Front & Center News from Fork Union Military Academy–December 12, 2016

Message from the Editor

This week's Front & Center is being sent out a day late, as it took 11 hours on Monday to edit, transcode, and upload a video taken Sunday afternoon that we very much wanted to include in this newsletter. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this delay in publication.

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Stories in this issue:

  • A Challenging Week on Campus
  • Resilience
  • CLUB SPOTLIGHT: Boy Scouts of America
  • Parent Association Gives Grant for Classroom Technology
  • Food Service Experts
  • Charlie Company Wins Food Drive
  • Place your yearbook ads!
  • Hundreds of Alumni, Retired Faculty, and Family and Friends Return to Campus for Funeral
  • PHOTO ESSAY: Remembering Duane Fender
The sun rises over campus this past Sunday morning. Soon, the campus would be overflowing with alumni, friends, and loved ones arriving to honor the life of COL Duane Fender.

A Challenging Week on Campus

This past week has been one of the most difficult times we have faced as a school in recent memory.

On Tuesday evening, December 6th, our Commandant of Cadets, COL Duane Fender, was engaged in one of his favorite extracurricular activities...officiating a high school basketball game in Orange County...when he began to experience chest pains. Following the conclusion of the game, he was transported by rescue squad to the hospital. He apparently suffered a major cardiac event from which he could not recover. COL Fender passed away Tuesday night at the age of 56.

It would be hard to overstate the shock and grief with which this news was received by the cadets and staff at Fork Union Military Academy, in the Fork Union community, and among the Academy's alumni, family, and friends worldwide. Duane Fender has long been a respected and beloved fixture on the Academy campus at which he had first arrived in the fall of 1978 as a postgraduate football player, a member of the PG Class of 1979.

Duane Fender, yearbook photo, 1979

Duane played football at FUMA for the head coach, COL "Red" Pulliam, who also served as the Academy's Commandant. A legendary figure at Fork Union, COL Pulliam was feared and respected as a tough but caring disciplinarian. COL Pulliam was a leader known for his firmness, his fairness, his resolute enforcement of the school's rules, his unwavering commitment to the well-being of all cadets, and his unflagging devotion to God, his family, and Fork Union Military Academy.

It is a testament to the character and fine qualities of Duane Fender that he was not only permitted by COL Pulliam to take one of the Commandant's two daughters, Lynn Pulliam, to the 1979 Military Ball on a blind date, but that in 1983, following Duane's graduation from The Citadel, COL Pulliam would walk his daughter Lynn down the aisle to marry Duane Fender.

Fender returned to Fork Union Military Academy in 1983 to join the Commandant's Department as a TAC Officer, beginning a 33-year career of service to the school. Over three decades he served in a variety of roles in the Commandant's Department, the Athletic Department, the Admissions Department, and even was for a time the manager of the cadet PX, now known as the Sabre Shop. Since 2010, he served as Deputy Commandant. In the summer of 2016, he was promoted into the position occupied years earlier by his late father-in-law, COL "Red" Pulliam: Commandant of Cadets.

It is no surprise to say that in his time at Fork Union Military Academy, Duane Fender himself became loved and respected as a leader known for his firmness, his fairness, his resolute enforcement of the school's rules, his unwavering commitment to the well-being of all cadets, and his unflagging devotion to God, his family, and Fork Union Military Academy.

For more details of the life of Arthur Duane Fender, Jr., we invite you to read the news article on our website. It also contains a link to the obituary posted by his family.

At first glance, you'd think that this scary-looking man was out to get you. After being able to talk to him for the first time, you'd realize that he was one of your strongest advocates. This was the most selfless men I've ever known.—A Former FUMA Cadet
COL Fender's desk calendar noted his plans to referee the basketball game Tuesday night, December 6th, but he had not anticipated that to be his last event this side of heaven. None of us know which day will be our last. But COL Fender lived EVERY day well-prepared to meet his God.


Booker T. Washington, the renowned educator and African-American leader, said a century or more ago that "I have learned that success is to be measured no so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles overcome while trying to succeed."

Coping with loss, facing up to failure, dealing with disappointment, adapting to change...these are not traits we come by genetically. Rather, these are life skills we develop through experience. In order to be successful adults, young people need to develop an attitude of determination, to practice perseverance, to learn from losses and failures, and to become strong and resilient.

Resilience is perhaps one of the most important life skills needed for success in adulthood. Resilience is one of the key areas of ability we help young men develop at Fork Union Military Academy.

We all make mistakes, but it's how we react is what really counts. —COL Duane Fender

A story told in a Facebook post by a former FUMA cadet gives insight into the way Duane Fender cared deeply about all the young men to whom he devoted his life, and how he helped them to learn from failure, to move forward from loss, and to develop resilience:

One of my favorite memories of COL Duane Fender came during one of the darkest times in my life. I was sitting in the Commandant's Department, terribly remorseful of the events that had transpired earlier that day. It was Sunday, approximately 10 pm. COL Fender was at his home, getting ready for bed. He received a call from a faculty member asking if he could come to campus. He didn't give it a second thought.

COL Fender walked in and sat down directly across from me. For a moment, we just looked at each other. I could see the empathy and compassion he had in his eyes. I told him that it was a mistake. I said I never meant for it to happen. He says, "I know." We talked for a minute, then I couldn't contain it anymore and just started sobbing. I remember him saying to me, "Son, this situation will not define you. How you respond will. We all make mistakes, but it's how we react is what really counts."

COL Fender was one of the most inspiring men in my life. The fact that this man would leave his home on his day off late at night just to make sure I was okay brings me to tears. It showed me that he genuinely cared about my well-being. He thought of me, as well as countless young men, as his son. If I could model my life after one man, it would be Colonel Arthur Duane Fender Jr.

