In 2001, the late General John T. Chain, Jr., USAF (Ret.) and his wife Judie decided to make an extraordinary planned gift to the Academy—naming Fork Union Military Academy as the sole beneficiary of $2 million in life insurance. This is the kind of gift that can be best described in one word:
“This gift has given us the means to create the Chain Fund for Endowment Growth,” states COL Tripp Billingsley, the school’s Director of Advancement. “Growing the size of the Academy’s endowment is the most important step to guaranteeing our school’s longevity and securing the future of Fork Union Military Academy.”
Throughout his life and career, General Chain remained an active supporter of the school’s annual fund and a generous donor to the capital improvements made on campus. His legacy gift gives a major boost to the endowment of the school from which he graduated in 1952.
“People are a product of their environment,” General Chain said in a 2001 interview for the Academy’s Call to Quarters magazine. “Fork Union Military Academy provides an atmosphere for self-realization, personal responsibility, and personal and institutional integrity,” he continued.
Entering Fork Union Military Academy as a sophomore in 1950, Chain soaked up the environment, learning lessons both in the classroom and within the Corps of Cadets. Those lessons would resonate within him throughout his lengthy career in the United States Air Force, commissioning as a second lieutenant after college and rising through responsibilities, roles, and ranks. His military career culminated in his service as the Commander in Chief of our nation’s Strategic Air Command, adding his fourth star in 1980. In the entire history of the US Air Force, fewer than 230 officers have been named four-star generals. Following his retirement from the military, his service continued in business, corporate governance, and philanthropy.
“FUMA teaches you that you are a member of a team,” General Chain stated in an interview in 2001 for the Academy’s Call to Quarters magazine. “For that team to succeed, all members of the team must abide by the rules. The team—and you personally—will never achieve your goals unless all members work together.”
“I learned that simple rule at FUMA and applied it to my life since then,” he said, “achieving many goals along the way and striving still for more.”
General Chain, a member of FUMA’s Class of 1952, did achieve many goals during his more than 86 years of a life well lived. He was a generous benefactor to the Academy throughout those years, making four-and five-figure donations annually to help meet the school’s needs. To describe just one example of General Chain’s active support for the school, Fork Union Military Academy has a free-time computer gaming lab that our students have enjoyed for a number of years. The Chain Lab, as we refer to it, is named after General Chain who helped to finance the renovations of the lab back in the 1990s and early 2000s. Our cadets can sign up and play these games during their bits of free time in the evenings. This lab is also used for weekend play on Saturday afternoons and for our esports team.
General Chain passed away on July 7, 2021, but he insured, both figuratively and literally, that he would be helping Fork Union Military Academy achieve many such goals for many years to come. He explained that decision very simply in 2001: “Judie and I want to help FUMA continue to exist and provide these same lessons and opportunities for many more young men.”
Fork Union Military Academy is receiving the proceeds from two life insurance policies, one paying $1 million as one lump sum, and the second policy to pay the $1 million benefit in four equal installments over four years.
When giving us the permission to release the information about this gift publicly, Mrs. Judie Chain said that it is her hope the gift will both honor the memory of the General and inspire others to support the Academy.