If you are reading this from the website, you can see for yourself how well we finished. The 116th Commencement is well documented, and we were all blessed by the keynote speech given by 1LT Brian Zitterkopf, USMC, who graduated from FUMA in 2008, the USNA in 2012, and is now on active duty with the United States Marines. He was inspirational, and more importantly kept the attention of our graduates, who were anxious to begin the next chapter in their lives, better for having experienced Fork Union.
The entire week of graduation went extremely well...punctuated by the very positive behavior of our undergraduates and the Class of 2014. I visited Jacobson Hall the next day, and was impressed to find that our new dormitory looked as good as the day we moved in...less than two years ago (believe it or not). Today it looks as good as the day we moved in.
Since graduation we've hosted three one-week swim camps, and are now in the middle of summer school, and a basketball camp we are sponsoring (as a school) for the first time. It has been energizing to see the camps so full of young people being refreshed in body, mind, and spirit.
A week after graduation, Betsy and I loaded up our bikes...filled the car with our most comfortable clothes...and headed west to Mount Rogers National Recreational Area to my favorite spot in the mountains. Thankfully there is still no cell phone coverage, but TV and internet was available...but sparsely used. The week was filled with runs, walks, bike rides, reading books, great food, one quick rescue of a runner from SC who lost his footing, and even an evening of "culture" in nearby Abingdon, for a live performance of "Welcome Back to Ivy Gap" at the Barter Theater.
It was a wonderful "getaway," and an opportunity to rest, refresh, recharge, read, and renew. I was able to read 4 of the 6 books I took along...and finally found a book which will be our first "All Faculty Read." I ordered 20 copies of The Other Wes Moore written by Wes Moore which will be in the library available for checkout, but know many of our faculty will download the book electronically [maybe after reading this blog].
I really only have 19 copies, because I gave one to a Summer School student yesterday afternoon, believing that many of the points made by the author might help him understand the crossroads he now faces...okay, 18, because I talked about the book so much, my Secretary, Ms. Carol Childress wanted to read it...
We then visited Florida to celebrate my mother's 89th birthday...the next time we see her will be in early August when she drives up to Winchester to visit her 3 (of 4) great-grandchildren My mother has missed my blog these last 5 weeks...so I needed to start it back up.
As the Navy SEAL's say, "the only easy day was yesterday." We are working diligently at Fork Union Military Academy to make next year the best school year in our history. There are many important changes in strategy, structure, personnel, schedule, and facilities we will be implementing over the summer and at the beginning of the school year. Our core values and mission, however, remain timeless.
All the improvements are consistent with yearlong discussions with faculty, staff, trustees, cadets, and parents...validated by some parent/cadet surveys. We are reformatting the ever-important Cadet regulations, to make it easier to read and understand, as well as making policies clearer. We are also clarifying our uniform regulations, as this will continue to be a point of emphasis this year.
LTC Houston Eldridge, our Director of Character and Leadership, is also meeting regularly with me and the Commandant of Cadets to ensure we fully integrate character and leadership throughout the Academy, with emphasis on our cadet leaders and those of us who interact directly and often with cadets.
We are continuing forward momentum toward the vision articulated in our strategic plan, and all our summer adjustments will help us educate and develop "bright young men who can lead with character."
Over the summer we took the Dorothy Estes Dining Facility off our central boiler, and onto its own domestic hot water system. Sounds dull, but it is expensive and hard work. Hobart is building us a custom dishwasher, the latest water saving model, which will be installed in mid-August, just in time to start the school year.
The project was funded primarily through a bequest by Jon Richardson, a trustee and alumnus who passed away after a long battle with cancer. He and I spoke of this project, and he was pleased to know we could invest money now to save money later (in water and fuel oil). This change will allow us to shut the boilers down 6 months each year, saving enough in 3 years to pay for the project...besides the immediate reduction in our carbon footprint.
We also plan to give Wicker Science a facelift, matching the color with the surrounding buildings, are adding overhead projectors to every classroom, upgrading our phones to voice over IP, painting as many places as can be painted, upgrading some faculty housing, improving classroom décor, and looking for a four day "no rain" window so we can repaint our football stadium.
This summer also included a number of meetings on our Master Plan. We expect it completed by the October Board of Trustees meeting, to help inform a campaign to make the strategic planning and master planning a reality. We also selected our cadet leaders for next year, and invited our very best to attend leadership training which begins a week before school starts. This requires quite a commitment of time and energy, but the effective way to learn to lead is to lead...and this year's student leaders will be the best led since the school's founding.
All the prospective leaders are enthusiastic, optimistic, and willing to do the hard work necessary to help guide their classmates and underclassmen in a journey of accountability and discipline.
Let the 117th School Year begin! Go FUMA!