Fishburne Military School celebrates 173rd birthday of its founder

By Mike Staley

Published: Apr. 10, 2024 at 7:08 PM EDT|Updated: 13 hours ago

WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) – Cadets marched in celebration of Professor Fishburne’s 173rd birthday on Wednesday. He founded Fishburne Military School in 1879 and while he is no longer alive, his legacy is carried on by the students who attend Fishburne Military School.

The students marched from the school’s campus to Riverview Cemetery, where Professor Fishburne was laid to rest a century ago. During the march, the school’s band members performed and added music to the celebration. Instruments ranged from large drums to trumpets to honor the founder. After a ceremony at the cemetery, the students marched back to campus and into the mess hall.

In the mess hall, students gathered around a birthday cake made in honor of Professor Fishburne. In an untraditional fashion, the initial cut was not made by a knife; rather, a saber wielded by students and staff members quickly sliced the red frosting. Sabers were traditionally given to military officers of higher rank and required a certain mastery of combat and discipline to wield. The saber was just one way to honor Professor Fishburne.

The students this year had another reason to celebrate Fishburne. Middle schoolers will now have a day school rather than just room and board on the campus. Fishburne Middle School will give boys who are just graduating from elementary school a chance to find their passions.

Christianna Herrera is currently the English teacher at Fishburne Military School, but she will soon transition to director of Fishburne Middle School. She said middle school is a developing part for people and she hopes to seize any opportunity to help students become the man they want to be.

”I’ve always believed that middle school is the opportunity for students of discovery. Where they learn their joy for learning, and they also start to develop what human beings they are going to choose to be, and what passions they have and what they truly enjoy doing,” Herrera said.

Fishburne’s Founders Day is a chance for community members to donate and help provide education to students in the Valley. This year, the school received a $100,000 donation from Scott Simons, the managing partner of Valley’s CMA Dealerships. However, Simons donated to the military school because of his connection to the armed forces. Though Simons never served in the military, his uncle was one of many names carved into the moving wall. His uncle, United States Marine Corps Corporal Edward Simons, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1965. His time in the military was cut short when he died in combat during the Vietnam War in 1967.

Simons said his donation was a way for his family to honor Edward after so many years.

“There’s a certain guilt I feel if you’re proud to be American that I’ve never served. Part of that guilt is, he paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, so how can I honor his memory and so he doesn’t go away and no one ever hears his name,” Scott said.

He said the memory of his uncle is protected and cherished by each student who succeeds at Fishburne. He also said Edward’s sacrifice will never be forgotten, but a student got the opportunity to find who they were because of it.

“His sacrifice didn’t just go in vain, he’s not just another name on the wall,” He said.

Currently, Simon’s donations to the school have allowed 139 students to attend the school. He said students should have the opportunity to go to Fishburne and get a quality education.

“We [his family] ask Fishburne that it would go to a local child that may not have both of his parents, that may have gotten into a little bit of trouble that needs a second chance and that couldn’t afford to go to this school. Maybe it can change the trajectory of their life,” Scott said. “I think Edward is looking down and smiling today.”

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