There was an air of pride and excitement on September 26, 2013, as Randolph-Macon Academy’s Board of Trustees, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents gathered in Boggs Chapel for the inauguration of the Academy’s tenth president, Major General Maurice H. “Maury” Forsyth, USAF Retired. There was pride in the significant moments, the accomplishments of this 121-year old boarding school, and a sense of excitement over the future.
With organ music performed by locally renowned organist C. Randall Williams and a formal fanfare by the R-MA herald trumpets, Forsyth and the official party entered the chapel. There was a sense of a chosen leader coming home, because Forsyth’s genuine care for the students, faculty and staff since his arrival on June 24th had already made him a leader in deed, not just by title. On this day, the ceremony was not only a formal inauguration but a celebration of the sense of welcoming the right leader at the right time. During her address, Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons, president of Shenandoah University, confirmed that feeling for all those gathered.
Fitzsimmons spoke about significant events in the lives of individuals and institutions. “There are moments of transition, celebration and at times there are moments of tragedy. They’re the big things,” she said. “But in reality, in life, it’s the baby steps along the way that help us to get to those moments, that help us overcome those tragedies…and it’s so easy to forget them.”
“Your big transition on this part of the timeline is the inauguration of Maury Forsyth,” she pointed out. “But a lot went into this. It’s been decades of building an institution that was strong enough to attract someone of his caliber here.” Fitzsimmons went on to commend the board for what she called a “terrific choice” in selecting Forsyth. She described seeing him interact with the students and observed that he already knew stories about individuals in spite of only knowing them for about a month. “Maury’s going to be a great leader because he believes that life is built on a foundation of family and faith and good hard honest work. And he is patriotic and he believes in asking the hard questions and pushing our country and our community to be better.”
The actual inauguration ceremony was conducted by the R-MA Board of Trustees Chairman, Joseph Silek ’77, and was followed by the Prayer of Consecration by R-MA Chaplain Lemuel Pearsall.
After being officially sworn in as president, Forsyth gave his address, which he began by thanking those involved in putting the ceremony together. He referred back to the original history of R-MA, and the original building constructed in 1892, but pointed out that R-MA is much more than a building. “‘A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid…’” he said, quoting the Gospel of Matthew. “In my mind Randolph-Macon Academy IS really that city on the hill, in the truest sense of the word. A community built on solid ground, held together by the collective good, sustained by the hard work of those willing to unselfishly serve others, and the daily promise of a prosperous future. From the earliest days of its existence, this place–this institution–was different. It was special, and it was blessed.”
Ever mindful of those who had come before him and laid the groundwork upon which R-MA now stands, Forsyth took the audience through some of R-MA’s significant moments.
“We’re in this beautiful chapel today, not afraid to profess our faith, secure in the knowledge that the principles of the Christian faith are still alive here, and we’re able to do this because of the vision of the Methodist Church of 1892, and Dr. William Smith,” he said. “Today we can, and do, instill those character and ethical traits of what I consider one of the noblest professions–that of a military person–because of the influence of World War I and the strength and will of President Charles Melton who introduced the military presence here in 1917.
“I’m able to look out every day on this diverse student body, because in 1972 Randolph-Macon Academy President Arvin Williams had the guts to make it so,” Forsyth observed. “We’re the enviable co-educational Air Force Junior ROTC student body we are, because in 1974 and 1975 that same President Williams had the foresight to make it so.
“We have the outstanding Middle School we have today because in 1992 the Board of Trustees saw the need for expanding the best of R-MA to a younger audience so they too could experience this dream, this influence of character.
“And because of Col Trevor Turner, in 1985 we became the only private prep-school in the country that owns its own aircraft and that the flight instructors are members of the faculty…and we’re still the only ones today.
“And just last year, because of General Hobgood’s persistence, we have the honor of being called a Falcon Foundation School, one of only seven schools in all of the United States.
“These are the things, ladies and gentlemen, that make us what we are today,” Forsyth said in concluding his recap of significant moments. “With the past as our guide, the present is our future. So today is our day to begin the influence of our future. We owe it to the past to take this institution to bigger and better heights just like those that went before us.”
Forsyth concluded his speech with the prayer that is recited in chapel each week, which is modeled after the cadet prayer used at the Air Force Academy.
“The inauguration of our 10th president, Major General Maurice Forsyth, was a ceremony that I was honored to partake in,” wrote Jessica Neupane ’15, “because it is most definitely one of the most important moments in R-MA history. Dr. Fitzsimmons, the President of Shenandoah University, spoke on giving back to the community, as she told about a student that was not financially able to come to Shenandoah University. She also talked to us about leadership, service, and the visions that Maj Gen Forsyth had in mind for R-MA. When Maj Gen Forsyth took the oath, it was a feeling I knew I would never forget because it was wonderful knowing that I participated in something that has only happened 10 times in R-MA history.”
Lord, God of hosts, my life is a stewardship in Your sight. Grant the light of Your wisdom to the path of my Randolph-Macon Academy days. Instill within me an abiding awareness of my responsibility toward you, my country, and my fellow man.
I ask true humility, that knowing self, I may rise above human frailty. I ask courage that I may prove faithful to duty beyond self. I ask unfailing devotion to personal integrity that I may ever remain honorable without compromise.
Make me an effective instrument of Your peace. So guide me daily in each thought, word and deed, that I may fulfill Your will. May these graces abide with me, my loved ones, and all here this day.