The President's Blog

From the President of Fork Union Military Academy, Rear Admiral J. Scott Burhoe.


Dark Ages

At each of the nation's service academies, this time is called the "Dark Ages."  Bitter cold, grey skies, snow and ice that mysteriously reappears, and while there is a bit more light since the Winter Solstice, the sun is not up nearly long enough.  These are the days that build character, and require cadets to visualize spring...and the pleasant days that lie ahead.

It turns out the polar vortex was just foreshadowing the weeks that followed, but there are still many areas of brightness and warmth, including the quality of the daily meals, and a new feature called the "Weight Watchers" line.  This special serving line features a meal prepared with a specific blend of protein, carbohydrates, and fat (if you skip dessert) to shed a few pounds and stay in balance.  Our Director of Dining Services and his staff have worked hard to create this initiative, and it offers additional accountability many need to resist the temptation of over-eating.

Good food helps us get through these dark ages...in the same way planned activities help.  Last week, we had a "ribbon cutting" outside a kitchen area refurbished in the basement of Hatcher Hall.  It is the new meeting place for our Cooking Club.  I can almost hear alumni all over the country saying: "Cooking Club?  What in the world will they do next?  Form a Sewing Club?"

This club shows you that young men haven't changed all that much, other than become brighter and more forward thinking than ever.  When I asked one of the cadets why he joined the Cooking Club, he told me: "That's easy, Admiral.  Women like men who can cook!"  It is indeed a different world, and we are preparing young men for it...

Another activity that lifts cadets is our band.  I met with two cadets regarding ideas on ways to attract more "musically inclined" students, and assured them that music is a critical component of a military school.  Bugle calls, drum cadence, the National Anthem, marches...they all reflect the reputation and strength of the school.  Betsy and I travelled to Farmville, VA one foggy and rainy night, to watch 10 cadets perform in the Longwood Honors Band.  For those on Instagram, I posted three videos on our Academy's page which is instagram.com/ForkUnion.  I was proud of our cadets, and it looked like we had more participants than any other school.

I travelled to Richmond the following week to watch our Junior Prep Basketball Team play Saint Christopher...and was impressed by their determination, composure, and energy.  I meant to ask the head of St. Chris how they managed to find young men so much taller than ours...but on the court everyone played big.  I was encouraged by a conversation with one of our parents that same afternoon, who spoke so highly of her son's growth and maturity...and that she looked forward to seeing her son "walking across the stage" at his graduation in a few years.

One way to beat the dark ages is to spend some time planning for Summer School.  We are very excited about new course offerings, including a partnership we are developing with Richard Bland College, in Petersburg, VA.  I encourage everyone who may be interested to visit our Summer School section of the web site.  Our two new courses this year are:

Personal Finance

The Personal Finance course has been designed to help students become financially responsible.  Students will be given information on; money management, budgeting, and financial goal attainment.  Students will also analyze "real world" scenarios using principles of accounting and economics.

Intro to Computer Modeling, Simulation and Gaming

An introductory course for Computer Modeling, Simulation, and Gaming (M&S) for high school students interested in cyber security, video game design, crime scene reconstruction, and more. Topics include basic definitions, M&S paradigms and methodologies, computer languages, visual design principles, and software methods. Information literacy and research methods are addressed. Papers and oral presentations are required and will allow the student to investigate different aspects of the discipline. This course is a synchronous online course offered in partnership with Richard Bland College.

These last two weeks have been full of meetings with parents, visits by potential new cadets, and even meeting current cadets seeking "last minute" recommendations for college.  There is always time in the schedule to write a recommendation for deserving cadets...each one unique and tailored to the individual student (thanks to Ms. Carol Childress, my Secretary, who creates a draft).  We were also fortunate to learn that two of our cadets received nominations to the Naval Academy and West Point, and two are competing for appointments at the Coast Guard Academy.

One of our Trustees, RADM Frank Rennie, USNR, Ret., met with 11 cadets over lunch, to talk about the Naval Academy and the best path to an appointment.  He also assisted one of our seniors by providing a letter of recommendation.  RADM Rennie is a 1976 Annapolis graduate.  His enthusiasm for the Navy and Service Academies is contagious and will help generate even more cadet interest.

We also took some time to reinforce the campus alarm system to cadets.  Early one morning the cadets stood outside in formation, and listened to the difference between our "lightning is within 3 miles" alarm, and our Code Blue (armed intruder) and Code Yellow (weather emergency) alarms.  In class later the same morning, each faculty member went over procedures for each potential emergency, and the actions cadets (and faculty) should take.

One of our sophomore cadets arranged a meeting to discuss creating a "JROTC-like" unit.  I've had a long-standing conversation with an active alumnus from the Class of 1942.  I am gaining more clarity to a concern alumni have about our "military programs."  To many, the word military is synonymous with "Armed Forces," not formations, drill, uniforms, and chain-of-command.  While we are strict, disciplined, and orderly [we are military] we don't associate with any particular branch of service.  

I plan to work with this cadet and the Commandant of Cadets to create a program that gives interested cadets a glimpse into the life of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and guardians.  This organization, a "Military Science Club" [until we come up with a better name] could provide a nucleus of strong leaders for our nation's military and our Corps of Cadets.  We are also examining ways to provide elective credits in leadership and military science.

Despite the dark ages, we are all moving forward to improve this great school.  One of my highlights this week didn't involve cadets, but was a meeting with our Decennial Reaccreditation Steering Committee.  It reinforced all the reasons I stayed in education after leaving the Coast Guard Academy.

I found myself with faculty and administrators who were excited, engaged, and working collaboratively to improve Fork Union Military Academy.  They all approached this task of accreditation not as list of tasks to "check off," but instead an opportunity to continually improve this school.  There was active involvement, collegiality, listening, talking, disagreement, and agreement...the kind of candid, honest conversation that makes good things happen.  It was refreshing to know that I didn't even need to be there...

I entered the meeting a bit worn down, but left energized and refreshed, knowing that our cadets were in the hands of people who really cared about their future, and the organization that surrounded them.

