One evening before Thanksgiving, I spent time in Jacobson Hall observing our study period, what we refer to as CQ or "Call to Quarters." This is more than just quiet time...but a focused, supervised, regulated [almost] two hours each evening when Upper School cadets sit at their desks and study.
It was so quiet as I walked along through each passageway (hallway), that each footstep made a sound, and the building looked empty unless I encountered one of three faculty officers monitoring CQ. I passed by each room twice...randomly moving up and across our 500 bed dormitory. It was impressive to say the least, as I did my best not to distract the cadets from their studies, knowing that some were probably thinking "Why is the Admiral here tonight?" to which I would have answered "Just checking."
Thanksgiving break was a wonderful time to rest here at Fork Union, where I enjoyed the swimming pool, running paths, aerobic room, and weight room...and even challenged myself to the cadet physical fitness workout. We also took advantage of the quiet time to visit our children and grandchildren in Virginia and Maryland...along with the traditional feast. I've also missed my granddog Hannah, so took the opportunity to take a few extra walks before and after dinner.
This week we all returned to the FUMA routine, but with only three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas break, there is a sense of urgency...about finishing the second semester (next Friday only 60% of the school year will remain)...and about planning important work to benefit our school. Everyone returned safely Monday evening, and by Tuesday we resumed staff meetings, classes, athletics, chapel service....
I enjoy this Season of Advent...this spirit of anticipation and expectation...a focus on the birth of Jesus, and celebration of prophecies come true. As the Chaplain spoke of the 60 prophesies fulfilled, and the odds [ten to the seventeenth power] of only six of them coming true, let alone all 60. It was a moment that made me glad to be in Fork Union for the holiday season. Being an hour away from shopping malls and "big city life" is a blessing, because it is easy to turn attention back to the things that really matter...family, good friends, and service.
Seeing the cadets in Chapel as they listened to the message was a reminder of the sanctuary we provide, and that every day is a fresh start...that no matter who you may have been yesterday, you can be who you want to be today...each day is a new beginning. Fork Union is a good place to be...not just a good place to be from.
On Wednesday I wandered the campus, stopping in a few classrooms, and looking into others. There are few things I enjoy more than observing the learning process...seeing students challenged with questions, struggling a bit to find the answers, seeing fellow cadets assisting classmates discover solutions, and teachers summarizing and facilitating what had just been learned.
I am always humbled by the mathematics classes, and should probably spend more time there. I'm confident that my struggles with Calculus would have been eased if I'd solved a problem or two on COL Nothnagle's chalkboard, or been encouraged by LTC Muench.
I also enjoyed a conversation with an alumnus from the Class of 1964 who said "If not for the foundation I received at FUMA, I would not be where I am today." He is a college graduate with two degrees, and a successful business owner with a deep love for life-long learning...and he and his classmates may set attendance and enthusiasm records for their 50th Reunion this fall.
Today was a real gift. We hosted the first of three speakers for our Christian Leadership Series. Mr. Steve Stirling, Executive Vice President for Child Fund International was our guest, and accompanied by Mr. David Barrett, a member of our Trustee Board. After a lively performance by our praise band, Mr. Stirling spoke of contracting polio as a child, and being taken to an orphanage by his father when he was almost six years old.
He and his sister were adopted by a family from Alaska, and he worked hard to concentrate on what he could do, rather than what he could not. His message was powerful, personal, and resonated with young and old...it was a message that acknowledged the trials, tribulations, challenges, and setbacks we all face. He encouraged us to prepare ourselves for these storms, because we all know they will come. It was clear from all his interactions throughout the day that he is a prayerful Christian example of strength and grace.
He complimented us on the respectful and disciplined cadets, and clearly appreciated the important mission to educate, develop, and inspire young men who will lead with character. He urged each cadet to make the most of their time at FUMA, and take full advantage of every opportunity. God has placed each of us here for good reason.
The next two weeks will be whirlwind of studying, community service, sports, maybe a winter storm, and visits to many Fork Union Military Academy supporters to deliver a traditional Virginia ham. Over the next month I also need to solidify graduation speakers for the Upper School and Middle School graduations [believe it or not].
I'll end with a claim that I will challenge anyone to disprove. Fork Union Military Academy is the only college preparatory, Christian, military school with a graduate on every continent in the world. Below is a picture of Dale Helm, Class of 2008. Although this picture was taken in 2011, Dale is in Antarctica for the third time...