News & Blogs

21st Annual National Character & Leadership Symposium

For the fifth consecutive year, FUMA was invited to bring a cadet delegation to the 21st annual National Character & Leadership Symposium.  The event, held at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is a college-level conference on various challenges of leadership.  This year’s theme at the NCLS was “Character Overcoming Conflict: Individual Stories, Global Impact,” and many great speakers shared their personal and professional stories as over 4,000 visiting students and guests gathered.  FUMA is honored to have been able to attend; currently, we are the only non-local high school invited to bring attendees to this impactful experience.

This year cadets Seth Jackson, Joshua Mosier, Alexander Kirkov, and Lauris De Neef represented FUMA and were accompanied by Chaplain James Benson and MAJ Houston Eldridge.  The cadets, all junior leaders, were selected to attend as representatives of cadet leadership at FUMA, with an eye towards the 2014-15 school year.  “I definitely will take some of the lessons I’ve learned at the NCLS and apply them to life at FUMA,” stated cadet Kirkov.  “I think the speakers really helped me appreciate how important character is when I make leadership decisions,” added cadet De Neef.

The Fork Union - Big South Connection

Article by CPT Seth Wilson

This time of year is highly regarded for basketball fans as conference tournaments and post-season championship pursuits begin. One such tournament that coaches at Fork Union are paying particular attention to, is the Big South Conference Championship being held this weekend in Myrtle Beach, SC. Why this conference over the ACC, SEC, Big 10 and others? Well, there are nine former Fork Union post-graduate basketball players suiting up for Big South member teams: Ethan Wilmoth at UNC-Asheville, Kyle Buffkin and Ron Trapps at Coastal Carolina, Isaac Belton at Longwood, Ot Elmore and Julian Eleby at VMI, Allen Dickerson and Kion Brown at Radford, and Larry Brown at Winthrop.

Hailing from Dobson, NC, left-handed Ethan Wilmoth '13 was a prototypical point guard for Fork Union during the 2012-13 season. Nicknamed the "Tebow" of FUMA, Wilmoth was able to use his size, strength, and quickness to develop himself into a pesky defender. UNC-Asheville applauded these qualities and asked Ethan to join their team. It's hard for freshmen to crack the line-up much, but late in the year, Ethan had his best game. In a 100-85 win over Coastal Carolina, he logged 21 minutes, made one three-pointer, recorded one assist and one steal but helped quarterback the team to victory. UNC-Asheville finished the regular season with a 10-6 conference record and 16-14 overall, enabling the team to secure a first round bye in the Big South tournament. They will take on Radford University Friday at 2pm.

Pictures to Straighten

Our master planners ended their first full day of exploring and inventorying the campus by spending some time getting clarification on expectation for the "kick-off" meeting scheduled for mid-March.  This presentation will include trustees, alumni, faculty, staff, and administrators.  We are excited about their work, and pleased to have hired such an accomplished architectural firm.  Quickly, the conversation turned away from buildings to culture and core values.

One of the architects asked me if he could be honest.  In a school where one of the core values is integrity, the answer is always yes.  He told me that he was surprised that at a military school so many pictures on our campus were crooked and that we needed to instill more uniformity in our signage and more discipline into the "first impression" we give visitors.  Of course he is argument here.

He went on to say that he'd never been to a campus where more people came up so freely (and friendly) to greet him and offer their assistance; and at lunch was impressed when cadets offered to take up their trays.  Now at what other school does that happen? 

If I could choose between a welcoming culture and straight pictures, I'd pick the former, but the good news is that at the end of this planning process, I think we'll end up having both.

Saturday's Alumni Speaker Day brought many alumni back to campus.  My impression is that this was a positive experience for everyone.  This was followed by an afternoon of Alumni Board meetings, and our annual Senior/PG dinner.  It was an uplifting night, and while it appeared the cadets enjoyed the comments by MG Robert Scales '62, and receiving their alumni pins, I really knew we'd met our goals when I received this email later that same evening:

"Dear Sir,

I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the dinner tonight.  I've been looking forward to this dinner since my freshman year when I saw the seniors come back...all laughing and enjoying each other's company.  I saw the depth of brotherhood this place creates, and I knew I wanted to be part of that...the speaker's message was a great challenge to keep our character and realize all we've gained by being here...I know I've grown so much...I am better prepared for the world.  Thank you for the dinner tonight, I was honored to attend."

It was easy to sleep well knowing that young men like this inhabit Jacobson Hall...

On Sunday Betsy and I supported another FUMA Alumnus, Phil Wall '03, by attending the premier of his documentary UNBELIEVABLE IS BELIEVABLE HERE.  It covered the historic journey of the Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball team through the 2011 NCAA basketball tournament where the Rams were catapulted to the national spotlight after becoming a controversial pick for the 2011 field of 68 teams.  Phil's father, Dick Wall, is a member of our Board of Trustees, and his mother Carol Wall is author of the book:  "Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening"  which is on the path to becoming a bestseller.  It is a terrific book, and another testament to this very talented family.  Good luck Phil and Carol.