I wish there was more time and space to summarize the four amazing chapel services...but will close with a "Kiplinger" summary of each, followed by Cadet Ro's prayer, and a note from a parent:

"Everybody makes choices...make the right choices...dumb [choices] can last forever...if you choose correctly you are rewarded...if you choose incorrectly you suffer consequences...everything you do impacts somebody...a man does what he needs to...a boy does what he wants to."

"Courage isn't about lack of fear...have courage of the commonplace...take the opportunity to do the right thing...don't dance for the wrong people... Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

"When my house burned down, all I lost was stuff...I still have you [cadets]...you have meaning...what a friend we have in Jesus...are you accepting the gift?"

"Be humble...take an interest in others...love your God with all your heart...love your neighbor as yourself...be second, or third, or last...but put God first."

Cadet Ro's prayer:

"Loving Father God...Lord you know our every thought and every action and when someone offends us our immediate response may be to fight back or to scheme against him, but Lord help us to have the heart of forgiveness and the heart of caring for one another and Lord we ask that you forgive us when we do fight back and help us, guide us, and direct us to go toward the cross.  Amen"

Letter from a parent:

Admiral Burhoe,

I thought you might like to read what my son sent me yesterday. This is a big reason we sent him to you, to help him see a little more outside himself and to think of the needs of others. This email made our day and I hope it does the same for you.

From her son, slightly edited for anonymity:

"I was at chapel today and they were talking about thankfulness and forgiveness. I just wanted to thank you for everything you have done in my life and anything you do for me in the future.  I know your life is hard and I am thankful that you take time to make mine just a little bit better.  If you could tell Dad I am thankful for what he does too, that would be most appreciated."

Go FUMA!  Indeed.

Polar Vortex

A polar vortex is a persistent, large-scale cyclone located near either of a planet's geographical poles and they are weaker during summer and strongest during winter.  If I'd known what a polar vortex was before this week, I would have prayed for one the last three summers here in Fork Union.  On Monday morning, as the sun rose over the campus, I could feel its presence.

It wasn't the cold brought in by this weather pattern that was so noticeable, but instead, a "calm before the storm."  This is one of my favorite weather conditions...this calm just before the weather changes.  I met with the cadets, faculty, and staff at 0745 on Monday morning, arriving about the same time as the vortex.

I greeted them by saying:

"I trust everyone had a terrific Christmas break, and everyone is looking forward to what 2014 will bring.  There are 137 days from now until the end of school and graduation, only the months of January, February, March, April, and May.

We look forward to taking this time to develop the cadet leadership for next year, and I encourage those desiring leadership positions to make sure we know of your interest.

I reminded everyone of existing rules, regulations, policies, and reinforced our core values of respect, integrity, faith, character, and discipline...encouraging everyone to let these values guide their every action, and ended by saying:

"Those outside Fork Union Military Academy know that our cadets are in a strict environment...and that this is not an ordinary high school or boarding school.  Our standards are higher...our graduates are better...they sacrifice a little today for a brighter future.

Fork Union Military Academy has a reputation for being the best school like ours in the United States.  Yes, we still have work to do, but we are the best all boy's college preparatory, Christian, military school in the country.

Every two to three years we have a few cadets who begin to believe that they are bigger, better, and smarter than the school...none of us, is more important than the reputation and legacy of Fork Union.

Sometimes leadership positions bring out the worst in people, which is unfortunate because leadership should bring out the best.  I would like to work on that."

All year I've been impressed by the way the Corps of Cadets has actively listened during Chapel Services and these "All Hands" meetings.  Before the day was over, the temperature had dropped from the 50's to about 15 degrees.  We modified a few formations, and temporarily changed some routines to ensure everyone would be safe.  Thankfully we made it through a very cold week without any casualties to buildings or people.

We welcomed a few new cadets on Monday, and my suspicion is that Regina, our barber, was busy, because there was much less hair on the heads of the cadets when I spoke with them on Tuesday morning at the first Chapel Service of the year.  My remarks from that service are posted here if you are interested in reading them.  I made it a sort of "Coast Guard Day in January," keeping the message a little lighter, but wanted to continue the tradition of the FUMA President providing this first Chapel Service of the new year.

By Wednesday, despite the cold and wind, cadet morale seemed high.  The food was hot and delicious, sports teams were preparing again for competition, and we began making plans for a ring ceremony before Winter Break.  Winter Break?  Didn't we just have a long break?  But I remember from the last two years just how nice it is to have a 3 day weekend at the end of January to get everyone through to Spring.

Today's Chapel Service centered on hypocrisy.  Chaplain Benson was filled with "fire and brimstone," clearly passionate about this topic and the words from Matthew 23: 1-23.  Before the message, Cadet Ro included in his prayer for us to pray for those who may be homesick.  I appreciated this reminder...about how far away from home many of our students are, and a reminder of adolescence. 

Today's lesson while for everyone, spoke primarily to those of us in positions of leadership.  We must do what we tell others to do...and it reminded me of an expression I've used often which is:

"I can't be sure he is listening to what I say, but I am certain he is watching what I do." 

Leaders cannot say one thing and do another, and if you are going to enforce a rule or regulation, you must follow that same rule yourselves.

It is good to be back in full swing...hard to believe we are already making preparations for graduation, and on Friday of next week, only the last half of the school year will remain.

Go FUMA!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

In education and industry each year seems to end in hyperspeed.  At Fork Union Military Academy we just finished the second term [of five], and are making a special effort to personally visit our trustees and friends this holiday season.  I've spent much more time than usual on the road these last few weeks, and will be off campus much of next week.

Today was my only full day at school this week and at the end of the day I realized that I'd been so busy I never left Hatcher Hall (including no exercise or lunch).  I was too busy hosting meetings, teleconferences, and making phone calls required to get things ready for the new year.

I may abbreviate this blog, somewhat selfishly, because I want to watch our postgraduate basketball team play Hargrave this evening.  Our Corps of Cadets will also attend...but may have to leave before the second half to return for CQ.  As my wife was proofreading my last blog she said "Is what you wrote about the Call to Quarters really true?"  I told her it does sound too good to be true, but it really happens that way.

