Feature photo above from the 1970 Taps yearbook: Cadets Bill Siegel, Tom Eilers, Kent Yoest, Rich Hart, Paul Gillette and Bill Gant, plus Lt. Keith Byer, faculty officer, learn about the lab facilities at A.B. Chance Co. in Centralia, Missouri, during a field trip.
One of my favorite events of the year is MMA Homecoming. It’s a time to reflect on great memories with smiles, back slaps, handshakes and hugs among our brothers. But when all of that is said and done, what other responsibilities do we have as MMA alumni? What can we do for MMA, the MMA that gave us so much?
I came to Missouri Military Academy in the fall of 1964 after I failed seventh grade. The grand public school educators of the day told my parents, “Paul is incapable of learning!” My parents did not buy that line and sent me to MMA. The first year I went from a D-to-F average to a B-to-C average. It seems that as a mild ADD kid I was just “under motivated” and lost in a classroom of 30-plus other kids. Had I stayed in the public school system, I seriously doubt that I would have finished high school, much less gone to college, earned a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees, and had a 20-year career as an U.S. Army officer.
You may ask, “Why are you telling us this?” At risk of looking like a braggart, I am telling — no, confessing — this because MMA instilled in me the desire to achieve, to set goals for myself, to be a leader in my community. Everything I have achieved, everything I have (my wife included), I owe to the MMA experience.
Take a minute to reflect on what the Academy did for you! Now recognize that there are thousands of young men who can benefit from an MMA education. Ask yourself, “What have I done for MMA and those young men following in my steps?” You might say, “I can’t afford to give much right now! I am raising a family, building a career and getting by.” No one is asking you to give hundreds or thousands of dollars (although that’s great if you can).
As a young Army officer with a family, I was able to eke out $15 or $20 per year in donations to MMA. Over the years the amount has grown as I developed the habit of giving and my earning power increased. Over the past 50 years, I have given MMA close to $30,000. No way could I have done that all at once. You see, no gift is too small if you just get in the habit of giving and paying it forward.
There is an old saying: “Many hands make for light work!” The 1889 Scholarship Fund was created with this adage in mind. The goal is to help subsidize tuition with “many” smaller donations that most if not all of us can attain.
Do you realize that tuition is only 65% of the total cost of sending a cadet to MMA? Where does that other 35% come from? This financial aid comes from donations from our alumni, parents, staff, and friends of the Academy! Surely the vast majority of us can afford a donation of $18.89 on a yearly or, better yet, a monthly basis. I feel so strongly about this that I have recently increased my monthly 1889 Scholarship Fund contribution from $18.89 to $50. I hope to increase that to $100 per month before too long and I am doing this as a retiree on a fixed income.
I am throwing down the gauntlet and challenging my MMA brothers — those who smile, back slap, hug and tell MMA war stories at Homecoming — to regularly contribute $18.89 or even match my $50. Make or pledge your contribution now.
It is our duty and responsibility as MMA alumni to pay it forward. Help give other boys a chance to achieve their potential! The 1889 Scholarship Fund makes this effort easier … because we all know “many hands make for light work!”
— LTC (R) Paul E. Gillette ’70