This is just a thing. You got this. —COL Duane Fender

Although the passing of our Commandant was an overwhelming event for all of us this past week, and thoughts of his loss filled our minds from Tuesday night through the day of his funeral on Sunday and beyond, that was not the only event that happened of note on campus this past week.

During this grief-filled week, the cadets of Fork Union Military Academy accomplished the following (and more):

  • Studied for (and passed) their final exams for Term 2
  • Started their Term 3 classes
  • Collected canned good and dry foods for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
  • Competed in a major invitational swim meet on campus
  • Came in 2nd Place as a team in a major 11-team wrestling tournament held on campus
  • Won the championship at a prep league basketball tournament held in Waynesboro, Virginia
  • Defeated arch-rival (and last year's national champion) Hargrave Military Academy in the postgraduate basketball championship game of the annual Christmas Tournament held on campus with a last-second 3-point shot to beat the buzzer
  • Took the ACT Test to prepare for college admission

Yes, indeed. The Fork Union Military Academy Corps of Cadets has grit. They have determination.

They are resilient.

It's all good. —COL Duane Fender
The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile stopped by to put some smiles on the faces of cadets and staff this past week.

CLUB SPOTLIGHT: Boy Scouts of America

Cadet Pitts and Cadet Vanderpool Earn Eagle Scout Rank

Two cadets, David Pitts and Benjamin Vanderpool, both members of Fork Union's Boy Scout Troop 125, were awarded the rank of Eagle Scout this week, an honor that has been achieved by only about two percent of all Boy Scouts since the award's inception in 1912.

Cadet David Pitts, III, the son of Dr. David and Mrs. Dana Pitts of Marietta, Georgia, is a senior who has attended Fork Union since 2014. Cadet Benjamin Vanderpool is also a senior, having attended the Academy since 2013, and is the son of Brian and Elizabeth Vanderpool of Keswick, Virginia.

Cadet David Pitts (center) is flanked by Fork Union and regional scout leaders
Cadet Benjamin Vanderpool received his Eagle Scout Award this week.
Coaches watch the action closely during recent wrestling tournament

Parent Association Gives Grant for Classroom Technology

A recent grant of more than $7,000 from the Parents' Association funded the recent purchase of a Newline Interactive Touch Screen for one of our newly-renovated classrooms in Wicker Science Hall where CPT Joe Howard is currently teaching Chemistry. The screen has been used virtually every day since its installation and is more powerful and offers a number of features not found in a standard projection system.

In a thank you letter to the Parents' Association, Academic Dean, COL Todd Giszack, said "Purchases like this make us better, and help to improve our school program."

"It has been a really useful tool in the classroom," says CPT Howard. "The size of it alone gives it a huge advantage over a simple projector in a larger classroom. Not to mention the touch screen makes it much easier to flip through notes while highlighting important sections or work through examples right there on the screen."

The Academy's Food Services Department provides nutritious meals for hundreds of hungry cadets and staff each day

Food Service Experts

Many in the Estes Dining Hall have worked at the Academy for decades

Some of the Academy's longest-tenured employees can be found in the Estes Dining Hall, where they quietly prepare meals for hundreds of cadets and staff members three times each day.

But few can come close to Phillip Dabney for length of career at Fork Union Military Academy, as Phillip has worked at FUMA since 1952. That's about 64 years of feeding teenagers!

Phillip Dabney (bottom photo) has worked at Fork Union Military Academy since 1952.
It's time once again for the Annual Food Drive part of our Company Competition

Charlie Company Wins Food Drive

Charlie Company takes top honors for collecting the most food during the company competition. More importantly the much needed food will put food on the tables of less fortunate families that the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank provides in the Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Verona, and Winchester areas.

Time to order yearbook ads!

Place your yearbook ads!

Parents, family, and friends of our is the time to begin preparing your ad placement for The Skirmisher to be published at the end of this class year.

Yearbook recognition ads are a great way for parents and families to commemorate student achievements and important milestones. Ads for seniors can be as large as a full page, while ads for underclassmen are limited to the 1/8 page size.

Jostens is managing FUMA's yearbook ad sales this year, so it is easy to purchase your ad online. Just follow the instructions in the form you can download by clicking the button below!

Hundreds of Alumni, Retired Faculty, and Family and Friends Return to Campus for Funeral

This past weekend saw an overwhelming outpouring of love and support for the family of COL Duane Fender, as his memorial service was held in Wicker Chapel on Sunday. Alumni of all ages and nationalities, those who had been his classmates and those who had been cadets under his leadership, traveled from many hours away to attend his funeral.

Those who could not find seating in Wicker Chapel watched the service on a live video feed in Vaughan Hall as well as the Beatty Library. A video webcast of the memorial service was watched live by over 2,500 people around the world.

And what a funeral it was, as several speakers, all very close to Duane in some way, eulogized him, related fond and funny memories, and gave amazing testament to the inspiring and uplifting effect that Duane's life had on all with whom he came in contact. Rarely has there been a memorial service that was itself so inspiring that just experiencing it made you want to live an even better life yourself, to follow the example that was laid down by our dear brother, Duane.

We share a video of the service below, both for those of you who were unable to make the trip to Fork Union, or for those of you who just want to be once again inspired by the life of Duane Fender.

Duane Fender will be greatly missed. But in his too few years on this earth, he still taught us through his example all that we need to know about loving God, loving family, and loving friends and FUMA.

Created By
Daniel Thompson


Photos by: COL Al Williamson, Kate Pendergrass, John Justice, & Charles Thomas

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