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Messages From the President

As Posted in Fall 2014 Alumni Record

President’s Message

Greetings to my fellow alumni as well as the many family and friends who read this Alumni Record. The officers and directors of your Association have been in active communication this past winter and spring as we anticipate our upcoming reunion and the issues of interest and priority to be discussed and decided at the Board Meeting and the General Meeting. Foremost in our Board discussions will be decisions to find a path to ensure that our signature legacy GLI leadership programs live on after our Association is no longer in existence. We are also working on marketing improved awareness and knowledge about our wonderful museum to the general public.

Elsewhere in this issue you will read the fascinating story about our two cannons. A special thank you to Tony Sadler for his part in researching the history of these guns. We hope to have plaques on each of the cannons to tell their story in time for the upcoming reunion.

It is not something we want to dwell on, but we need to remind ourselves that in just eight years we will be presenting 50 Year Pins to our last graduating class. The positive side of that is an ever increasing percentage of our alumni are now retired and have the available time to come back to Lewisburg each October. So, fill out that reunion form you just received and make your reservations. Plan now to join your fellow alumni as we all gather to re-connect, remember and reminisce in Lewisburg, October 16 – 19, 2014.

Greenbrier Forever,
Bill Isbister

President’s Message, March, 2014

It is an honor to greet my fellow alumni for the first time in these pages as your new President. I begin by thanking our Board of Directors for their dedicated service in leading our Association and for the confidence they have expressed in me by electing me to this responsibility. Thanks to Larry Springer, Charlie Duncan and Fred Woitscheck for their five years of service as Directors as we welcome new Directors Bill Deck, Denton Staley and Sam Woods. Very special thanks to Grey Webb, who has lead our Association as President for the past two years. Grey has successfully initiated several important changes in the governance and operation of our organization. He has kept the officers and directors involved and informed these past two years, which has insured a smooth transition of leadership. We are grateful for his service to our organization.

I am sure many of you have had the same experience as I when you try to explain to non-GMS friends about our Association. They marvel at the facts that the alumni of a school that closed 41 years ago: (1) continue to return to the site of their unique common experience each October, (2) have a vibrant organization with a museum and memorial plaza and (3) are actively sharing our values with new generations of West Virginia youth through our GLI Program. We are truly a very special organization that has a great deal to be proud of and to celebrate.

Change is inevitable, and this year is no exception. After more than 20 years as our Association Secretary, Herb Pearis has retired from that position. Herb has been so much more than that title would suggest. He has been the face and voice of the organization, the one that answers the phone, the institutional memory, the editor of the Alumni Record and the magic hand behind the scenes that insured that everything went smoothly throughout the year and especially at our reunions. For those who were not with us at the reunion, Herb and Joann were recognized and honored with the gift of a trip to the Canadian Rockies. If you are interested in participating in this gift, details are provided elsewhere in this Alumni Record. Herb will continue to help us with responsibilities that require a Lewisburg presence, but will give up major responsibilities of the position.

Bob Boles, ‘70 has been elected as the new Secretary of our Association and we have a new telephone number. The new number is (304) 520-3214. The phone will be answered by a voice which will identify the GMSAA and offer you the options of connecting to myself, Bob Boles, Herb Pearis or Beaman Cummings, Executive Director of GLI. The call will then be automatically transferred to each of our designated numbers (home, office or mobile). Please make a note of this number.
Bob Boles, I and others have begun working on the 2014 Reunion and look forward to another successful gathering in Lewisburg October 16 – 19, 2014. So, mark your calendars now and “Come Back to the Brier”. We look forward to seeing you in Lewisburg October 16 – 19, 2014.

Greenbrier Forever,

Bill Isbister ‘52

President’s Message for August Record

Written by Grey Webb:

As this will be my last President's Message for the Alumni Record, I’d like to write about one of my favorites subjects: History.

