The Choices are Clear

Forty percent of the 2011-2012 school year is complete...and the cadets are smiling...every last one of them. After all, this is the last day before a two week Christmas leave. As I walked by Snead Hall yesterday, and spoke with a cadet on his way to play outdoor basketball (65 degrees and sunny in Fork Union) he was excited about going to Louisville, Kentucky to spend the holiday with his family, and said it didn't matter what he got for Christmas...clearly more mature than I was at that age.

Last night we held the Fall Sports Awards Ceremony in Wicker Chapel. We lauded all the coaches for their selfless service to the young men of Fork Union Military Academy, and recognized the significant accomplishments in football, cross-country, soccer, and rifle. A common theme throughout the night was the value athletics brings to FUMA. It is not the winning, or the reputation for being fierce competitors, but the special magic sports brings to this school. It is the way athletics works hand-in-hand with academics, discipline, and the Spirit.
I learned the value athletics adds to educational institutions while leading the Coast Guard Academy, and saw first-hand how the lessons learned on the field (courts, pools, and trails) translated to real life. Team sports teach leadership, followership, humility, and poise. Athletes learn from winning and from losing, and they learn more when they have great coaches...and FUMA has great coaches.

Yesterday I met briefly with the Battalion Commander, Cadet LTC Steven Joslyn, to compliment him on his effective leadership, and to offer my assistance as he plans for life after FUMA. I also met with a cadet who is still considering his options, and made very clear to him that we are very proud of our "100% college acceptance rate," and needed him to continue the outstanding effort he showed the first three years. I was impressed by his candor and honesty, and the conversation reminded me of the many challenges facing high school seniors.

While it is easy for me to look back and chart a clear path that led me through college, through the Coast Guard, and here to FUMA...the path did not look so clear when I was 18...and I didn't appreciate my parents making many of those early choices for me. Now, the choices make perfect sense...and I'm glad I listened. I reminded this young man how fortunate he was to have parents who loved him so much that they allowed him to come here and make the most of his potential.

Earlier this week I met with other Presidents and Heads of Schools at a meeting of the Virginia Association of Military Schools, which is a subset of AMSCUS, the Association of Military Schools and Colleges of the United States. It was refreshing to talk with colleagues and compare notes on the challenges of educating, developing, and inspiring young people in a residential, military setting. It was also a reminder of the uniqueness of Fork Union Military Academy.

We have 1300 acres of sprawling campus (out in the country), and we use about 300 acres including our world-class cross country running trail. We are very proudly a Christian school, and have remained a school for young men only. We are primarily residential, although we have a strong day-school component...and we are the only school about to open a new 500 bed dormitory...which will create a culture of excellence throughout our campus. This LEED certified building will be filled with FUMA colors, state-of-the-art security systems, and be wired for the most current technology. While our values remain timeless, our campus is poised for the future.

I also drove another thousand miles visiting members of our Board of Trustees. Each and every conversation reinforced why I chose to come to Fork Union. Everyone, I repeat, everyone associated with this school is committed to its success, and they invest their time, talent, and treasure to keep it strong.

There are just 15 days left in 2011, and my goal for this Annual Campaign is not in terms of money raised, but instead in percentage of participation. The goal is that everyone reading this blog, and everyone who received an annual giving letter, will send something...even if it is a note saying that when the economy turns around, they will support us next year. I have grown to love this school, and every day I see the impact it has on young men and their parents. With your continued support, we will make this school the national leader in residential, military, Christian, boarding schools...and continue our development of body, mind, and spirit. Our cadets, faculty, and staff will be better for your support.

My gift to you this season is a two week break in having to read my blog. I am going to take long walks this holiday with my granddog Hannah, long crawls (and extra-long reading sessions) with my grandson James, and spend time with my son, daughter, their spouses, Betsy, and her family. I'll resolve in 2012 to make this blog shorter, swim more, bike more, keep running, and get ready for the Senior Olympics only three years away...I will post again on January 6, 2012.

Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and may God continue to bless you, your families, and this great nation.


J. Scott Burhoe
President, Fork Union Military Academy
Rear Admiral, USCG, Retired