Last week ended with a flurry. A light snow began late Friday, as we were hosting Patrice Lewis from Senator Warner's Richmond office. She visited to get a tour of the campus, and to learn more about Fork Union Military Academy. We look forward to hosting a visit by Senator Warner, and hope that will be sometime early next year.
My weekend was spent in Charlottesville with many other "Heads of Schools," for the annual conference hosted by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools, which is our accrediting organization. While I was admittedly a little reluctant, the collegiality and presentations were well worth the time.
From Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons, President of Shenandoah University, who spoke of being true to your mission and purpose; to Dr. Richard Honack, Kellogg School of Management, who spoke on cultural trends and realities; to John Hunter, a teacher for 34 years from Charlottesville who invented and created the World Peace Game, featured in the education documentary titled "World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements;" followed by a discussion on the different accreditation models...it was a full three days.
My work list is longer and my biggest "take-aways" were the importance of being clear about what we are [as a school] and what we are not; appreciating the complexity of how different generations perceive; and the impact of the technological revolution on marketing, learning, and the expectations for individual customization. It also reinforced the impact FUMA can have because we dare to be different.
While lecturers and presenters urge their audiences to "keep up with the trends," and encourage all of us to chase the ways of the world, it is comforting to know that at least one school continues to stress character, values, interpersonal communication, eye contact, and the wholistic education and development of mind, body, and spirit. This is done intentionally...
Dr. Honack said: "The moment of truth is any contact point [within a school] that the customer uses to evaluate the service delivery." This reinforces our emphasis on communicating well and often with parents, alumni, donors, and trustees, and also supports our continued efforts to upgrade the buildings and grounds.
I did sneak in an evening and morning with James Scott, my grandson, who turns two this month...yet I noticed nothing terrible. He is indeed a blessing...with news of a brother or sister on the horizon in early summer. We ran as much as the weather allowed, and I admired his new gallop...and even threw in a driving lesson.
I returned in time to see another Prep Basketball victory...this time against Woodberry Forest...knowing I would be writing this blog during tonight's game against Benedictine. I was sorry to miss Sunday's guest speaker. Thanks to a parent sponsor, we brought in Vic Murphy, Pro BMX Bike Pioneer, to tell his story of Christian faith. I'm told it was an outstanding presentation, and this picture proves it:
Those are genuine smiles on the faces of our cadets...in the Chapel...on a Sunday...the same smiles that we will see at 1230 tomorrow for the beginning of February's Winter Leave.
Wednesday afternoon we began a new tradition at Fork Union Military Academy. We brought the Corps of Cadets into Wicker Chapel, and lined up the seniors and juniors receiving rings. After a few comments, and a very touching testimony by Cadet Nathan Northcutt on what the class ring means to him, we called each cadet forward, presented the rings, and then cheered for the cadets gathered on the platform steps.
The cadets still grimace a bit when they are in front of their peers, but my hope is that over time they will become more comfortable with the recognition, and show the pride they feel about going to school here...
Before I close this blog, let me speak of the great day we had today. We entered a Covenant with the Charles B. Keesee Educational Fund that provided us $50,000 toward grants for students beginning in the Fall of 2013. We hosted the President, Dr. David Burhans, as well as the Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer. They attended Chapel services and a lunch at Careby Hall, followed by a cadet tour, and a brief meeting with our admissions staff.
We will provide details on eligibility for these "need-based" grants not to exceed $5,000 for boarding students and $2,500 for day students...and look forward to a long and friendly relationship with this important organization, which shares our passion for educational access and Christian charity.
Let me leave you with today's prayer by Cadet Shaffer, my remarks from the Class Ring Presentation, and end with the poignant remarks by Cadet Northcutt:
"Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this day you have given us. Thank you for the people and circumstances you put in our lives to help us become successful. Lord, help us finish the week strong, and live for you. In Jesus name we pray. Amen"
"I asked that the delivery of rings this year be celebrated, and that we begin a ring presentation tradition here at Fork Union Military Academy. I brought two rings with me today. One was worn by a cadet who graduated in 1912 and the other was worn by a cadet who graduated in 1962.
The cadet who wore this 1962 ring sat in the same seats you are sitting in today, and in 1912 this chapel was not even built.
One of the many reasons I came to work here after retiring from the United States Coast Guard, was because I knew that southern military schools had such a rich and storied history in Virginia. I want there to be more opportunities and occasions to take pride in our school and I want to restore the many traditions associated with these schools.
Of course it is easy to love and appreciate this school when you lead it, and I also have the advantage of knowing that you will love this school in time, even if you may be neutral now. I know because I have met so many alumni who tell me that their experiences were a key to their success...and many are successful beyond measure.
I need your help to maintain the greatness Fork Union Military Academy is known for.
A ring is just one symbol of school pride, and I'm told that the class ring, as we know it today, originated at West Point, The United States Military Academy, in 1835.
It was the first American school to use rings as a sign of common recognition. The ring symbolized unity, togetherness, a band of brothers, and lifelong friends bound by common experience.
I know that life here is not easy. This ring is earned, just as the honor of graduating from FUMA is earned. This class ring symbolizes the achievement that results from hard work and sacrifice.
I ask that you wear these rings with pride in yourselves and pride in all those who went before you and all those who will follow"
Cadet Northcutt's remarks:
"The ring you all have is something very special. It is unique, it is different. The amount of times people have started talking to me because of my ring is unbelievable. Wherever I travel, in whatever country or place, people always ask me about my ring. When they learn it is from a military academy, they automatically give me a certain degree of respect. Do you deserve this respect?
This ring shows you come from an elite background of college preparatory education and military discipline. The ring represents Fork Union's key values; integrity, respect, leadership, and character. The ring may one day help you in ways you may not realize. For example, the first impression of a job interview or perhaps it will help you leave an impression with someone of importance.
While you wear the ring, you represent yourself, those who graduated before you, those to come, those sitting beside you, and me. Represent us well.
Wherever you go, whatever you do in life, always remember that while you wear the ring, you are part of a small group. This group consists of FUMA alumni, the current Corps of Cadets, and the reputation we have. The reputation that has been earned was not given. It has been carved through the efforts of those before you and me. Gentlemen, do not take this reputation for granted and do not abuse it.
Wear your ring with pride, and take care of it. It should motivate you, guide you, and remind you of the man you should strive to be. This type of man is a man who is selfless and serves his fellow man, expecting absolutely nothing in return. A man who is loyal to his values, beliefs, loved ones, and his brethren. A man who aims and strives for perfection in whatever task big or small. And finally, a man who values and respects knowledge, and the ideals of others.
Wear this ring, wear it with pride, wear it as a man with character. Because this ring is rare, but so is a real man. Wear it well."