Fishburne graduates receive powerful advice from an alumnus

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Bob Stuart, The News Virginian, May 13, 2023

The 25 graduates of the 2023 class at Fishburne Military School could celebrate more than a commencement on Saturday at First Presbyterian Church.

They had weathered and survived the pandemic. And now, coming from as far away as Japan and as close as Augusta County, they could embark on college and military careers.

The graduates also received a stirring 144th commencement speech from a 1988 Fishburne graduate, Josh Maisel.

Maisel told the graduates they have leadership tools by virtue of finishing at Fishburne. But Maisel’s advice to the graduates “to move forward and don’t give up” resonated because of his own life story.

He is a successful businessman who serves as vice president of a Maryland landscape architecture firm. He also owns a B.S. degree in landscape architecture from West Virginia University. But Maisel said he has needed the leadership skills he honed at Fishburne to survive many of life’s peaks and valleys.

The victim of a rollover car accident that caused the death of a friend while in college, Maisel was tried and acquitted of vehicular manslaughter. Later in life, Maisel was treated for a severe case of Lyme disease through a National Institutes of Health program. And more recently, he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He has also suffered from Post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There are good things in life and bad things,” said Maisel, who added that his time at Fishburne taught him to move on and keep battling.

Maisel said the Fishburne graduates have “tons of tools in the toolbag your contemporaries don’t.”

The class of 2023 valedictorian, Ryan Legg of Scottsdale, Ariz., said the camaraderie of Fishburne’s corps of cadets is something he will carry with him. “No one cares where you are from,” said Legg, who thanked the faculty and said he also learned “it is OK to ask for help.”

Following Saturday’s commencement, the 2023 graduates returned to the Fishburne campus quadrangle for one final formation.