George H.W. Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, and had strong ties to New England, including attending Phillips Academy in Andover. It was at the Massachusetts preparatory school that his life of leadership began 70 years ago.
Bush was president in 1989 when he spoke at the Bicentennial celebration of his high school alma mater.
He told those assembled that he was delighted to be back and that he had loved his years there.
Head of school, John Palfrey, says, “The connection between Phillips Academy and the Bush family is very strong and deep.”
Palfrey says Bush is well remembered as a dynamic, gentle and successful student adding, “He was known as a senior who looked after younger students even in an era where there was a fair amount of bullying and hazing and so forth. I think many people recall him being the strong and forceful voice for good in the room.”
During his 1989 visit to campus, Palfrey says President Bush brought a tree from the White House "to commemorate the occasion, 200 years before, when George Washington had come to campus, and that tree still thrives on the great lawn."
Known back then as “Poppy,” Bush was president of his class and first baseman on the varsity baseball team.
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“I think he’s often thought of as as one of the ultimate big blue legends on the baseball field," Palfrey said. "And he was a left-handed first baseman and I think a great leader in that.”
Palfrey says Bush’s most important contribution to the school may be his 16 years as a trustee.
Bush’s most enduring legacy? His embrace of a school motto: Non sibi.
Palfrey explains, “'Non sipi' means 'not for self' and I think many people talk about President Bush as one of the people who embodied the 'non-sipi' spirit for decades."
June 12, 1942 was a big day for Bush. Not only was it his 18th birthday, it was also the day of his Phillips Academy graduation. And it was the day Bush enlisted in the Navy becoming one of the youngest naval aviators in U.S. history.