Today I met with one of our cadet company commanders to talk about his college choices, and have him review a letter of recommendation drafted to support his applications to Norwich University, VMI, USCGA, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I told him that his applications should highlight his ability to thrive and lead in a diverse environment.
The simplicity of sameness makes leadership easy...and in that environment you just lead people in the same way you want to be led.
Leading a student body rich with ethnic, racial, geographic, and socio-economic diversity requires leaders to lead in a way that inspires others who see the world from different perspectives and through different experiences. Fork Union Military Academy is diverse.
While the majority of our students are Christian, representing nine different denominations, five percent of our students are Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist. Slightly over half our cadets are Caucasian, and a quarter African-American, with the other quarter self-reporting as Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Asian-American, Chinese, Korean, or mixed race.
Surprisingly just half our students are from Virginia, with half coming from 20 other states. Very few are from families considered "wealthy," and we have cadets from every socio-economic demographic.
All this diversity adds to the richness of the school, and when properly led, enriches the educational experience. Yes, it is challenging, but the challenge prepares our students for the diverse world they will enter upon graduation. This richness makes our students more attractive to a wide range of colleges and universities.
I spent some time this week preparing for extra-curricular work. Since we are accredited by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) there is an expectation that faculty, staff, and administrators will serve as leaders and team members for accreditation visits to other schools within VAIS. I will be the Vice Chair for a visit to Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg, VA, and spent some time this past weekend reviewing their self-study and getting acquainted with the requirements of this new task.
The 3-4 day visit will be later this month...and I've learned much already that will help me be a better "head of school."
I also learned this week that I would be appointed to serve on the Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE) Board of Directors. The VCPE is the association of accrediting agencies for private schools in Virginia, that is recognized by the Virginia State Department of Education. I will serve as the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States (AMCSUS) representative, taking the place of MG Henry M. Hobgood, USAF (ret.), who will be retiring from Randolph-Macon Academy.
I am excited because VCPE is committed to the preservation of pluralism in American education and to the right of parents to choose an education appropriate for their children; and ensure and promote the vitality that freedom of choice allows. They also make known to the public the aims and goals to which its member organizations jointly subscribe.
Out of many, one.
I also enjoyed a surprise visit by Private First Class Stephen Joslyn. You last heard of him six months ago because he was a Cadet Lieutenant Colonel and our Battalion Commander. Stephen joined the Marine Corps Reserve after graduation, and will be starting Christopher Newport University's President's Leadership program. He was in his dress blues...grinning broadly...and spoke proudly of the terrific preparation received at FUMA.
We had our first meeting with the Class of 2013. We want to make sure they are well prepared and familiar with the many steps toward graduation. A representative from Jostens spoke about invitations, rings, and other amenities available, and I spoke of the "home stretch."
I encouraged the seniors to lead by example, and shared that while I know it may appear that we've taken many things away from them (cell phones, computer games, girls), we surround them with a group of young men who will be their best friends for life, a faculty and staff who care deeply about their success, and an environment in which they can thrive mentally, physically, and spiritually.
One of our Trustees, David Barrett, stopped by to discuss Endowment and Investment Subcommittee matters, and help us plan this year's Christian Leadership Series. This year we will have three speakers in the series share their walks of faith. These will be successful business leaders centered by their Christianity...and who live purposeful lives.
Today's Chapel message was about how others often act as mirrors. Essentially the same kinds of people are everywhere, and if we want to meet good people, we should see the good in others.
The Chaplain told the story of a house with a thousand mirrors:
"When a happy little dog learned of this house, it decided to visit. He climbed the stairs and looked through the doorway to find a thousand other happy little dogs. He smiled and was answered with a thousand smiles. He thought it is a wonderful place and wanted to visit again.
In the same village, another little dog, who was not as happy as the first one, also decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the room. He found a thousand unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him. He growled at them and was saddened by a thousand dogs growling back. He left that place and thought it was a horrible place and decided never to go back there again."
If all the faces in the world were mirrors, what kind of reflections would you see in the faces of the people you meet?
Next week I will be unable to write a blog, because we are hosting the Board of Trustees for an outdoor dinner at Careby Hall...after a full day of meetings, before another day of meetings...the dedication of Jacobson Hall...then the Parents' Weekend dinner...then on Saturday the first cadet review (drill). To keep with my theme this week of out of many, one...I challenged myself to write a few sentences using this week's "Words of the Day." Here goes:
"There were some who made a living through speculative investments, and others who were rapturous about their rewarding business ventures. All of them were roused by the story of a school that led to their success and changed the lives of others, leading them to be philanthropic in a way that ensured the school continued to prosper.
I look forward to seeing many of you next weekend.