Yesterday afternoon I spoke with a trustee whose grandson attended FUMA for his last three years of high school.  During a recent visit to his college, his grandson told him that his only regret was not spending all four years here.  His grandson has a real advantage over his classmates because he knows how to study, and has the discipline to actually spend time studying every night.

...well, I'm back from the game...a very exciting triumph over Hargrave Military Academy, a very good PG basketball team.  Congratulations to Matt Donahue, our coach, to our team, and to our Corps of Cadets for a very enthusiastic game.

We are also very proud of our cadets for having collected 6,260 pounds of food for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.  This was 500 pounds more than last year...pretty amazing how many people this will feed over the holidays.  What a terrific way to learn about how to serve others, and the cadets will forever remember how long it took to load the food onto the truck.  Please see the pictures on our website, and the picture below:

COL Todd Giszack, Ms. Sonia Brandon, CPT Sam Mavrick, and I attended an all-day session held by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) to ensure we fully understood our responsibilities for our Decennial Accreditation Visit.  I've been impressed by our Steering Committees work so far, and by the seriousness with which the faculty is approaching this task.  It requires tremendous coordination and teamwork...and much discussion and writing, but the end reward will be continual improvement.

Many of you may have received surveys.  We don't control the survey instrument, these are provided by VAIS, but please do your best to answer the questions candidly, as this will allow us to focus on key areas.  Thank you for your patience as we work through this process.

Sadly, we are a smaller school tonight.  All but five of our postgraduate football team members departed this afternoon after their final exams.  The NCAA allows students to enter college in January, so many choose to leave FUMA after just two terms to get a head start on college classes and additional physical conditioning.  I believe all of them are better for the experience, and all of them left with close friends, who they will cherish for a lifetime.  Congratulations to all those who found their way to college scholarships as a result of the academic enrichment gained here at Fork Union Military Academy.

This weekend we will host our third annual Operation 25:40.  This service activity sponsored by our Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Catholic Cadet Association is based on scripture from Matthew 25:40 which says: "And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."  Cadets and faculty sponsored economically disadvantaged families, providing gifts for the children, and necessities for the parents.

We will host the families in our dining facility; have a large dinner, a Christmas play, and even a visit from Santa Claus.  This is a very heartwarming evening, and provides an opportunity for the school community to spread the true meaning of Christmas.

I am looking forward to our holiday meal next Thursday evening...our last dinner together as faculty, staff, and students until 2014.  This special Christmas feast is similar to our Thanksgiving feast, and becomes a fond memory for many cadets.  This will be my last blog until 2014.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

I plan to spend as much time as possible with Betsy, Aaron, Amy, Tracey, Eric, James, Emily, John, and yes, even Hannah.  I also have plans to visit my mother in Florida.  She tells me she's been going to the gym three times a week...so she'll probably give me a run for my money.  I also plan to run, read, swim, and bike...gathering energy to finish strong and faithfully in what is shaping up to be one of the best years ever at FUMA.

Be safe...count your blessings...be ever thankful...and serve others before you serve yourself.

Go FUMA!
 

Be Always Ready On Every Continent

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...
 
 
Go FUMA!
 

Questions Answered

By the time you read this all the cadets will be off campus, and quiet will be back for the first time since early August.  An hour before the cadets finished class we hosted a question and answer session for parents interested in meeting with the Academy leadership.  Questions were submitted in advance, so that we could consider our answers and begin addressing any potential issues raised.

While there was much activity last week, this blog will focus on answering those questions.  My expectation is that while we only received a handful of questions, many more may be interested in the answers.

I'll start by saying thank-you to all those who submitted questions at our Parents Association Chair's request.  In grade school I was taught to answer a question by including the question in the answer.  I'm not planning to do that here...

Communication with Upper School TAC Officers and Faculty

First, I relearned that we can never communicate too much.  While we've greatly improved this area, it was clear from the questions that we have much work remaining.  Our Middle School (MS) sets the standard for communication.  There are a few reasons why, one of them is that there is one staff/faculty members for every 3 cadets in the MS, and this is age-appropriate. 

That ratio is cut in half as cadets move to the Upper School (US).  In the US, if you have a general question, we ask that you begin with the Tactical Officer (TAC).  Each company has a TAC, and companies are organized by grade.  For instance the 9th grade is Echo Company, and the TAC is MAJ John Justice.  A list of TACs, with phone numbers and email addresses, by company, is available here.  You may call or email the appropriate TAC. You can also find our Commandant's Department employees listed in our online Staff Directory.

If you don't get a response within 24 hours (less if it is an urgent matter) I recommend you contact either the Deputy Commandant or Commandant of Cadets.  While I'm confident you'll get an answer, if you are still unsuccessful, call my Assistant (Mrs. Carol Childress, 434-842-4323), or contact me directly.  My email is President@fuma.org.

We've greatly improved our communication regarding academic progress.  Every parent should receive an email from the cadet's teacher within the first week of class.  You may then use a program called PowerSchool to keep track of assignments and exams through each of 5 terms.  If you have a specific issue or concern, please contact your cadet's teacher.  If you do not get a response within 24 hours, contact either the Registrar or the Dean of Academics.  A list of all faculty members with contact info is available in our Download Forms center. Our faculty members are also listed in our online Staff Directory, and many have already been featured in Staff Spotlight articles on our website through which you can get to know a bit more about our staff members.

I've written about this before in my blogs, but I can assure you that your questions, concerns, or contact will not result in unfair treatment of your cadet.  As I gave a quick "travel and enjoy Thanksgiving safely" message to the cadets earlier today I reminded them that they are "our life's work" our reason for living.  In my tenure as President here I've only seen good come from outside inquiries, comments, and suggestions...never retribution or the projection of frustration.  I'm confident this trend will continue...

If you've not been contacted by email or phone by anyone at Fork Union Military Academy since your son arrived, it means we don't have your email address or phone number...or our emails are resting somewhere in your "junk mail" or "spam" folder.  You may provide that address, or multiple addresses, to our Admissions Office, or to the TAC.

