It was a busy Sunday as Douglas O. Bird, Ed.D.,’90 was officially installed as the 14th Head of Schools of Culver Academies during a combined special ceremony and opening convocation in the afternoon. That evening, Bird welcomed the newest members of the student body to campus at the Matriculation Ceremony.
Joining him on the Leadership Plaza at Logansport Gate were his wife, Cheryl Bird ’90, CGA Dean Lynn Rasch ’76, new CMA Commandant Col. Mike Squires, CGA Senior Prefect Ava Dauer ’20 (Lowell, Ind.) and CMA Regimental Commander Jed Henderson ’20 (Culver).
Miles D. White ’73, chairman of the Culver Educational Foundation Board of Trustees, said at the installation ceremony that Bird had an “unprecedented background” as he steps into his new role at Culver. Along with his education credentials and military background, White said the Birds are both Culver alumni, Culver parents, and their fathers are CMA graduates. There are also several relatives connected to Culver.
And, Bird served as the director of Culver Summer Schools & Camps before moving into the head of schools position.
He told Bird there were four vital Culver assets he could rely on: the school’s “versatile, talented, and committed faculty,” who provide their full support; “engaging, able, talented students” who are “already distinguished from their peers as young people who are willing to invest in their futures;” parents “who believe in a quality education for their children” and “agree with Culver’s high standards and objectives;” and an alumni body “uncommon in its love of alma mater and dedication to what we’re trying to do here.”
Head of Schools Emeritus John Buxton presented Bird with the medallion presented to each new head of schools. Commissioned by Head of School Emeritus Ralph Manuel and originally presented to Buxton two decades ago, the medallion serves “as a reminder of the responsibility and the sacred trust that a new Head assumes in leading Culver,” Buxton said.
The medallion was to become “the tangible symbol for responsible leadership and accountability invested in the Head of Schools,” he told the audience. “It was to become another symbol just like the Logansport Gate, the Gold Stars, the Leadership Plaza, the Culver Seal, the Iron Gate and the Graduation Arch, and the Culver Crest. The medallion is intended specifically to remind the Head of Schools of his oath of office, just as these other more public symbols remind all of you daily of our Culver Values and Virtues.”
Bird said in his address that Henry Harrison Culver wanted to provide young men the opportunity “to focus on leadership development in order to be prepared for the best colleges, scientific schools and businesses of America.” And, while the military system formed the heart of the school, the intention was not to train soldiers but to use the system to “shape their character in order to make positive contributions to society.”
The threads of leadership, responsible citizenship and character development are woven through the history of the school and they “serve as the foundation of the current Culver Mission that guides our work on a daily basis,” he said. The advancement of these pillars of our institution would not have been possible without the impact of Gen. Leigh R. Gignilliat and Dean Mary Francis England.
Gignilliat’s 40 years as superintendent are marked by the ritual and pageantry still observed today and sets “our tone, character and public image.” Dean England’s establishment of the girls school and prefect system gave girls “a voice in governing themselves and culminated in “developing and nurturing the whole individual – mind, body, and spirit.”
He thanked Manuel and Buxton for instituting major initiatives and programs that prepared Culver for the 21st Century by “incorporating our rich history with more contemporary approaches to education.”
As he looks to the future, Bird said he always comes back to the importance of the mission. “Leadership, responsible citizenship, and character development is absolutely what we should be about.” The mission drives everything else, he added, “our work in the classroom, leadership application in the dorms and barracks, and across all other endeavors at the school.”
But it is also important to aspire to new heights and make sure graduates are prepared to successfully tackle the challenges they will face in the future, he added.
“I am excited about the opportunity to lead an institution that has made a deep and personal impact on me and my family and partner with the many stakeholders in order to move Culver to new heights in the next couple of decades.”