More formally, St. Andrew's School; less formally, SAS. This is a small private boarding school of 250 co-ed students, founded by members1 of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware in 1929. It is most famous for being the location on which Dead Poets Society was filmed. At the end of filming, Robin Williams gave a standup performance to the student body. The school is well known among the boarding school students on the East Coast for the promiscuity of its students (male and female), the ingenuity of on-campus pranks, the excellence of its athletes, the beauty of its campus, and the rigor of its academics. High school students being high school students, the renown proceeds in roughly that order.
Academically, the school graduates roughly 65 students each year. It is unusual for any student to graduate and not proceed to college. Fewer than five St. Andrew's graduates from any given year enter military service, but there is usually at least one. College choices tend toward private liberal arts schools in the mid-Atlantic region. A year in which St. Andrew's does not send at least one graduate to Harvard, one to Yale, and one to Princeton is an "off" year. The average SAT score in 2003 was a 1365. Before graduating, each senior reads a novel of his choice2 independent of his senior literature class. He must prepare a fifteen-page paper on the major themes of the novel and defend this paper in front of three faculty members. Odds are good that at least two of them have written undergraduate or graduate level theses on the text in question; they pull no punches. The "senior exhibition" prepares students for collegiate writing standards in a way that no other test or exam could. The "A" I earned on my senior exhibition is one of my proudest academic achievements.
Athletically, the school boasts a crew team traditionally ranked in the top twenty in America, who row on a beautiful lake called Noxontown Pond. Every student plays a sport in each of the three seasons, although students so inclined may substitute drama or forestry and manage never to play a team sport. Other sports in which St. Andrew's typically performs well include baseball, lacrosse, field hockey, and tennis. St. Andrew's football team is not usually mentioned in the same paragraph as the above sports, but I'm feeling generous.
As a community, it is friends, family, and all the melodrama a teenager could ask for. Friends make "Happy Birthday" posters for each other, photocopied and posted samizdat-style in the middle of the night, featuring embarrassing photographs of the subject. Faculty live on dorms and serve as "dorm parents", but the seniors selected by the faculty ("prefects" and "proctors") are responsible for enforcing lights-out. All-nighters (usually four or more students crowding into one room) are split evenly between academic and social gatherings3. Roommates remain friends for years afterward (two of my three roommates are groomsmen in my wedding party; one of them is my best man). The rumor mill is vicious but well-informed, and you learn quickly that you don't have any secrets. Hazing is practically non-existent. Hugs are the greeting of choice.
The school is in New Castle County, Delaware, outside the scenic village4 of Middletown, and is not to be confused with St. Andrews (the town with all the golfing) in Scotland.
- an anecdote in "A History of St. Andrew's School" reveals that my great-grandfather Robinson, then-governor of Delaware, was fishing with one of the founders in Noxontown Pond when the idea was hatched. I did not discover this until I had graduated. I inherited his fly-fishing equipment, and I suspect that the rod and other gear he used that day are now mine.
- from a long but finite list approved by the faculty.
- I learned to play Asshole, how to get by on less than three hours' sleep, and several other useful but esoteric skills while at SAS.
- since 1996, the population of Middletown has skyrocketed past "village"; the town is now one of Delaware's largest urban centers and threatens to engulf the campus.