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Forsyth inaugurated as R-MA's 10th president

Randolph Macon Academy cadet Peniel Okomkwo, 16, of Nigeria, listens as the academy's new president, Maj. Gen. Maurice H. Forsyth, speaks during his inauguration on Thursday inside Boggs Chapel in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Tracy Fitzsimmons, president of Shenandoah University, speaks to cadets during the inaugural ceremony. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Maurice H. Forsyth speaks with Shenandoah University president Tracy Fitzsimmons outside Boggs Chapel at Randolph Macon Academy in Front Royal on Thursday. Forsyth was inaugurated as president of Randolph Macon Academy. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Kim Walter

FRONT ROYAL -- Randolph-Macon Academy has officially inaugurated U.S. Air Force retired Maj. Gen. Maurice H. Forsyth as its 10th president.

The board of trustees, alumni, faculty, staff and students gathered Thursday afternoon for the celebration on campus. Forsyth is filling the position left by Maj. Gen. Henry M. Hobgood, who served as the academy's president for 16 years.

Born in Brookings, S.D., and commissioned in 1978, Forsyth holds a bachelor's degree in microbiology from South Dakota State University and a master's degree in aviation and aerospace from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Before retiring from the Air Force in 2010, he earned many military honors, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

Following a processional, prayer and music, Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons, president of Shenandoah University, gave the official address.

Fitzsimmons focused on the importance of enjoying and remembering all the "baby steps" in life that lead to major, incredible moments.

"We tend to focus on the 'big' things ... when a baby is born, graduation, things like that," she said. "But it's good to reflect on all the hard work that went into those stand-out moments."

It's the decades of work that has taken place at R-MA that could attract Forsyth, a person of such high caliber, she said.

Fitzsimmons said she recognizes a winner when she sees one. Before the ceremony began, Fitzsimmons was inspired by Forsyth's ability to pick students out of the crowd by name and share some of their stories.

She was happy to say that while Forsyth is already the "greatest fan" of R-MA's students, she believes he will step up and ask some tough questions to continue moving the academy forward and increase visibility around the world.

"I think today will be one of those significant moments on your timeline," she said. "Students, faculty, staff ... years down the road you will look back and say, 'That was something special.'"

Joseph Silek Jr., chairman of the board of trustees, conducted the act of inauguration. Forsyth's wife, Tamara, held the bible on which her husband laid his hand as he voiced his commitment to the academy.

Applause rang out throughout Boggs Chapel as Forsyth was announced as the 10th president of the institution.

Forsyth thanked his parents, wife and other family members who were in attendance. He reflected on a moment just days before when his father said, "I am so proud of you."

During his inaugural address, Forsyth backtracked over R-MA's history.

"From the earliest days of its existence, this place -- this institution -- was different, was special, was blessed," he said.

Forsyth explained that if it weren't for the original building burning down in 1927, the current academy in Front Royal might not exist. The new building was chosen as the one and only location of the school in 1933 over the Bedford campus.

He recognized great strides taken by the academy over the years -- desegregating in 1972, becoming co-educational in 1975, and adding the middle school in 1992. He also mentioned Hobgood's efforts to make R-MA one of only seven Falcon Foundation Schools in the nation.

"With the past as our guide, the present is our future," he said. "We owe it to the past to take this institution to bigger and better heights just like those that went before us."

Forsyth ended with a prayer that is said in the chapel every week, asking God to grant the light of his "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."

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com

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