May 2, 1987.

President Bush dashes off some school spirit on a classroom chalkboard. In an interview with the student newspaper, "The Phillipian" he advises Phillips Academy students that the "definition of a successful life must include service to others." Nov. 5, 1989.

On April 26, 2003, Bush walked through campus with former Head of School Barbara Chase. The former President spoke at a special ceremony in Cochran Chapel, marking the 225th anniversary of Phillips Academy, the 175th anniversary of the founding of Abbot Academy and the successful conclusion of Campaign Andover. As Honorary Chairman, Mr. Bush helped Campaign Andover to become the most successful fundraising initiative in independent school history at the time, which raised $208.9 million in donations.

Accompanied by Mrs. Bush, the president last visited campus on Sept. 30, 2015, making a surprise appearance during All-School Meeting. At 91 years old, the president was energized by the standing ovation of a Cochran Chapel audience brimming with students, faculty and staff. “Thank you for that warm Andover welcome back to the school that has meant so much to me in my life,” he said. Photo by Neil Evans.

George Herbert Walker Bush, Phillips Academy Class of 1942

A trustee emeritus of Phillips Academy, President Bush served 16 years on the Board of Trustees, three as an alumni trustee and 13 as a charter trustee. The Bush family legacy spans generations and includes cousins, in-laws and nephews who also graduated from Andover. He and his wife, Barbara Pierce Bush, sent three sons to Andover: George ’64, Jeb ’71, and Marvin ’75. His brother Prescott was a member of the Class of 1940.

President Bush spoke fondly of his formative years on campus; he was an accomplished varsity athlete, a leader in student government, and a member of the school newspaper’s editorial board. He was on campus Dec. 7, 1941, when he learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor. That day he vowed to serve his country and did so even before heading to college. On his 18th birthday—also the day of his Andover graduation—George Bush enlisted in the Navy, becoming the youngest Naval aviator in 1943.

“Driving this decision to (postpone) college and join the war effort immediately, I am sure, was my dad’s own service in World War I. But there was more to it,” he wrote in a special World War II anniversary edition of Andover magazine. “I was also heeding the Andover motto, non sibi (not for self) and as I say, our country was united. 

President Bush went on to graduate from Yale University in 1948.

He returned to campus several times for reunions, alumni and trustee meetings and other special occasions during which he spoke about his Andover experience. 

President George H.W. Bush '42 accepts the Andover Alumni Award of Distinction.
Categories: Alumni, Leadership

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