By Ryan Cornell
FRONT ROYAL -- General Robin Rand, commander of the U.S. Air Force Air Education and Training Command, will speak at Randolph-Macon Academy's commencement on Saturday.
The commencement ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. in Melton Memorial Gymnasium at the Front Royal day and boarding school.
Rand, who is responsible for recruiting, training and educating Air Force personnel, has served in the Air Force since 1979 and as an air liaison officer with the U.S. Army, and has had staff tours on the Joint Staff, Office of the Secretary of Defense and Air Staff. Rand is a command pilot with more than 5,000 flying hours, including more than 470 combat hours.
Graduating from the academy this year are 74 seniors and five postgraduate Falcon Scholars.
Situated at the head of the class is valedictorian Caroline Grace Alexander, 17.
Caroline won the General Willard Scott Award from the Association of Military Colleges and Schools earlier this year and was a recipient of a Rotary Scholarship.
She said she'll be presenting a speech at the commencement ceremony that will emphasize service and the importance of finding your passion.
This year's co-salutatorians are Madeline Chafin, a native of North Carolina, and Berryville resident Caitlin Bunker.
Caitlin, 17, who will be giving a speech on Thursday night at the school's Class Night awards ceremony, recalled when her parents told her in seventh grade that she would attend the prep school.
"At first I didn't want to come here, but now I couldn't imagine graduating from any other place," she said.
"We talk here about how time goes so slowly, but it feels like it's been a blink of an eye."
Caroline agreed, recounting her transition from Wakefield Country Day School -- she lived near Sperryville before her family moved to Front Royal during the winter of her freshman year -- and how she wanted to attend a larger school and learn how to fly.
Caroline and Caitlin are involved in sports, are officers in the National Honor Society and are ranked second and third, respectively, in the school's cadet corps.
Caroline said she is working toward getting her private pilot's license, and flew solo from Lake Anna to Front Royal on Wednesday morning. She is planning to major in computer science at Northwestern University.
Catilin plans to study nursing and management at Case Western Reserve University.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org