Last year we celebrated 200 years of education in Lewisburg but more importantly from our perspective, the 200th anniversary of the founding of what would eventually become Greenbrier Military School. This year West Virginia celebrates their 150th year of statehood. Both anniversaries are connected and are the reason we all share this common identity, namely Greenbrier Military School. When Dr. John McElhenney made his way north from South Carolina to the small village of Lewisburg in what was then Western Virginia, he had no way of knowing the long lasting consequences of his actions. Often the greatest and most important exploits tend to go unnoticed at the time. To be sure Dr. McElhenney could not have envisioned the thousands of young men who would be directly influenced by his commitment to eduction. Even today his legacy transcends history and directly influence medical students at WVSOM.

Men and women make history everyday although the significance of their endeavors will not be known or appreciated for some time. I’m reminded of that humble but well crafted line from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” History has an elegant way of filtering out the important from the mere inconsequential.

As is often quoted in these pages: “Something important happened here.” Certainly to those of us who attended GMS, this place is special. These grounds may not be hallowed, but for those of us who experienced Greenbrier, they come close. We lived here, we learned here and we gained a sense of self here. The institution’s original mission itself may have changed, but young people continue to live here, learn here and by all means gain a sense of self here. Life continues and history will record it, great or small; good or bad.

In the span of our lifetime we’ve witnessed a transformation not only in our selves but in the very institution that provided that history. Our school’s history will endure as long as we honor it. Change is inevitable and how we deal with it affects us directly.

History is about our yearning to identify with the past. It is about our desire to hold on to some stability and the perception of continuity. We arrive here in Lewisburg every October desiring to find a source to our present identity. We live again in the 1950s or 60s searching for fading echoes of our beloved Greenbrier. In many ways they were never lost, only hidden away in a long forgotten memory that springs to life on the Front Formation Court during Retreat or at Old Stone Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning.

However you define history, Greenbrier Military School played an important role by endowing our country with men of truth, duty and honor. Our Hall of Fame comprises only a small sample of those men. From our halls came future leaders in the Armed Forces, the professions, business and industry spreading the character, discipline and leadership that was forged here. When we gather again this October we can stand tall knowing that we are indeed part of history.

And now, like so many other chapters in our lives, our Association is about to turn the page on yet one more. I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve GMSAA, an honor well above my pay grade. To borrow from the Hippocratic Oath, my first duty was to do no harm. Your Association will be in excellent hands with President Bill Isbister. He brings a wealth of experience to the office and will lead our Association as we tread into uncharted waters. Our future is bright as our history is secure.

Alumni Record Article for Spring Edition

Written by Grey Webb:

Our reunion this past October celebrating the founding of our beloved Greenbrier Military School was a huge success. Record numbers were in attendance and the weather cooperated to make it a perfect weekend.

The reunion kicked off for many on Thursday evening at the Greenbrier Visitor’s Center. Herb over the years has always tried to add events to attract and entertain early arrivals and the Visitor’s Center proved to be a great venue for reuniting, socializing and making plans for the weekend.

The weekend officially began on Friday evening at our Retreat Formation. We were again entertained with a wonderful rendition of Greenbrier Forever played for us by the Greenbrier East High School Band. Special thanks to Beaman Cummings and his committee for organizing our Retreat Formations. It’s a perfect way to kick off our reunions. A wonderful dinner of prime rib followed and set the tone for what was to come.

Saturday morning’s special event was of course the appearance of Jim Justice,’70, owner of the Greenbrier Hotel and Resort, with his oversized check matching our own successful efforts in fundraising for our Greenbrier Leadership Institute. A special thanks to each one of you who contributed to this great effort. Because of you and Jim Justice, GLI now has the financial resources to implement new strategies and to reach more students.

The festivities continued Saturday evening at the Greenbrier Hotel with a wonderful dinner dance accompanied by the musical talents of Bobby Nicholas and his band. More than one person mentioned to me that we should try to plan another dinner dance at the Greenbrier in the near future. I’m sure memories of Final Balls long past circulated the banquet room.