Roommates

A few asked questions about roommates and the assignment of roommates.  We are not scientific about roommate assignments, but perhaps someday we will add that level of sophistication.  Sometimes roommate selection works well, and sometimes it does not.  In college, and during my military career, my best experiences with roommates were when I didn't have one.  At the same time, many of my roommate experiences helped me learn to compromise, taught me that while we all have much in common, there are also clear differences among people.  Each of these experiences taught me something about myself, and helped me learn to adapt.

Our first response is for young men to try and work out any differences and concerns on their own.  If that doesn't work they should work within their cadet chain-of-command and with their Tactical Officer.  As a last resort we will move cadets...but many alumni who have "best friends" from FUMA, would not if the school had made it too easy to move.

Phones in Barracks Room

Each room shares a phone, and each phone has voicemail.  Cadets may call out during certain hours as listed on page 62 of the Upper School Cadet Regulations Book...and they may receive calls during those times. 

Demerits

This morning we had our weekly "Policy Time" and discussed many of the questions.  One that we need to discuss more is the question of how to communicate "demerits" and the consequences and details of demerits received.  There are certain "thresholds" for demerits where parents will receive a call from either the Tactical Officer or the Deputy/Commandant of Cadets.  It is unlikely that a cadet will receive demerits and not know why.  If a cadet is heading toward "probation," a meeting with a Cadet Performance Review (yes, the acronym is CPR), or a "tribunal," you will be contacted.

The other day as I walked through the library, I asked a cadet (who had seen more than a few demerits in his tenure here) whether it was easy or hard to "stay out of trouble" here.  He's having a terrific year this year, his third at FUMA.  He was quick to say that it was easy to stay out of trouble...and that demerits are earned...not easily collected.  When demerit totals are examined, we always look to see who awarded the demerits, what the trends are, and what support the cadet needs to get back on track.  If you have concerns, call the TAC.  After that if you believe anything appears less than fair, refer to paragraph 6 of this blog.

Return Times for Day Passes and Leave Weekends

There was concern expressed with the differing return times for day passes and leave weekends.  I've asked the Commandant of Cadets to examine this policy and recommend possibly changing the return times to make them more consistent, and ensure that what is represented in our handbooks is the same as what you are told when you pick up your sons.  In general, we do not have staff/faculty here if your son returns from leave a day early.  We will make arrangements for that early return if you give us enough notice.

Mentoring

One question asked us to consider creating a mentor program for new cadets.  I would encourage everyone to read through Section 17 of our Upper School Cadet Regulations Book.  This is where the military structure and system is at its very best.  Every company (90 cadets) has an adult leader (Tactical Officer) and several cadet (student) leaders.  These leaders are hand-selected.  The Cadet Company Commander leads 3 Platoon Leaders (each platoon is 1/3 of a company), and each platoon is divided into 3 squads...each with a Squad Leader.  Theoretically each squad will be no more than 9 cadets.  These cadet leaders help us carry out the "Plan of the Day."

We have a mentoring program, but its success is clearly dependent on our ability to train our student leaders...and is a key strategic goal identified in our recent Strategic Plan.

Digital Citizenship

Some of my recent blogs spoke of our one-to-one laptop initiative, and our ability to monitor computer usage through a program called LANSchool.  I encourage you to visit this site to learn more.  Our interest is in developing digital citizens.  We want cadets to understand the proper use of available technology, digital etiquette, including rights and responsibilities, as well as their own digital health, wellness, and self-protection.  Some private boarding schools do not filter content, but we've chosen to filter content using a filter called smoothwall.

The Lord's Prayer asks God to "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."  There is much on the internet that tempts us...filtering helps us deliver cadets from evil...but sometimes also stops educational content that would assist develop critical thinking skills.  Our filtering system allows us to let that information through once a teacher or cadet brings the "unnecessary filtering" to the attention our Information Technology Staff. 

Our goal is to educate, develop, and inspire young men of character who are discerning enough to stay away from inappropriate websites...but improper computer use demerits have been frequent as we work through this development.

I'll close with two of the easiest questions to answer...

Hot Water in Estes Athletic Center

We have not had hot water in our Estes Athletic Center since the beginning of school.  Our "hot water heater," one 1000 gallon holding tank, had a catastrophic failure, and replacing it was going to require us to tear down an exterior building wall to install a new tank of the same size.  While it took a bit more time initially, we engineered a solution that will give us 3 smaller tanks (giving us the same total capacity) and save energy [money] (by turning 2 off during the summer and during breaks) and avoid the same problem in 12-15 years...sorry for the delay, but we'll have hot water back in the gym before the end of Thanksgiving.

Cadet Store

There were a few comments expressed about our Cadet Store and the availability of merchandise.  We've just completed investigating an online store which will be managed by our Alumni Board...and expect it to be up in the next month or two.  In the meantime, please contact Susan Goolsby if there are items you would like to purchase that you couldn't find when you visited the store, as she has the ability to special order items you may want.

Other Questions?

There were a few questions about textbooks, independent study, and PowerSchool that are difficult for me to answer adequately without more information.  For those who had specific questions about these areas, please contact COL Todd Giszack, our Academic Dean.

I'm about 800 words past my usual "blog limit," but enjoyed the conversation among our staff about these questions, their answers, and our current level of communication [to parents].  It is clear that while we've made this a priority, there are still gaps in our processes.  These questions will also help inform the "self-study" we've undertake for our Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) decennial reaccreditation efforts.

Final Thought

My final thought is perhaps the most challenging to communicate properly...but the most important...and it has to do with the second sentence in our Mission Statement which is: "Cadets build character and learn leadership, independence, confidence, responsibility, and discipline in a setting that encourages mental, physical, and spiritual growth."  One of the keys to learning is often the struggle of having to figure things out.

When I look back with a critical eye on my own parenting, I was too quick to fix everything for my children.  I didn't want them to struggle or wrestle with problems themselves.  After all, I could step in and make their lives more comfortable.  There is a "system" at FUMA, that while it is far from perfect, it provides a safe environment where cadets can struggle, and even fail on occasion, and be stronger for the lessons and the learning.