Monday brought more frightfully cold weather and another round of snow and ice.  Okay, enough is enough...but as of today most of it has melted...and after a little ice tonight and tomorrow morning, we'll end the week with cold rain...but I know the sun is coming on Saturday...just in time for a very long run.

Many of you are aware that 3-4 times each year we bring in a guest speaker as part of our Christian Leadership Series.  This initiative by David Barrett, one of our trustees, brings successful Christian men in to serve as role models for our cadets.  This week we hosted Mr. Jason Walker, who is a Vice President for UPS.  He is a graduate of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, and has an MBA from VCU.

He talked about uniqueness and encouraged the cadets to make the most of every opportunity.  He said: "God has made you special and wants to bless you so that you can bless the world through your unique gifts and talents."  He ended by quoting Psalm 139 verses 13-14:

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

Later that same day I congratulated Cadet Michael Head, a ninth grade cadet, for his performance in the State finals of debate last weekend.  He qualified for nationals (as a freshman!) and has the opportunity to compete at the national level in Chicago on May 24th and 25th.  We are very proud of his accomplishment, and I enjoyed my time talking with him about his future plans, including returning to Fork Union Military Academy next year.

Read more about our debate team and Cadet Head's performance on our website.

This week was filled with amazingly positive moments balanced with the routine of reading accreditation reports, paying bills, fielding concerns from parents, and recognizing the positive performance of staff, faculty, and cadets.  It was clear from every conversation that communications remains an issue, although it was also clear that communications seems to be a greater issue when a cadet is struggling. 

I continue to reflect on the challenge of finding the "magic [behavior] switch" in each young man; because each young man is different.

What allows most cadets to thrive in this environment filled with structure, discipline, love, and clear expectations, yet in that same environment a small number of cadets struggle to comply with the same rules and regulations? 

Fortunately there is too much good to worry about it long...besides, there are pictures to straighten.

I'll close with one of today's highlights, represented by a picture from Middle School Drama Class performance:

There were too many lessons in the play to share, but perhaps one of these young men is the "next" Vincent McDowell, a 2008 graduate now acting and singing in New York City, and featured in our latest YouTube Video.

My next blog will be in two weeks...I hope all the cadets enjoy Spring Break as much as I plan to...Go FUMA!

Debate Team Has National Qualifier

RADM Burhoe congratulates Cadet Head of Fork Union Military Academy on his Debate Team success.

Cadet Michael Head receives congratulations from RADM J. Scott Burhoe, President of Fork Union Military Academy

At 0600 on March 1st nine members of the Debate Team boarded a bus and headed to Madison County High School for the State Finals tournament (that's 6:00 AM for those not familiar with military time).  After our breakfast stop, we headed north and west along some of the most scenic roads in central Virginia.  Although it was a very cold morning, the cadets posed for a group photograph where mountains could be our backdrop.  Upon our arrival, cadets worked on their final preparations.  One cadet competed in Declamation, one in Oral Interpretation, five in Extemporaneous Speaking and two competed in Student Congress.

After a long day of competition, the awards ceremony began.  When the trophy recipients in Student Congress were announced, Michael Head was named the winner of the fourth place trophy.  Due to the number of schools in our league this year, the top four contestants in each category qualified to compete at Nationals.  Therefore Cadet Head, as a freshman, has the opportunity to compete in Chicago on May 24th and 25th. 
In preparation for the State Finals tournament, Michael wrote two pieces legislation:

Vouchers for Private Schools

Article 1: Private schools should receive vouchers to be used for financial aid programs under a tuition proportional to income stipulation.


It’s the 3rd of March and we’ve got one more week to push through before Spring Break. As Cadet Williams stares out his window playing Bob Marley “The Sun is Shining,” thoughts of having an actual week off is almost beyond comprehension! The snow on the ground keeps covering up all feeling of excitement. It’s been too hard to visualize and sense the smell of green grass, shopping and hanging out with friends. 

Just about every cadet at FUMA is having similar thoughts. In their minds, they have gone over and over again, down to the last detail, of what they are going to do on Spring Break. Some have written out a schedule while others have informed their family on exactly how Spring Break will go down. As we all know, planning is a lot different than executing…things never seem to go the way we want them to go.  At leave check out, cars surround Jacobson Hall and cadets scurry around trying to find their leave slip and their extra civilian bag! They’ve already planned on what to wear everyday on Spring Break. They are on a mission, and nothing’s going to get in their way! Just like a little dog that escaped from the backyard, they tear through the neighborhood as fast as they can, barking as loud as they can “I’M FREE! HERE I AM!” They eat everything in their path…home cooked or fast food it doesn’t matter, if you put it in front of them it will be consumed. They try to experience as much fun as fast as they can…they must keep going until they run out of steam.


SPRING BREAK – begins at 12:30 pm Friday, March 7th and ends at 7:30 pm on Sunday, March 16th. The school will close on March 7 and will not re-open until 9:00 AM on March 16th.

Transportation forms are available on the FUMA Web site for charter bus service to and from Charlottesville air, bus and train; Richmond air, bus, and train; Tysons Corner, and Washington D.C. air and bus. Private hire drivers are available as well.

Please let us know if you need further information or assistance with leave or transportation, we are happy to help.

Robbin Dodson