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Not Just Any Salutatorian: Ryan Latham ’18

Those who earn the Valedictorian or Salutatorian Honors have earned their way to the top of their academic class through intelligence, hard work, self-denial, and curiosity.

From the day he entered R-MA as a sixth grader to his last day as a senior, Ryan Latham applied himself.  Year after year, assignment after assignment, and test after test Ryan mastered material, processes, information, and concepts.  From start to finish—Ryan—the best of the best, rose to the top early and stayed there.

During the Class of 2018 Final Parade, Ryan Latham '18 leads the band onto the parade field for the last time.

His other honors include Honor Council President, Deputy Group Commander, President of the National Honor Society, star Soccer player, Band Commander, Drum Major et al; there is nothing that Ryan reached for that he did not attain.  You alumni reading this know the burden that each individual responsibility and activity requires and understand the effort and brains necessary to have earned all these achievements.

It is difficult to relate the time commitment that all these disparate endeavors required to succeed at our school to those who have not lived it–the self-denial required to ‘do it all’—and to do it all so well is herculean.

Let’s look ahead for Ryan.  He is entering the University of Virginia with the skills necessary to succeed mightily at a first rate school.  But to look ahead, you must look back to when Ryan was first introduced to R-MA.

Consider this in his own words:  “My greatest and most proud achievement is winning the Military School Band and Choir Festival Drum Major Competition.  Ever since I was a two-year-old, I have been at Randolph-Macon Academy.  My dad has taught there since before I was born.  Early on when I would come to campus parades with my parents, I would march alongside pretending to be the drum major with the straightest posture and greatest pride!  When I first joined the Upper School band in eighth grade, after two years of beginning band, I knew I wanted to be the drum major.  I was taught to march by my strong, commanding drum major and thought, ‘Wow!  That could be me one day.’  Freshman year I began my training . . .”

As you know from your own life, a characteristic among the successful is a laser focus on a goal.In addition to being the band's drum major and the Band Flight Commander, Ryan was also the Vice Group Commander. Here he is pictured with the Group Commander, Victoria Voellm, after the Final Parade.

The teachers taught; he learned.  For Ryan to have earned the high honor of Salutatorian–it is as it should be and as it should have been.  He earned it.

But Ryan is a modest young man.  He credited many for his achievements including Mr. Eric Barr, TSgt Tina Laing, Mr. Robert Davies, Ms. Lynne Schoonover, and not the least of which was Mr. Ed Richards.  (How many students have come under the strong direction of Mr. Richards’s influence these past forty (yes, 40!) years to do their best, to do more than they thought they could?)  Of Mr. Richards, Ryan said, “You inspired me to lead by example and to take care of my people  . . .  Through years of learning I have become a much better musician and a better person thanks to you.”

Ryan spoke to exactly what makes Randolph-Macon Academy special:  caring, professional instructors demanding more from their students in the way of leadership and academic performance than the students thought they could produce.

To the many parents, grandparents and Alumni–what attracted you to R-MA?  What did it offer Ryan?

Opportunity!  Opportunity to test oneself, to explore one’s curiosity in academics, to compete in  athletics, or try one’s mettle in the myriad of special programs and experiences such as Band or Flight or robotics or (and especially) leadership.  You benefited from the rigor and the care.

Your sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters would benefit as you did, if not more—if only they were given the opportunity.  Ryan certainly did.

Immediately after delivering his salutatorian speech during Class Night, Ryan received the German Medal from his father, longtime R-MA teacher Stephen Latham.