It is my intention for this upcoming year to develop our corps into a band of brothers set on navigating every challenge that it meets.
With these words, senior Alexander Zinke, Hargrave’s Battalion Commander for the 2021-22 academic year, welcomed all incoming and returning cadets to the beginning of the school year. His message resonates as we welcome candidates to Hargrave Military Academy’s Presidential search.
The student Corps Commander for the 1970-71 school year was Sloan Gibson. After a distinguished career in service to our country and in business, Sloan, the chair of the Hargrave board, moved to the interim President’s position this year. Along with the Board of Trustees, the team on campus, and students like Alexander, he is strengthening Hargrave and preparing things for both the new President and for a larger corps of cadets in the years to come.
Despite the time elapsed and societal shift, these two leaders, and many others, are part of the Hargrave brotherhood, a bond often described by those you meet at Hargrave. The importance of this brotherhood for boys and men, and the importance of Hargrave in the development of strong young men of character, make this a compelling position for a leader who seeks to make a difference in the lives of others and in the history of a school.
An Introduction to HMA
Established in 1909, Hargrave sits on a 220-acre campus in Chatham, Virginia, serving boarding and day student boys in grades seven through post graduate. Despite the memorable setback of a devastating campus fire in 1950, the school grew and prospered for many years. In recent years, enrollment has gradually decreased, but a new trend began this fall as opening enrollment grew from 114 to 143. Students come from 25 states and eight countries. Hargrave also provides day and boarding opportunities to students in the summer, with programs built around academics, athletics, leadership, and adventure.
Hargrave builds young men into leaders of character prepared for lifelong success.
Hargrave changes lives. Since 1909, more than 20,000 boys have arrived on the front steps looking for a different approach to education and personal growth. They left as young men — leaders of character — equipped with a solid academic, physical, and spiritual foundation. Over the past century, much has changed in society and in education. But Hargrave has remained steadfast in its emphasis on academic rigor, traditional values emphasizing character and spiritual growth, leadership development, and positive personal relationships. There has never been a time when the world needs Hargrave more.
The Hargrave experience begins with caring faculty and staff who get to know their students and build relationships that last for decades. The dedication of these men and women to “their” boys is evident daily in the mentoring, counseling, coaching, and just being there when needed. Graduates write or return to Hargrave year after year to say thank you to teachers, coaches, and staff who made such a profound difference in their life.
The academic rigor of a college preparatory program combined with the added structure of Hargrave’s “How to Study” program and supervised study halls has been preparing graduates for college and life beyond for decades. We all face a lifetime of learning. What a difference it makes to instill habits of efficient and effective learning early in life! Hargrave’s many years of 100% college acceptance, millions of dollars in scholarship awards each year, and the continuing success of Hargrave graduates in college and beyond, is a testament to their sound preparation.
Faith, character, and leadership. These are the hallmarks of Hargrave. Spiritual growth has always been central to the Hargrave experience as boys begin to understand their place in God’s world. Chapel services, devotion time, Christian-based organizations, and the personal witness of faculty and staff are all part of the faith journey.
The Honor Code is just the beginning of character development at Hargrave. “Character Across the Campus” focuses on one of Hargrave’s core values each month in classrooms, on playing fields, in chapel, and in the barracks, helping boys understand, for example, what living a life of integrity looks like and how it influences many of the decisions they will face.
We all aspire to be leaders. Hargrave’s military program teaches boys how to follow first — important to effective leadership — and then helps them grow and develop as leaders in the cadet chain of command where they exercise real responsibility and authority in the day-to-day leadership of the Corps of Cadets.
Friendships made at Hargrave last a lifetime. There is a bonding that occurs — a brotherhood — built around shared experiences and common values. Decades after graduating, Hargrave classmates are still in touch, looking out for one another, and finding ways to help the school, other graduates, and current cadets.
Caring faculty and staff; academic rigor; faith, character, and leadership; and friendships are the essential ingredients in the life-changing Hargrave experience, helping boys grow into young men and realize their full potential. “I was a boy. Here I became a man.”
Location: Chatham, Virginia
2021-2022 Opening Enrollment: 143, up from 114 in 2020-2021
Accreditation: VAIS, Cognia, VCPE
Memberships: NAIS, VAIS, AMCSUS
Full-time faculty: 20
Faculty with Advanced Degrees: 60%
Total Revenue, 2020-21: $7.2 million Endowment and Foundation: Over $8 million Total Contributions, 2020-21: $1.9 million
Day Cadets: $15,900 Boarding Cadets: $39,400 International Cadets: $49,400
Financial Aid Awarded: $1,138,728, to 73% of students
The Four Pillars: Academics, Athletics and Fitness, Character, Spiritual Development
Cadet life is built around the military structure and discipline that many boys need as they grow to manhood, but Hargrave is first and foremost an academic institution. Cadets in grades seven through nine participate in Middle School/Center for Integrated Studies (CIS), then move on to a high school program with offerings that include Honors, AP, and Dual Credit courses, leading either to a standard diploma or a more rigorous advanced studies diploma.
