Held October 18-20, Fall Family Weekend 2019 celebrated the induction of new cadets into the 131st MMA Corps of Cadets and honored senior cadets for the beginning of their final year at MMA.
On Friday, families began the weekend by shadowing their cadets through their first semester classes, discovering what a typical academic day is like at MMA.
"Allowing families the opportunity to sit in on their cadet’s class is an integral part of Fall Family Weekend, as it allows them to experience the quality of education their son is receiving, as well as feel a connection to their son’s daily life at MMA,” Academic Dean Mike Harding said. “Furthermore, it also provides an understanding of their son’s academic experience, thus adding to the important discussions held during parent-teacher conferences.”
Families also had the opportunity to see their cadet’s seminar class, during which cadets fulfill Silent Sustained Reading as part of reading and writing curriculum, complete missing assignments, and work on ACT/SAT preparation and college and career guidance interviews.
Following that glimpse of a cadet’s academic day, cadets and parents gathered for lunch in the Dining Hall. Then parents were given the opportunity to join the Parents Committee meeting to discuss upcoming cadet events and Parent Committee-led activities. At the meeting, Academy President Richard V. Geraci addressed the group, as well as Dana Keller, executive director of the Mexico Area Chamber of Commerce.
In the evening, the MMA community gathered at the football field to cheer on the Colonels as they competed against St. Paul Lutheran. At halftime, seniors were celebrated for Senior Night.
On Saturday, families started the day by celebrating new cadets at the Passing Through Ceremony in front of Stribling Hall. A long-time MMA tradition, the Passing Through Ceremony officially welcomes new cadets into the corps, marking their successful completion of the Crucible, Maroon Phase training and handbook test.
“These 106 cadets have been challenged,” said Commandant Col. Rick Grabowski about the new recruits' first seven weeks on campus. “We have tested their hearts, we have tested their grit, we have tested their perseverance. They are standing here today because they never quit – they kept going.”
At the ceremony, family and friends pinned each new cadet’s hat brass on, signifying their official membership into the MMA Corps of Cadets.
Following the Passing Through Ceremony, cadets marched to Colonels Field for their Battalion Review.
After the review, seniors received their senior rings at the Senior Ring Presentation. On the field, they celebrated the strength of the MMA brotherhood and posed for photos with family and friends.
The Senior Ring Presentation shares a common tradition, one that dates back to the early 1800s, with distinguished service academies and military colleges across the United States. The rings symbolize the pride they carry in their military education and training, as well as commemorate their brotherhood at the Academy.
Next, families gathered in Memorial Chapel for Fall Family Weekend Parents Convocation, where David and Alice Dawson, parents of Cadet Max Dawson, shared their story of choosing military boarding school education for their son.
“MMA impressed us with the campus, their facilities, their focus on education, their endowment and successful and active alumni, and their administrators, teachers and staff who we met at our campus visit,” David Dawson said. “Ultimately we chose MMA because many of their values aligned with our values. We thought our son could continue to grow on his path and develop as a responsible, self-advocating, productive young man and citizen.”
The Dawsons shared advice with fellow MMA parents and offered words of encouragement through the unfamiliar journey many parents are on. Watch their full speech here.
Also during the convocation, the MMA Choir performed "Gloria" and "Down to the River to Pray," directed by MMA Music Instructor Freddie Lomas, accompanied by Stephen Maziarz. Academic Dean Mike Harding, Commandant Col. Grabowski and Academy President Geraci also addressed the parents.
On Saturday evening, MMA cadets, families, guests and faculty and staff gathered in Centennial Gymtorium for the Senior Ring Dinner & Dance. Gary Stewart ’72 talked about the pride MMA alumni carry with them throughout their entire lives by wearing their senior rings, and he encouraged cadets to always wear them so they may find future connections to their brotherhood.
Senior Class President Cadet Devonte Knight then gave a short speech, welcoming guests and thanking MMA's faculty and staff for their guidance and support, thanking families for taking part in this pivotal moment in their lives, and acknowledging the efforts of his MMA brothers.
“This night is for all of you. All of your hard work and dedication to the corps, all of your academic struggles, your courage in facing the obstacles you encounter head on, and your resilience in upholding the high standards this institution stands for,” he said. “These are all examples of things for which you truly deserve to be commended.”
After dinner, cadets, their dates and families took to the dance floor and photo area for a fun, lively evening in tribute to the success of MMA’s senior class.
On Sunday, families spent the day with their cadets, returning to campus in the evening for a closing Vespers service, a weekly nondenominational service that focuses on self-reflection and personal growth, in Memorial Chapel.