I once heard a cadet say that being at FUMA provides cadets "a glimpse at adult life."  There are few gifts more important than preparing young people for adulthood in a way that increases the odds of living a successful, meaningful, and independent life...certainly worth the struggle.

Go FUMA!

The True Meaning of Service

Last week ended with mid-term exams for the 2nd (of 5) terms.  For those who keep track of such things, the school year is 30% complete, with just 70% remaining.  At the Coast Guard Academy cadets would often say that the days are slow, but the weeks go by fast...for me, everything seems to be going fast...

On Saturday, the Alumni Association Board met, and I had an opportunity to provide an update...telling them that if they were reading the blog, had a copy of the strategic plan, and looked at the pictures at http://photos.forkunion.com there was little else I could say...other than to answer any questions.

I couldn't be more pleased with the alumni support, and their helpful spirit.  Like our Trustees, they have a real heart for the school.  Cadets are here for anywhere between one year and seven...but after leaving (whether they graduate or not) they are alumni forever.

I delivered the Sunday Chapel message, which is published here: (RADM Burhoe's Chapel Message).  A few cadets came up to me after the service to discuss their God-given gifts, and to help me understand why so many cadets are successful here, yet a few still struggle.  One cadet made an observation that some "gifts" might also be "curses."  His example was the gift of imagination...I enjoyed the thoughtful perspective, and the challenge of helping him see how he could use this gift as a strength.

On Veteran's Day, MCPO Mike Wilton and I attended a luncheon in Fork Union at the Village Restaurant for WWII veterans.  This is the second time I've found myself in the midst of so many local heroes, including a prisoner of war, and a Marine who was among the first African Americans to integrate the Marine Corps and recently received the Congressional Gold Medal. 

There were stories of D-Day, sacrifice, separation, and service...but more than anything, in that room was a large dose of humility.  There wasn't an ounce of boasting...but instead an abundance of men who understood the true meaning of service, and were grateful for the opportunity to share good food and conversation with those of us who valued their legacy.

Our own Veteran's Day Ceremony later that evening started by observing Retreat (the flag being lowered in the evening), and laying a wreath at the FUMA Veterans' Memorial, where 57 names are etched into the wall, having given their lives in service to the United States.  LTC Kent Carter gave a memorable speech, urging us all to always appreciate our veterans' call to arms and sacrifice to preserve our freedom.

Tuesday brought the University of Virginia Director of Admissions.  We were pleased to host a visit and tour by this very selective college.  As many people already know, UVA occupies the No. 2 spot among all public universities in the U.S. News rankings, and is ranked in the Top 25 among all national universities, public or private.  We enjoyed the conversation focused on academic success, and discussed the importance of course selection, curriculum, and how best to prepare students for the critical thinking required to be successful at top-tier colleges...and the need to develop strong readers and skilled writers.

The week was filled with conversations with parents, representation at the Baptist General Association Conference, sub-committee meetings to prepare for our upcoming decennial VAIS reaccreditation, college recommendation letters, and even pictures taken for an advertisement in an international magazine to further expand the diversity of our Corps of Cadets...and an evening filled with enthusiasm and [mandatory] fun as we watched our postgraduate basketball team defeat Lynchburg College.  The cadets received a primer on how to cheer...and clearly listened well.

One morning I met with all of our Company Tactical Officers.  These are the staff members directly responsible for our military program, and the leadership development for our cadet officers.  This "pulse check" confirmed my observations that we are achieving that delicate balance between enthusiasm and discipline.  One of my favorite expressions is: "Don't let discipline be the enemy of enthusiasm."  The two can exist side-by-side...but the balance depends on maturity, good habits, understanding the reasoning behind rules, and the right positive examples...

Unity of effort and alignment...all student-centered...and focused on the mission of educating, developing, and inspiring young men in a college-preparatory, Christian, military environment is essential to our success as a school.  This week also brought notes from past graduates, former Coast Guard friends, and family...

Colonel Micky Sullivan, our Director of Athletics, who graduated from the Upper School in 1966, continued the chapel series on "being thankful." He thanked his mother who worked double-shifts as a nurse and "wore the same coat for 4 years" so that he could attend FUMA; thanked the teachers and coaches who held him accountable and taught him that he could be successful if he worked hard; thanked his family for their unconditional love...and the cadets who played on his teams.

He quoted a verse from Hebrews 12 given to him by his college football coach in 1967...which became his roadmap through life:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us..."

One of my highlights this week was meeting with a small group of cadets interested in attending a Service Academy.  They know my favorite...and sometimes even get a little joy telling me that they are interested in attending West Point, Annapolis, or USAFA.  I tell them that all five are outstanding opportunities...and to take at least as much time researching what life will be like after graduation as what life will be like as a cadet or midshipman.

In the last 8 years we've had over 30 graduates attend a Service Academy...I'd like to see many more.

Go FUMA!

What is Your Gift?

Each of us has a God-given gift...something that makes us special and unique.  We may have gifts in common...athleticism, leadership, brilliance, gentleness, or vision...but we each have at least one special gift.  As I spoke with a young man this afternoon, a cadet struggling with the demands of Fork Union Military Academy and at some risk of being dismissed, I asked him: "What is your God-given gift?" 

Sadly, he paused for what seemed like hours, until I broke the silence to tell him that in the short time we'd talked I could tell that God had given him gifts of kindness, gentleness, thoughtfulness, and that while I had no way of knowing, he looked like he might be a fast runner, as he was tall and thin.

I will be giving the Chapel message on Sunday, and plan to center my message on the importance of finding (and knowing) these gifts, and using them to their fullest...time is too short to dwell on our human weaknesses...we must realize and work from our strengths.

Speaking of gifts, Betsy and I were blessed with a third grandchild last Friday.  Our daughter, after a challenging night, morning, and afternoon of labor, had a son named John Thomas.  He is healthy, happy, and enjoying life (which consists of eating and sleeping).  It took me away from school for two full days and the weekend, but allowed us to spend time with our two other grandchildren...including a trip to Monkey Joes (fun) and Pizza Hut (mmmm).

