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Frank Leavitt '52 - A True Man of Avon

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Stories, know-how, and guidance from the experts in educating boys.

Art Custer

Frank Leavitt '52 - A True Man of Avon

During his quarter-century of admissions work, Frank Leavitt '52 introduced generations of future Men of Avon to the school he loved. To meet and speak with Frank was to be put at ease, and his love for the school came through in everything he said and did. I met Frank in much the same way as so many did—during a tour of the campus. I had applied for a job rather than admission, and Frank’s friend and classmate Seth Mendell ’52 was showing me around when we encountered Frank in one of the archways. We only spoke for a few minutes, but I came away feeling warmly welcomed and inspired by his dedication to the school and its mission. If I had any doubts about wanting to be a part of Avon Old Farms, Frank erased them. It is no wonder the student body nearly doubled in size during Frank’s years as Director of Admission.

Frank first arrived on campus in 1947 while the school was closed. His family rented space in the quad, and they continued to live there even after the school reopened in 1948—the year Frank took his place among the student body. At school, he was involved in crew, the Winged Beaver yearbook, the Owl and Radio clubs, Nimrod, and student government. He was elected Warden in 1951. After four years at Dartmouth and two in the U.S. Army, Frank was beginning a career as a geologist when the death of a beloved faculty member, General Caldwell, brought him back to campus, and Don Pierpont convinced him to stay. It was 1959, and Frank would, with a few years off for graduate study, serve the school and its students until 1994.

In his student days, Frank was known as Butch: the 1952 yearbook says “Butch has no need of praise.” Quiet and often understated, Frank sought neither limelight nor accolades, but even if he had no need of praise, he is richly deserving of it. As a teacher of geology, as a coach of soccer and riflery, as an advisor to the Nimrod club, and as a welcoming admission director, Frank Leavitt had a profoundly positive impact on thousands of Men of Avon and on the school itself. Ever the quiet, thoughtful voice of reason, he was an Avon icon—an inspiration to students and colleagues alike.

The 1952 yearbook also says of Butch Leavitt that he “is a friendly, likable guy who just can’t help doing the right thing.” Perhaps the editor who wrote that line knew of one instance of malfeasance in Frank’s past. It would seem that young Frank had seized an opportunity to drink some beer while at school, and his conscience so troubled him that he felt compelled to confess to Provost Pierpont. Dr. Pierpont gravely told Frank that he would have to consider the matter and would be in touch later. Over a week passed, during which Frank tortured himself with remorse for his actions, dismay over letting himself and others down, and anxiety over his future at school. Finally, when he could stand it no more, Frank implored Dr. Pierpont to let him know what the punishment was going to be. Pierpont thought about it for a moment and then said: “well Butch, I think you’ve suffered enough.” Frank himself told that story as an example of Don Pierpont’s savvy as a molder of young men, but the story speaks volumes about Frank Leavitt as well.

Who better to serve for decades as Avon Old Farms’ admissions director—and a pillar of the community—than “a friendly, likable guy who just can’t help doing the right thing.” 

- Art Custer, School Historian