This year the Randolph-Macon Academy family was reminded that as great as it is to watch a football game and enjoy a military parade, Homecoming is not about those events. It’s about friendship.
When one day of predicted rain stretched into nearly 48 hours of constant, driving rain, with no clear end in sight, it became clear to the administration at Randolph-Macon Academy that the scheduled Homecoming activities were in jeopardy. The decision was made Friday evening to move Saturday’s Memorial Ceremony inside Melton Memorial Gymnasium.
By 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, the rain had softened into a fine drizzle, but the football field was deemed unsafe for the athletes. Eventually, after an attempt to simply delay the game, Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Frank Sullivan and R-MA President Maury Forsyth conceded that the field conditions were not going to improve, and the unprecedented happened: the Homecoming game was cancelled.
In spite of this, the spirit of Homecoming was not dampened in the least. Alumni return year after year to cheer on the Yellow Jackets, but even more importantly, they come back to renew friendships. Although the schedule changed, the purpose had not. As friendships were renewed throughout the weekend, voices echoed through the halls and across the years.
On Friday, October 11th, several dozen alumni braved the rain and played golf in the first annual Alumni Association Golf Tournament. Other alumni stayed on campus to hear Forsyth speak about “The State of the Academy” and learn about marketing and branding from Director of Enrollment Management Clare Dame. The alumni then joined together for the Welcome Back Dinner at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club.
Saturday’s events were unusual, thanks to the weather, as the Memorial Ceremony was pushed indoors. The event went off smoothly and in fact the change in venue provided an added benefit: seating for the alumni, parents, and employees. In addition, it was easy to hear the names of all those alumni who had been killed in action or who had died within the last year.
While the parade was canceled, the Alumni Luncheon went on as scheduled, where alumni were entertained by the R-MA Chorus and heard from Vice Corps Commander Grace Alexander ’13 and Corps Commander Ben Gillis ’13.
Alexander said she had come from a small town and was appreciative of the opportunities she has had during her time at R-MA. As she spoke, it became clear that the reasons those opportunities were present and so special were because of the people involved.
Alexander spoke of an alumnus who had provided a flight scholarship for her. “He is my mentor. He has written me letters, offered advice and sent me uplifting emails,” she said. “He and the supportive flight instructors are the reason I was able to solo. I am pursuing my Private Pilot's License this year. I always feel, “A pilot never flies alone. “ All those who have helped are always flying with me. It is an honor for each of us when we receive our wings.”
Gillis also felt that the people made the difference at R-MA. “Like Grace, I was from a small town in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “This was a pretty daunting school to me—everyone was in uniform, they were sharp.” Gillis recalled showing up early for soccer camp his first year, “scared out of my pants,” but a senior quickly befriended him. “He took me under his wing,” Gillis said. “He helped me along the way, and that’s a very important, fundamental thing here at R-MA, that we’re a very strong, connected family, and I’m very privileged to be a part of that.”
In addition, the Alumni Association held its annual membership meeting, which included electing new board members, naming the new slate of officers, and giving out awards.
After the luncheon, the Class of 1988 held a memorial ceremony for Flagg while many alumni wandered through the various buildings on campus, reminiscing and enjoying just being with friends.
At 2:00 pm, with the rain still coming down outside, family and friends gathered back into Melton Memorial Gymnasium to watch the crowning of the Homecoming Queen and King, Debbie Kim ’13 and Brook Blair ’13. The rest of the court included Louisa Stanwich ’13, Kevin Slaton ’13, Oluwatimileyin Idowu ’14, Kim-Trang Nguyen ’14, Chadler Lee ’15, Jamie Crotty ’15, Austin Davis ’16, and Amy Go ’16.
The weekend ended with the students enjoying a luau in Melton Memorial Gymnasium, while the alumni attended various reunions taking place in the local area.
Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational day and boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12. Students in grades 9-12 participate in R-MA’s 91st Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) and have the option to participate in a unique flight program. R-MA is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is located in Front Royal, VA.