This week was short, but still allowed time to create and hire a new position we've been discussing for quite some time.  On Monday we will welcome our new Activities Director, part-time until increased enrollment allows it to become full-time.  Ms. Amy Reese will help us move forward with our strategic goal to "Create an Environment that Balances Enthusiasm and Discipline."  If anyone is interested in receiving a printed copy of our new Strategic Plan, please contact Ms. Carol Childress at childrec@fuma.org.  

In addition to managing our current activities, she will create more on and off campus opportunities that support our integrated character and leadership development program, including service, academic enrichment, spiritual growth, and entertainment. 

While I've dubbed this "The Year of the Uniform," it could easily be "The Year of Great Food."  Staff, faculty, and their families enjoy the benefit of eating all their meals in the dining facility...the same meals, from the same serving lines, the same trays, plates, and silverware as cadets.  Every meal I've eaten has been delicious, nutritious (unless I grab the cookies, cake, or ice cream), and balanced.  This year we've been treated by sandwich stations boasting a choice of chicken, pork, or beef BBQ, meatballs, vegetables, or sliced steak; pasta stations; stir fry...and the homemade soups through the cooler months rival the soups any of our mothers have made (sorry Mom).

Yesterday I travelled to Christopher Newport University with our Board Chairman and met with the architectural firm hired to do their master planning and design their magnificent buildings. CNU has seen an amazing transition during the tenure of President Paul Trible, who arrived in 1996.  We intend to have this same firm assist with our planning efforts, bringing to life the vision articulated in Fork Union 2020.  I enjoyed the time Senator Trible gave to us, as generously as he gives time to his students and faculty...and believe (at least hope) that I captured some of his abundant energy and enthusiasm for helping young people live lives of significance.

There were a few highlights to my day today...beginning with a very generous donation by a Trustee Emeritus.  The [tax free] IRA distribution will allow us to provide scholarship support for at least three new cadets next year, and make some improvements (we otherwise would have deferred) to our campus security and infrastructure. 

We were treated at Chapel this morning with a "first" sermon by our Youth Minister Intern, Mr. DJ Williams.  His voice, inflection, and sincerity...and more importantly the way he tailored his message to the young men in our Corps of Cadets...made listening a real joy.  The Chaplain asked that we focus our November Chapel messages on thankfulness.

DJ made the case that we should be thankful for the sacrifices others have made.  While it is easy to believe that our past decisions made us who we are...the truth is that someone either recently or in the past sacrificed for us to achieve the blessings that surround us. 

My last highlight was presenting a FUMA "command coin" to the Middle School's Cadet of the Month for October, Cadet Jared Giszack.  This bright, energetic, hard-charging young man sets a stellar example for all of us...

This weekend we will host the Alumni Association Board for a series of meetings.  We've been impressed by the Class of 1964's 50th Reunion preparations.  Their sophistication, enthusiasm, and support for FUMA is inspiring, and if what we've seen so far continues, will set a standard for reunions.  Monday evening, November 11th, we will host our annual Veteran's Day Ceremony at the FUMA Veteran's Memorial, where LTC Kent Carter '66 will be our guest speaker.

I will end with the opening prayer delivered by Cadet Ro earlier today:

"Lord Almighty, thank you for everything you have given us.  Help us to see and understand your plan for our lives.  Help us not despair and fall into disbelief when it does not go our way, but help us understand and realize it is in your perfect plan.  Lord, help us to concentrate on today's word and bless today's speaker.  Protect the postgraduate football players at their game tomorrow, and guide them to better themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.  We love you and give all glory to you.  Amen."

Go FUMA!

The Only Way Around is Through

This quote by Robert Frost was referred to at the end of Weldon Bradshaw's remarks in Chapel today.  Mr. Bradshaw has worked at Collegiate School in Henrico for over 40 years as a teacher, administrator and coach, and is a free-lance reporter.

He spoke of his life-threatening liver disease, his life-changing transplant, the lessons that got him through, and what he learned from the experience.  He credited his faith and spiritual grounding, and talked about the need to "keep your head in the game, and make no excuses."

He urged everyone to be an organ donor...after all, a donated organ saved his life, and encouraged everyone to appreciate the strength and power of family and friends.  Using a sports analogy, he challenged everyone to outperform the performance list.  This list predicts where you should finish...he told the cadets to strive for more, surpass the status quo, and exceed expectations.

He ended his remarks by telling us to always be positive...and not waste time on negative thoughts.

He wrote an article in the Times Dispatch at this link, where he encourages everyone to "slow down...shut down the electronics occasionally.  Find time to read, to write, to take a leisurely walk, to think reflectively, to talk to one another, to savor the moment."  This is consistent with a recent article published by the Associated Press, at this link.

On my Twitter account (@Go_FUMA) I tweeted "Fork Union Military Academy leads the way again...ahead of our time..."  The recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics say that failing to limit access to personal electronic devices can have serious consequences.

According to the article, unlimited access has been linked with "violence, cyberbullying, school woes, obesity, lack of sleep and a host of other problems.  The policy is aimed at all kids, including those who use smartphones, computers and other Internet-connected devices."  We remain one of the few schools to limit the use of cellphones to only those times away from FUMA, and our computer use policy reduces access to inappropriate websites.

The fall weather this week, a mix of cool, changing leaves, and increasing winds made walking the campus a real joy.  I made quite a few "rounds" this week, watching quiz reviews in Biology, watched a bit of Algebra/Trig, and saw a mixture of cadets engaged in their learning, and some already dreaming about Thanksgiving break.  The campus impressed me by its cleanliness, and the striking views shed from new sidewalks, and a FUMA without Memorial Hall, the Motor Lodge, and the William Frank.

These walk-arounds help give me a sense of the climate...something that is a little different each day...as we work toward creating the culture described in Fork Union 2020.  These walks also help clear my head and gain perspective to do the hard work of organizing the new Governance and Enrollment Management Committees for our Board of Trustees, and creating a comprehensive campaign strategy to help us realize our long-range goals.

