My first blog was published on July 22, 2011, describing the main entrance gate clean-up, because over time the symbols of Body, Mind, Spirit were blocked from view.
The second blog mentioned important hiring decisions, and a line from Dr. Hatcher's biography worth modeling:
"...the house [Careby Hall], as well as the man, embraced every good and gracious activity to enhance and make happy God's gift of life."
Seven years and 200 blogs later, the school is stronger than ever... the right plans are in place to secure its future... and the Academy still follows the "focus" Scripture distributed in August of 2011 as we pledged to use God's word in a way that unifies us to do His work:
"...all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude." 1 Peter 3:8 NLT.
To all loyal blog readers (including my mother)...this is not really my last blog...just the last blog as President of Fork Union Military Academy. The school's communication mechanism (Blue Devil Report, Front and Center, Guidance Newsletters, Parent's Newsletters, etc.) are strong and will continue...and their ever-increasing reliability allowed me, and will allow the 11th President to spend less time informing others... and more time working.
In the first 3 years of my tenure, the blogs were prolific. I enjoy writing, and look forward to writing more often, after reviewing and organizing the many boxes of documents I've saved over the last 4 decades. It will be interesting to see if I've just written the same thing over and over again. This weekend, I was moving some boxes into our new home in Purcellville, VA and found a journal kept when I was a junior officer on drug interdiction patrols in the Bahamas... and notebooks kept while at the Coast Guard Academy...and during my early years here.
I will miss Fork Union Military Academy. Leading a military school in Virginia had been a dream of mine for several years, and is now fulfilled. It is time to move toward the fulfillment of other aspirations.
I've moved to 25 places in my lifetime, and lived in 32 different houses. Eight of those moves before the age of 11, and 13 of those moves after marrying Betsy in Round Hill, VA in 1979. It is exciting to make our last move.
I look forward to spending time enjoying God's beauty in nature... hiking on the Appalachian Trail, biking the C&O Canal, loving my grandchildren unconditionally, and getting to know my children as adults in a way I may have missed getting to know them as children. I also have books lined up to read, a camera I barely know how to use, and an interest in relearning how to play the guitar. We are also blessed to have our mothers... and look forward to spending more time with them.
Living and working in Fork Union has been good for us. While I believe we have positively impacted the Academy, any description of those accomplishments will be left to others. We leave the school better than we found it, but acknowledge that its full potential has not been fully realized.
I am proudest of the planning, the organizational culture, and the current climate; as well as the deeply imbedded set of core values. It is refreshing to hear student (and staff) behavior framed using the words respect, integrity, faith, character, and discipline. Enrollment, endowment, and financial sustainability remain critical challenges, as they do for all boarding schools.
Fork Union Military Academy is a great school, and its mission more important today than ever. This Academy transforms the lives of young men in the same way it tranformed mine. I leave with a deeper understanding of life's purpose, which is to serve God. That purpose will continue to drive me as I am being called to lead elsewhere.
I love the work, but it is time for someone with the same abounding energy, enthusiasm, courage, and strength I brought seven years ago to continue the effort. The future, while bright, will include disruption, tumultuousness, and challenges...that is the nature of the labor involved in educating, developing, and inspiring young men (and their parents).
So, I will miss many things about this Academy... cadets singing in Chapel... Sunday reviews... sporting events... cadet plays... lunch... twice weekly Chapel services... Retreat... Morning Colors... youthful exuberance... the Board of Trustees... professional associations with educators at the Virginia Association of Independent Schools and the Association of Military Colleges and Schools... Commencements... having my yard cut by someone else... my school car.
I will miss cadets the most... they must always be the Academy's center... they must be more important than any rules, procedures, and processes we use to educate them... yet cadets must understand that one cadet is never more important than the Corps of Cadets... and decisions must be made in the best interests of "good order and discipline" for the collective.
In the definition of Faith as one of our core values, we say:
"...The world revolves around God; it does not revolve around any one of us..."
I will end my last blog using words from a video entitled "It's Morning in Fork Union."
"Today, just as it was over a hundred years ago, young men rise from their beds before dawn, put on their uniforms with pride, and begin their day at Fork Union Military Academy.
The tradition continues each day, passed down from generation to generation.
Remember these young men as you go about your daily lives.
Know that they continue to walk in the footsteps of those who came before them.
Fork Union Military Academy's best days?
We believe they are still ahead of us.
Although more than 100 years old, this school is still growing and developing with youthful vigor.
Pushed by the past, and pulled by the future...
...let us join together and face the dawning of this new day...
...a day of new opportunity, and new challenge."
Go Last Blog! Go Retirement! Go Corps of Cadets! Go FUMA!