Culver Academies officially welcomed 270 new students to campus during the annual Matriculation Ceremony Sunday evening. A total of 153 boys and 117 girls were recognized – some virtually – bringing the boarding school’s enrollment to 838 for the 2020-2021 school year.
The domestic student population hails from 38 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Twenty-three countries are represented by this year’s international student population.
At this year’s ceremony, each student walked through the Logansport Gate and was welcomed by Head of Schools Doug Bird, CGA Dean Lynn Rasch, CMA Commandant of Cadets Col. Michael Squires, CGA Senior Prefect Lili Chalfant (West Lafayette, Indiana), and CMA Regimental Commander Noah Tan (Stevensville, Michigan).
Because of COVID social distancing restrictions, the traditional shaking of hands was eliminated. The new CMA cadets saluted and the CGA students placed their hands over their hearts as they passed the welcoming committee. The names of the international students who were not present were read, followed by a brief pause, to recognize them. No outside guests were allowed on campus.
Prior to walking through the gate, Chalfant and Tan addressed the students, telling them to take advantage of the opportunities available on campus. They also emphasized that the students should be ready to accept the unexpected and not to be afraid of failure.
For Chalfant, her unexpected change came shortly after she arrived as a sophomore. A month into the school year, she suffered a concussion during a soccer game. Expecting to be out just one of two weeks, the affects last until April 22. “That’s eight months,” she said, adding she had to go on medical leave. Some people thought she had gotten kicked out.
But during her time away from campus, “I learned a lot about myself.” That included taking care of herself and learning to “dial down my expectations.” She learned that it is important to try your best at everything you do but “don’t let your expectations ruin your experience.”
And try new experiences and meet new people, Chalfant added. Find something you are passionate about. “Only then will you find happiness within yourself and the world around you.”
Prior to Culver, Tan said he tried to “micromanage every part of my life.” But that quickly changed when he realized “Culver is so much more than my tunnel-vision would allow me to see.” And while there will be “changes, surprises, and curveballs thrown your way,” he said, take comfort in the fact that they “have a strange way of revealing opportunities and paths you never thought you would take.”
And don’t be afraid to fail. “You will fall many times on this journey, but you will always be picked back up by your Culver family, your friends, counselors, mentors, and teachers.” And, remember, he said, the biggest limitation is yourself. “Never let anyone but yourself determine your capacity to lead, your capacity to serve, your capacity to succeed.”
A campus landmark, the Logansport Gate was a gift in 1914 from the city of Logansport in gratitude for the rescue efforts provided by the Culver cadets. The gate was refurbished as a gift from the Class of 2001. The gate opens to the Leadership Plaza, which was a gift from the Class of 1952.
Passing through the gate represents the beginning of each boy and girl’s Culver experience. They will end their Culver experience by walking through The Iron Gate (CMA) or Graduation Arch (CGA) during commencement.
Saturday afternoon the new students got a real-life taste of how difficult the 25-feet long, one-ton cutters were to maneuver when they rowed the Culver Summer School & Camps crew boats to “rescue” people. The cadets and the CGA new girls also listened to the story behind the Logansport Gate from Jeff Kenney, Culver’s museum and archives manager.
In March 1913, Logansport city officials called upon Culver Military Academy to help rescue residents trapped by the flooded Eel and Wabash rivers. Culver sent a total of 60 cadets, 40 who were experienced in handling the summer Naval School’s four cutters, to take approximately 1,500 people to safety over a non-stop, 36-hour period.