Early this week, after Tuesday's Chapel service, I spoke briefly with the seniors to commend them for winning Best Company (and the extra leave that goes with that), and for "leading the way" as they should.  To recognize their efforts we are flying the Class of 2014 flag from the dining facility...normally not flown before April. I also encouraged members of the graduating class to provide recommendations for a Commencement speaker, and will make this announcement shortly after the New Year.

On Wednesday we held a special formation on the Fraley Circle to present academic awards for Honor Roll (B for the term) and Dean's List (A for the term).  I presented over 50 awards to Alpha Company, and over 150 more were presented to the other four companies.  I spent a fair amount of the day in discussions regarding the best ways to market our school, expanding the commuting radius for day students, and ways to continually improve and sustain our postgraduate programs.

Earlier this morning we had our regularly scheduled "Policy Time," where we decided to very intentionally expand day school opportunities.  We also came to consensus on how to organize our decennial reaccreditation efforts, and even found time to discuss reinitiating our summer sports camps, and confirmed the "best dates" for Summer School.  While there was much healthy discussion, we will begin our summer program on June 29, 2014 and end on July 26th.  We also reduced summer school day student tuition.

The highlight this week wasn't the late afternoon discussion on reducing risk and vulnerability on campus (sorry Master Chief Wilton), it was a Middle School play about a Starfleet Stowaway.  This short play (please see the attached pictures) showcased good acting, creativity, and old-fashioned fun, even though the ethical message was serious.  As important and entertaining as the play, I most enjoyed the invitation...delivered in person by a young cadet who I overheard asking my Secretary if he could see me.

   

His example of poise and protocol could be followed by all.  It was a courteous and thoughtful invitation to share in his success.  "Admiral Burhoe, I wanted to invite you to a play tomorrow at 0955 in Thomas Gym, I hope you'll be able to make it."  I wouldn't have missed it...

Today was also our Upper School Civics Day.  Well represented by Republicans and Democrats, the cadets listened to the differing perspectives, asked questions and witnessed a debate.  Our visitors faced many hard questions...and it was encouraging to see the cadets with more questions than there was time for answers.  As the questions and answers brought forth much emotion, it reminded me of another quote from Robert Frost, which is that "Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence."

This week I hope that all cadets will better understand the lessons that facing death can bring to life, and that they will each value the importance of education in having a civil society, because "the only way around is through."

Go FUMA!

A Life Well Lived

These words came to mind while listening to friends of Patsy Pulliam, a long-time employee of Fork Union Military Academy and wife to Colonel "Red" Pulliam, speak of her grace and graciousness.  There was standing room only in the Fork Union Baptist Church, and a farm full of people at the reception that followed.  Everyone had a favorite story about how Patsy touched their lives, and her focus on faith, family, and love.  Clearly a life well lived.

Steven Covey wrote of how we should "begin with the end in mind."  I've always viewed this as a habit where we consider how people will remember us when we are gone.  This speaks to our character.  Our reputation is defined by our character.  God provides us opportunities to have a positive impact.  As we serve others and do what is right, support others who do the same, we build our reputation...which is all that remains on earth when we are gone.

The level of activity here has been both relentless and enjoyable.  The preparation for Trustee meetings and Parent's weekend took me away from what I like most, which is engaging with individual cadets and participating in their activities, but this last week provided many of those opportunities.  Last week also brought important (but excruciating) meetings about the impacts of the Affordable Care Act, and its potential impact on employee health insurance, meetings and conversations with parents, and even a meeting with American Cancer Society representatives about future participation in the next Relay for Life.

One highlight was a meeting with Cadet Sodkkuu Anand, regarding the creation of a Global Citizens Club.  This young man is a cadet officer in his second year at FUMA, and is from Mongolia.  He spoke to me of the rich history and tradition at FUMA valuing international students, and of our vast cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity.  We've purposefully maintained our international student population around 15%, because we believe international families want their sons to attend an American school.

We have cadets from Africa, Bermuda, Bulgaria, Bolivia, Canada, China, Egypt, Finland, Iceland, Mexico, Mongolia, Poland, South Korea, Vietnam, along with 30 different states.  The Global Citizens Club will help us highlight the strength we gain from this diversity, give each of these students "a voice," and help students make even more connections with each other.  It will be open to all cadets.  I look forward to attending a variety of activities.

Last week we also had a rare treat when three visiting pastors from Kenya spoke in Chapel.  They gave us a country briefing, told us what it was like to be a Christian there, and of their appreciation for their time touring the United States.  The main message was as delivered as powerfully as I've ever heard, and centered on Paul's words to Timothy:

"Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor's crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this."

The message to cadets, while similar to what cadets hear from us often, sounded better coming from this pastor.  Being a cadet at Fork Union is not easy, but worth it.  This passage illustrates how in the same way soldiers must follow the orders of their superiors, athletes must follow the rules of the game, and farmers must work hard, cadets must be "all in" and do what is asked (and expected) of them without complaint. 

I left wishing out loud that this sermon could be preached a few more times (to all of us)...and was impressed by the way the cadets listened, and by their overall demeanor.  I know there is no other school in this nation where the students are as courteous and attentive to those who visit and speak.

The successful Trustee meetings ended with the Trustee Formation where the cadets looked impressive in their bright white shirts, and greeted each of the Trustees as they walked through Fraley Circle.  This is "The Year of the Uniform," and it was evident.  Of course, the weather couldn't have been better...and the campus looked wonderful.  The Parent's Dinner that evening brought more parents than expected (a very good thing), and allowed us the opportunity to speak of our academic excellence initiatives.

Fall sports are in full-swing.  Cross country, orienteering, football, soccer...middle school, junior varsity, prep, and PG...no shortage of competition, wins and losses...and at all the games and races I've attended, we've played with courage, skill, and sportsmanship.  Body, Mind, and Spirit are present in abundance here at Fork Union.