Sunday morning’s church service at the Old Stone Presbyterian church topped what was the most anticipated and certainly the most attended reunion weekends in our thirty year history. The brass ensemble playing New Orleans style gospel jazz, singing the Recessional and listening to some great preaching, all made for a memorable service and a conclusion to an unforgettable reunion weekend.

Thanks to Herb and Phil for organizing and pulling off the big event. Let me assure you we’re not done. Several alumni asked me if this reunion was our “Final, Final Ball”. Absolutely not! We are going to continue to hold our reunion weekends the third weekend in October as long as there are able bodied alumni to attend. Certainly we want to provide the opportunity for all classes to celebrate their 50th Class Reunion. I’ve been told the Class of ’63 has already begun their plans for a weekend that will rival last years. It’s not too early to make plans for this year’s reunion. Mark your calendars now for October 17-20.

If you haven’t ordered the DVD History of GMS, please do so by visiting our website and going to the ‘Store’ tab. Bob Boles and his committee have produced an outstanding presentation describing the history of Greenbrier Military School. We now have a definitive documented record, one that will provide a source for additional chapters in the future. Once you view it you will see it was a labor of love

Congratulations to our new board members: Jorge’ Martinez, C.J. Richardson and Terry Byrnes. We’re looking forward to their input and counsel to help direct your Association for the next five years. Also, I would like to thank our outgoing directors, Jim Anderson, Gene Beard, Robert Gamba and Duff Smith. Their service to GMSAA has been exemplary and I know they will continue to provide advice and guidance to the board of directors. If you have an interest in serving on the board of directors, please contact Herb or myself. Your Association is only as good as the direction we receive from our membership.

I would like to extend my special thanks to our Vice President, Bill Isbister, for his tireless work in researching, coordinating and ultimately writing several grant requests for GLI. Grant writing is a new avenue for us in regards to fundraising. Bill is putting his professional background to work for our benefit, and we’re grateful for his expertise.

Board member Jose’ Acosta, working with Phil McLaughlin and our accountant, Courtney Smith, has worked diligently to prepare our annual operating budget and in so doing, has given us a clearer picture of where we are fiscally. Let me assure you, your board of directors takes our financial operations very seriously. We understand and appreciate the fiduciary responsibility you have placed in us and we will continue to maintain the finances of your Association in the most conservative and transparent manner possible.

Let me close by thanking all of you who attended our special reunion: Celebrating 200 years of Education in Lewisburg. We know Greenbrier Military School played the most significant role in that history.

Reconnect, Reminisce, Celebrate

Written by Grey Webb, August 2012.

The long hot summer is quickly coming to an end and our annual GMSAA reunion, believe it or not, is just around the corner. As you know this October, we will be celebrating Two Hundred Years of Education in Lewisburg. In my opinion Greenbrier Military School played the most significant chapter in that 200 year history. We gather this year to celebrate that role. As Herb Pearis is apt to say: “Something important happened here.”

The fact that so many of us return every year to reconnect, reminisce and celebrate our shared experiences is proof that Greenbrier Military School played a very significant part in our early lives. Those few minutes every October on the front formation court at Retreat seems to set the stage for another great weekend. Stories retold of mischievous pranks, memories of football games played on a cool crisp Saturday afternoon, or just seeing an old friend for the first time in 40 years, are just a few of the things that make the third weekend of October in Lewisburg special.

Our common experience at GMS bonds us and we recall those memories in a blink of an eye. Mention Kiwi shoe polish and we quickly bring to mind that peculiar combination of aromas with Brasso; think demerits and we all recall the beat; hear gig line and we instantly arrange our belts. So much of our life as cadets at Greenbrier was the same as those who came before and after us, making it easy to relate with others at our reunions.