The structured academic program includes daily study halls, small class sizes, and faculty who are passionate about preparing for their students’ future, from mentoring to a deliberate approach to college admissions and career preparation. Along with traditional academic courses, Hargrave offers courses in leadership, entrepreneurship, and the Bible. All students also complete Hargrave’s “How to Study” program that has been instilling strong study and learning habits for more than 60 years. As we surveyed community members, many respondents spoke of the dedicated faculty and staff leading these programs, while others extolled student support, personalization, and the benefits of a structured academic day.
Hargrave athletes successfully compete in twelve high school sports and a nationally-recognized post graduate basketball program. Athletic facilities include an Olympic-sized pool, multiple gymnasiums, baseball, football, and soccer fields, a track, a tennis center, and an indoor golf facility. In addition, an indoor rifle range, outdoor trap range, paintball field, archery course, climbing tower, and obstacle courses provide ample opportunities for cadets to sharpen their skills and strengthen their bodies. An expansive weight room supports Hargrave teams and the physical development of cadets.
Hargrave’s PG basketball program brings elite athletes to campus, seeking an additional year of development before their college basketball careers. Honored as the program of the decade in 2012, this program has sent many players and coaches to success in the college and professional ranks.
Character and leadership training runs throughout the school day at Hargrave, given the organization, structure, and discipline promoted through the military framework. Beyond this, though, the Center for Leadership and Ethics, founded in 2001, and the Leadership I and Leadership II courses, promote deeper leadership and decision-making skills.
Recognizing the quality of these programs, Character.Org named Hargrave a National School of Character, the only school in Virginia to receive this honor.
Hargrave welcomes students from a wide variety of faith traditions and then introduces them to lessons in life arising from the Bible and a Christian framework. Cadets attend chapel twice a week, take a Bible class in their curriculum, and have the opportunity to participate in Young Life and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Chatham is a “town of steeples,” and students can attend services in town if desired. Spiritual Emphasis Week brings special activities and speakers to campus.
Residential and Cadet Life
Cadets, organized into companies, live in adult-supervised dorms. There are facilities in the dorms for day students as well, allowing them a place to organize over the course of the year. The 24-hour infirmary is staffed by four shift nurses, and the spacious dining hall, located next to a welcoming recreation center, is run by FLIK dining services.
Though the day is highly structured for cadets, there is time available for clubs (including Boy Scouts), activities, and socializing.
It is not the primary purpose of Hargrave to serve as a feeder school to service academies or the military, but some students choose this path as they graduate; 34 graduates attended service academies over the past decade. The majority of students head to colleges, supported by the college counseling program. In a recent year, graduates were offered $5.4 million in college scholarships, and Hargrave consistently achieves 100% college acceptances for its graduates.
There is a sense of urgency and optimism at Hargrave at the moment. The leadership of Interim President Sloan Gibson has energized the campus and established clarity about the work ahead. Using the “flywheel” analogy from Good to Great, President Gibson has set to work with the Hargrave team on enrollment, program quality, standards of student conduct and decorum, updating the physical plant, and fundraising. The results thus far are encouraging. Hargrave’s next President will expand upon this work while also assessing other challenges and opportunities at the school.
There are many strengths at Hargrave as the next President arrives. Among those most cited by community members in our interviews and surveys:
- Dedicated employees who believe in the Hargrave mission.
- Passionate alumni leading lives made better by traits engrained at Hargrave, along with the Hargrave traditions established and experienced by these alumni.
- The leadership/character/discipline programs found throughout the Hargrave community.
- Small class size, with personalized instruction and support throughout campus.
- Strong and broad athletic program, including the nationally-recognized PG basketball program.
- Impressive athletic facilities and inspiring chapel, all set, along with other stately buildings, on a beautiful campus.
- Superb interim leadership and a highly supportive board of trustees.
Building upon these strengths, and others, the next President will need to focus on:
Financial and societal trends have impacted boarding schools, independent schools, and military schools for some time now. Small schools in particular have struggled. Hargrave falls in all of these categories, and its rural location, seen by some as a strength, doesn’t always speak to potential students. In contrast, the traditions, programs, facilities, quality, and mission of Hargrave all remain as important today as in the past. Most importantly, the stories of Hargrave’s impact on the lives of boys ring as true now as they have over all generations of the school. The nearly 100% increase in new student opening enrollment this fall demonstrates what the organization can do. The next President, in conjunction with a strong admissions and marketing team, will need to continue to focus on enrollment.
