This is my last blog of the school year. I will write another shortly after graduation, and perhaps update everyone in the middle of the summer. With only 8 days until the Upper School commencement and 6 days to the Middle School graduation, time is becoming even more precious, and the choices difficult.
To write this blog, as well as two letters of recommendations later tonight, I'll have to miss the Annual Faculty/Senior Basketball game. Just for the record, it's not because no one asked me to play...that I understand, but as everyone reading this knows, life is full of choices, and we often don't know if we've made the right one until long after the consequences are felt.
Fork Union Military Academy, for cadets and staff alike, is about making choices...and from many cadet conversations I've had this week, cadets make better choices when they listen, understand, and internalize the lessons we teach...but that learning can't be forced...it happens in cadet time, not ours.
Chaplain Benson preached today that our real "Cadet Regulations" and "Faculty Handbook" is the Bible. If we all used scripture as our strategic plan and guiding document, things would run smoothly. Just saying...
A highlight for me this week was spending time with COL Bill Hitchcock's International Relations class. I learned what they were studying, but also told them I could answer any questions they had, as long as they didn't relate to the subject matter of the class, because my area of expertise was independent private education and FUMA...the pace of those two things consume all my time during the school year.
I enjoyed the many questions, and the cadets were exceedingly polite and respectful in the way they listened and built on the answers. One question related to what I would want to be "remembered for" after my tenure. I told them that my true "passion" was unfettered access to quality education. I believe that everyone should have access to a quality education regardless of their ability to pay.
My dream is to have a school that educates, develops, and inspires young men in a college preparatory, Christian, military environment. We'll help them build character, learn leadership, become independent, confident, responsible, and disciplined. These young men will weave together a strong body, alert mind, and vibrant spirit. Being able to afford tuition, room, board, and uniforms will be a secondary consideration for the best and most qualified students.
We'll accomplish this only by building our endowment, particularly in the area of access scholarships. This will revive Dr. Hatcher's founding spirit and intention. He was interested in reaching as many young people as possible...and he filled the school...worrying about how to pay for it later.
Fork Union needs to influence more young men. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the world would be a better place if more of its inhabitants were FUMA graduates.
LTC (select) Houston Eldridge was announced this week as our full-time Director of Character and Leadership. He is our Social Studies Department Head, and well-known for the Leadership Course he teaches each summer. It is one of our most popular Summer School classes.
Houston will work directly for me next year as we fully implement the first of our five strategic goals. Clicke here to view the Strategic Plan. His challenge is to "Integrate Character and Leadership Development throughout the Academy," and he will facilitate this by guiding our cadet leaders as they lead and organize the Corps of Cadets through the daily routine.
I've also tasked him with creating a publishable guidebook that will articulate the FUMA leadership model, and become a "best practice" for military secondary schools, and asked him to create an "outward bound" type program to help us redirect and motivate cadets who may be struggling with how and why to comply with the rules and regulations in our strict, structured, military environment.
All of this is a tall order, but we have great confidence in him, and those who will support him in this effort.
Yesterday evening we held an Eagle Scout Court of Honor for Jasher Grunau. He graduated last year, and just completed his first year as an engineering major at Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!). It was a terrific event, and brought back great memories of my own Court of Honor in April of 1969. Listening to the Scout Law, Oath, Motto, and remarks by LTC Don Moore reminded me of the significance of this milestone. LTC Moore's final story was about a 1942 Fork Union graduate.
Now in his late 80's, this alumnus talks about God, his family, the Army, FUMA, and becoming an Eagle Scout. It was a heartwarming story of his meaningful, intentional life (still being) well lived, yet two of the most significant memories in his life occurred over 7 decades ago...which was a reminder to the cadets listening to make the most of their adolescent years...
Yesterday a cadet approached me to ask if I would support an initiative to assist victims of the South Korea ferry capsizing. Many school children were impacted during this ferry mishap, and some of our South Korean students are selling wristbands inscribed with "One small movement leads to big miracles." The proceeds from selling these $2.00 bands will be sent directly to the hospitals to support the victims and their families.
The last "event" in my day was a cadet initiative by our newly formed Global Citizens Club. They planted a tree to honor our four faculty retirees, Mrs. Hanlin, COL Hardy, COL Ransone, and Mrs. Armstrong. The tree also honors the Class of 2014. Cadet Anand Sodkhuu, the Club President, hopes this annual "tree planting" will become a tradition...which will certainly help us beautify the entrance at Pettit-Foster Lane.
I'll close this blog with a portion of Ms. Katherine Giszack's remarks from today's ceremony. She is the club's faculty advisor:
"Trees are highly symbolic, and they are seen throughout the art and literature of many cultures. In fact, the Bible begins in Genesis with a story of two trees - the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. Unfortunately, humankind did not choose life in that case, but when we fast-forward to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we see another tree, as the cross turned death into life. And in the end, Revelation gives us a picture of heaven, where we again see the tree of life. Revelations 22:2 describes the tree of life, "whose leaves are for the healing of the nations."
I invited the Class of 2014 to visit the tree often, and certainly in 2064 for their 50th reunion...when, who knows, one of them might be the President of Fork Union Military Academy.
Go Dreams! Go Trees! Go FUMA!