We had a rainy parade on Saturday.  While many cadets may have had their prayers answered, hoping for a "Circle Parade," something we invented last year, we knew parents would be disappointed if they left without seeing their sons "pass in review."  These pictures are also available on our website...just go to FUMA Photos.

We started this week by welcoming some new Upper School and a few new Middle School cadets, and look forward to seeing even more cadets arrive in December and January.  It is hard to believe that 20% of the school year is already behind us, and we are already discussing Summer School start dates and plans for next year.

Today started well, and ended even better.  I reviewed the results of the "Explore Test" given to our 9th graders.  This test helps students plan for college, and reassured me about the bright class we've assembled.  We are above the national average, and have many students in and above the 90th percentile in a number of categories.  I ended the day with our Debate Club.  There are twice as many members participating this year, and I listened to debates about the benefits (or harm) of domestic surveillance by the NSA, whether truth-seeking ought to take precedence over attorney-client privilege, and listened to "declamation" speeches written by President Obama and Winston Churchill.  It was a great way to end a full day at FUMA...

Well, I'm over my word limit, and have just scratched the surface on all that is Fork Union Military Academy these last two weeks.  I need to stay rested to visit my third grandchild, John Thomas, who is due in less than two weeks.  He is prepared for delivery (launching if he was a ship).  Being here at Fork Union has taught me much about the challenges of being an adolescent in today's world, and reassured me that the timeless practice of being surrounded by people working to live meaningful lives is the best way to help prepare young men for their future.

Go FUMA!  

Parents Welcome

One of the recent Chapel messages centered on what makes us do the right thing.  When four young men were interviewed on this subject they said everyone should have another person in their lives who they don't ever want to disappoint.

This happens when there is deep and abiding mutual respect.  We want to please those we respect...and will do nearly anything not to leave them disappointed.  This is far more motivating than fear of punishment...and creates healthy bonds.

One way to do this is by following Paul's words in Philippians 2:3-4:  "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."

Earlier today I read that young men are more likely than anyone to text while they are driving.  It isn't too hard to come up with reasons why that may be, but the message on this subject at Chapel was one that probably saved a life or two...yet made all of us who may drive distracted on occasion pay a little more attention...and these "life lessons" are important to pass along to cadets.

These simple but important messages, based on Scripture, help build character, and character must be built before leadership...leadership without character is dangerous, and unfortunately well illustrated by a number of recent retirements and reliefs of general and flag officers.

Last weekend we learned that a longtime friend and trustee of Fork Union Military Academy, Mr. Guy Beatty, passed away.  He built our infirmary, our library, and its recent expansion, and his annual scholarships support gave many of those without the financial means an opportunity to attend this college preparatory, Christian, military school.  He will be missed by everyone here, and it was clear from his "Celebration of Life" that his generosity, sense of humor, and determination impacted countless lives.

At Tuesday's Chapel service the Corps of Cadets and Faculty prayed this prayer:

"Dear Heavenly Father, this morning we lift up our hearts in thanks.  We thank you for the life of Mr. Guy Beatty, a dear friend of Fork Union Military Academy.  We ask, Lord, for hearts like his - generous hearts that seek to share the blessings that You give us.  We thank you for allowing our path to cross with Mr. Beatty's.  We ask for peace and comfort for his family, as they find themselves mourning the loss of a loved one.  Please place, Lord, people in their presence who will reflect Your love and compassion in this difficult time.  Again, Father, we thank you for the life of Mr.Beatty, and pray this all in the name of Jesus.  Amen."

This was a week filled with preparations, and many opportunities to talk with parents, cadets, trustees, and faculty about the many initiatives we've undertaken.  At the end of this week we will host the first of two annual meetings of our full Board of Trustees. 

This will be followed by Parents' Weekend, which includes the first formal parade of the year.  There is always a debate about putting these two major events together.  On Saturday we will also have a ceremony to officially open our new Social Center, which is now cadet-led.  This Center was made possible by the lead gift by Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, who will be recognized at the "ribbon cutting."

We are 90% complete with the removal of the Motor Lodge and Cadet Diner.  The view from Route 15 is considerably different.  We are also in the midst of tearing down the William Frank Hotel, just north of the Academy.  This large space will be converted to a multi-purpose field to be used as parking for sporting events, graduation, and formal reviews.

This week we had a first for Fork Union Military Academy.  Our newly formed "Battle of the Brains" team competed against Trinity Episcopal School earlier this week.  The match will air on CBS in Richmond on January 11, 2014 at 10:00 AM.  I won't tell you the result in this blog, but Cadets Kim, Cavotti, Bradley, and Hoyt made us very proud with their courage and their positive representation of this great school.

We are looking forward to hosting many parents this weekend, and I was asked to share with parents that if you have concerns/cares/issues, please let us know.  At each parent orientation I made clear that we are working harder to communicate clearly, and are on a path that allows us to adapt to change and continually improve.

I've been told that in the "old days" when a parent called a teacher, Tactical Officer, or anyone between them and the President, the cadet (their son) might suffer.  Those days, if they ever existed, are gone forever.  At today's Fork Union Military Academy we welcome the feedback, and learn and improve.  I encourage you to reach out to teachers, TACs, staff, and administrators with your questions/concerns.  If that doesn't yield the result you expected, email me directly.

You are also encouraged to contact our Parents' Association Representatives, Mac and Karen Devine.  Their son is currently the Cadet Sergeant Major here at FUMA, and their email addresses are macdevineibm@gmail.com and khdevine@nc.rr.com.  Their phone numbers are available from Laura Luniewski at 434.842.4370.

I will close this week's blog by quoting a parent's recent letter about how well her son was doing here at Fork Union:

"So thank you for giving us this great story to share, for giving [our son] new dreams to chase, new people to meet, and a new life to live.  I know he will come out all the better for it, a man of honor and integrity, kindness and commitment.  I can see changes in him already.  This is a wonderful opportunity you have created for these young men.  We are forever grateful.  You are the angels here on earth.  We keep you and all at FUMA in our prayers.  Next to being here with us [our son] is in the next best place he could be."

Go FUMA!