As important as it is to enroll more students, continuing to strengthen academic, military, and athletic programs is vital so that boys and their parents find the Hargrave experience meets or exceeds their expectations. Growing and strengthening the Middle School/Center for Integrated Studies program gets boys engaged in Hargrave at a younger, more impressionable age, and also grows the pool of reenrollment-eligible students. Continued emphasis on counseling resources and processes will also be important.
Fundraising and the Alumni Community
Along with tuition revenue, Hargrave needs additional philanthropic support. At the moment, there are impressive and deeply loyal major donors to the Academy, but work is needed to broaden the base of support, making the case for giving back to a school that gives so much to boys in return. The Brotherhood of alumni is strong, filled with those passionate about Hargrave and the difference it made in their lives.
Engaging with alumni, in multiple ways, has the potential for great success in the future.
Hargrave’s lower enrollment, the added burden of safety and health protocols during the COVID era, and investment to support excellence and breadth of the program result in an operating budgeting loss at the moment. Generous donors and the support of the endowment and Foundation provide a buffer to this, and the increasing enrollment is encouraging, but a focus on increasing revenues and carefully monitoring expenses will be needed in the years ahead.
The quality of Hargrave’s academic program depends upon the hiring, retention, support, and evaluation of its teachers. Equally important is the culture and cohesiveness of work on campus. There are many long-time Hargrave teachers and leaders present who can assess the mission fit of new faculty on campus and help instill in them the pride long associated with being part of the Hargrave community. Quality of life at work for faculty and staff, along with compensation, will be a priority for the new President.
The impact of the military program, filled with discipline, organization, and leadership, is diminished when there isn’t a community-wide agreement about setting expectations and meeting them. The new President will build upon strong work being done this year in this important aspect of school life.
Physical Plant and Deferred Maintenance
Visitors are immediately struck by the expanse and beauty of the Hargrave campus, but there is work to be done to ensure that spaces currently used are highly functional while spaces not currently needed are restored to serve a larger enrollment in the future. Of note: the President’s house, at the foot of the campus, has extraordinary public and private space, ideal for entertaining and living.
- Interpersonal Savvy: Relates openly and comfortably with diverse groups of people.
- Resilience: Rebounds from setbacks and adversity when facing difficult situations.
- Resourcefulness: Secures and deploys resources effectively and efficiently.
- Manages Ambiguity: Operates effectively, even when things are uncertain, or the way forward isn’t clear.
- Plans and Aligns: Plans and prioritizes work to meet commitments aligned with organizational goals.
- Drives results: Consistently achieves results, even under challenging circumstances.
Candidates will be asked for examples around these competencies during the interview process. In addition, Hargrave seeks:
- A leader with administrative experience in a school setting, along with alignment and understanding of the benefits of a military framework in a school setting.
- A mission-driven leader with a commitment to the development of young men.
- A dynamic speaker and writer who can quickly learn and then compellingly tell the story of Hargrave to a wide range of audiences.
- A leader who can collaboratively work with both the board and employees to advance Hargrave’s goals.
- A person of great energy and work ethic.
- A leader who can balance and explain the need for both internal presence and external relationships.
- A thinker and strategist who can solve both short and long-term problems for the Academy.
- A leader whose ethics, morals, and beliefs align with the Hargrave mission.
Optimal experiences for candidates would include:
- An advanced degree in education, finance, non-profit management, or a related field.
- Experience in some or all of the following areas:
- Boarding schools.
- Boys’ education.
- Classroom teaching.
- Military service or military school experience.
- Governance experience with boards.
- Strategic work in areas such as finance, planning, and fundraising.
Anticipated Search Calendar
- Application Deadline: October 12, 2021
- Selection of Semifinalists: Week of October 18
- Semifinalist Interviews: Week of October 25
- Finalist Visits: November 8-21
- Anticipated Appointment: Week of November 22
- Starting Date: July 1, 2022
Application Requirements and Search Process
DRG Talent Advisory Group is conducting this search on behalf of Hargrave Military Academy. To discuss this opportunity in more detail, contact either of the lead consultants:
Candidates should submit as soon as possible, and no later than October 12, 2021, materials including the following:
- A cover letter indicating why they are particularly interested in and qualified for the position.
- A current resume.
- A statement of leadership philosophy.
- The names, email addresses, and telephone numbers of five references, to include the relationship with the references. (We will obtain permission from candidates before contacting references.)
- Optional: other supporting material (articles, speeches, videos, or letters of recommendation) that would be useful to the Search Committee.
All materials should be uploaded directly on the DRG website by visiting the Hargrave Military Academy listing at DRG (drgsearch.com).
After an initial review of candidates, the Search Committee will interview semifinalist candidates, likely over Zoom, the week of October 25. Soon thereafter, finalists will be invited to the Academy for a more comprehensive series of interviews and conversations with stakeholders. An appointment is anticipated by late November.
This position description is based upon material provided by Hargrave Military Academy, an equal opportunity employer.