Dr. Hatcher Was Right

As I prepare remarks for the Snead Reunion this weekend, I happened upon a quote written by Dr. Hatcher in the 1899 school catalogue for [then] Fork Union Academy: "Next to faithful religious training, a good education is the noblest heritage that parents can bestow upon their children."

We have 25 more "paid" applicants than this time last year, and while we would like to see more Middle School students applying, the cohort for our 9th and 10th grades is stronger than in many years.  In just four weeks we will be fully back to life, and beginning our 116th academic year.

Without the Snead family it is safe to say that Fork Union Military Academy would never have been started or survived.  It was the Sneads who donated much of the land, and Captain Charles Goodall Snead was a good friend (and brother-in-law) of Dr. Hatcher, who was married to the former Virginia Snead.  I know from experience that wives have much to say about school business...so I know that Mrs. Hatcher was helpful in ways we may never know.

Summer school went very well this year.  We had 115 students complete the four week program, that balanced body, mind, and spirit.  I was on campus for the Saturday final exam and departure, and was impressed by the high spirits of families and could see just how many friendships had been formed among the young men.  It was heartwarming to recognize our college-age youth counselors...six of our alumni who served as shepherds for the entire summer.

We also had an impressive Coach Fletcher Arritt Basketball Camp, run this year by our postgraduate coach, CPT Matt Donahue.  I was asked to close the camp with a few words and a prayer...after watching the tournament games...it was fun to be around young enthusiastic girls and boys (grades 3 - 11), all interested in improving their skills.

Throughout the campus, we completed out our WiFi network, ensuring all our classrooms have wireless capabilities for the laptops each student will bring.  All the computers will be connected through a software program called LanSchool (http://www.lanschool.com/lanschool/guided-tour).  This will allow us to monitor computer usage, and connect the computers together in the classroom to see the work being done in class by each student, and allow students to be led by the classroom teacher.

We are working to ensure this transition is smooth, and will be dedicating one full time faculty member for the first two terms to help all faculty members take full advantage of this new instructional tool (laptops).  We will also teach digital citizenship so that our cadets are well equipped for the freedom they may experience in college, with less social support.  We will also fully integrate all faculty members to PowerSchool (an item highlighted in our parent survey).

Before I left to visit my mother in Florida, we also finalized plans for the cadet physical fitness program and met to ensure the final "punch-list" items for Jacobson Hall will be completed before the expiration of the one year warranty period.

On our way to Florida, Betsy and I stopped by to visit George and Leeda Currin near Charlotte, NC.  It was good to see them both again, as they have been in all our prayers for so long.  George enjoyed the gift we took along, which was a 3' x 2' map of the campus.  We recently had our map updated (http://www.forkunion.com/sites/default/files/FUMA_CampusMap_JUN2013.jpg).  If you haven't visited the site in a while, we also updated our "virtual tour."  Leeda asked me to pass along that George enjoys the visits at their lake home, and they look forward to others stopping by.

We were saddened to learn the very next day that long time Trustee and friend of FUMA, Mr. Jerome Johnson "Jon" Richardson, Jr., passed away on July 16th after an extended illness.  Jon was a man of integrity and grace, and his fight with cancer never daunted his spirit.  At just 53, he was far too young to die, but up until the very end he was supportive of this school, and talked about his interest in our emerging leadership programs and scholarship support.

A past "Call to Quarters" magazine had an alumni profile of Jon, who was a postgraduate student in 1977-1978.  When asked why he loved FUMA, he said: "FUMA stands for a lot of convictions that I feel strongly about, and it is important to me to help as I can to make sure FUMA continues to offer the same benefits to others.  Good, strong core values are a vital and critical foundation for long-term success and fulfillment, and I feel very fortunate to have, and carry with me the strong values and convictions my parents and FUMA instilled in me."

The last week here has been filled with other activities to prepare us for the arrival of cadets, beginning with our high school football team on August 9th.  Our new strategic plan is at the printers, and will be ready to begin the school year, and next week we will meet with the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) to begin our 18 month journey (really an everyday journey) toward our reaccreditation visit (done every 10 years).

I have been spending as much time as possible "out and about" ensuring the facility is ready for "full power," and I'm pleased that we are over half way finished with the exterior painting of Hatcher Hall (it is magnificent)...and we have a new activity bus on the way.  The updated cadet regulations are also at the printers, and we are anticipating "putting the 'M' back in military" this year. 

We plan to take extra effort to ensure all the elements of change are implemented and reinforced.  Change comes from high standards, deliberate practice, breaking the task into small pieces, and changing the physical world.  All of those will be in abundance this year, a year I've dubbed "The Year of the Uniform."

There is so much more to say, but I've reached my thousand words.  Let me close with a quote from FUMA's seventh President, COL K. T. Whitescarver:

"By challenging our cadets to live in ways they may consider unfair, unrealistic, or idealistic, we affirm them as responsible young adults able to lead this republic in the 21st Century.  If our cadets are to be what they might, if our country is to be what it can, then eliciting the very best from our cadets must be our first duty as educators.  And we must be very clear about one thing; if we don't do it, no one else will.

This is an exhilarating time to be in education as we look to the last century of Fork Union's progress and prepare for the next century."