For those attending our GMSAA reunion this October for the first time, you will notice changes to the old ‘Brier Campus. Of course the main building stands with it’s dignified entrance as it has for over nighty years. However, the upper drill field is now the site of new and modern multi-use buildings that have been built to facilitate the ever growing student body of The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM). Where once young uniformed GMS Cadets formed for Retreat or stood at attention for Sunday Dress Parades, now young energetic medical students stroll the campus. Education in Lewisburg, WV continues it’s 200 year tradition.

Our old campus may have changed, but not the memories. The term “Greenbrier Spirit” is often heard at our reunions. I’m not sure what that means exactly. If you ask, I’m sure you will not receive the same answer from any two alumni. As with most alumni, it’s a personal thing. After these many years, the connections we make are more important to us; they seem more meaningful. GMSAA reunions provide that connection to our shared past. Please use this special occasion to attend and find out for yourself what the “Greenbrier Spirit” means to you.

One last thing. Herb always says that, “We do church the best.” Let me personally invite you to attend the Sunday morning church service at the Old Stone Presbyterian Church. Without a doubt, it will lift your Spirit and send you off wanting to return the following year. Can I get an Amen?

--Grey Webb

Holiday Greetings from Grey Webb

As this is my first President’s Message I would like to thank, first, the Board of Directors for placing their confidence in me and allowing me to serve this great Association. Second, I would like to acknowledge the outstanding accomplishments of Duke Schneider. His stewardship and leadership has secured the future for our Association. His steady hand and vision for GMSAA has given me a positive example to follow. I’m sure all will agree with me that Duke truly represents the Greenbrier Military School Spirit.

Congratulations to our new Board of Directors: Calvin Garvin ’65, Ken Lewis ’57, Lee Martin ’64, and Perry Woodside ’64. They join our board for a five year term and I look forward to their support, advice and counsel. Leaving the board after serving their five year term are: Barney Burks, Jim Downer ’71, James “Deak” Roberts. We are grateful to these gentlemen for their valuable time and experience. If you are interested in serving on our Board, please contact Herb. We’re continually looking for those alumni who want to help oversee and guide the work of GMSAA.

This coming October will mark a milestone in the history of GMSAA. From the founding of the Brick Academy by Dr. John McElhenney, the forerunner of Greenbrier Military School in 1812, there has been an institution of learning in Lewisburg for 200 years. Although it has been 40 years since that sad day when Greenbrier closed, the fact that there still exists an active and committed alumni association is remarkable. The hard work of those alumni members in reviving our group should not be overlooked. Like Phoenix rising from the ashes, our Association has not only grown but flourished.

Our accomplishments are many. We’ve grown from a small group of alumni meeting in October to rekindle old friendships and recount stories (and possibly a few fibs) to a well structured association with over 2000 alumni and family on our mailing list. Our museum is furnished with memorabilia that defines our experience at the ‘Brier. The memorial park provides a fitting and sanctified place for those alumni who lost their lives defending our nation. We’ve funded thousands of dollars in scholarships to well deserving medical students at WVSOM. Our new web site has been recently updated and made more user-friendly and our biannual Alumni Record provides that personal connection that keeps us informed.

The future of GMSAA is bright. Our Greenbrier Leadership Institute is in its fourth year and is expanding to other venues in West Virginia. (Please read about our matching grant elsewhere in this issue of the Alumni Record) The GLI Program is truly becoming the living legacy we had envisioned, providing the youth of West Virginia with resources which promote character and leadership development, established on the GMS values of truth, duty and honor.

As I mentioned, our web site is new and improved. If you haven’t had the chance to visit GMSAA.org, please do so. The sort capabilities have been greatly enhanced allowing you to find old classmates much easier. Let me also remind you while visiting the web site, to click on ‘The Cadet Store’ tab. If you haven’t seen the great selection of GMS items available, I think you’ll be surprised. Jim Downer has done an outstanding job of maintaining the store and now with the convenience of PayPAL, shopping is much more convenient. All profits help offset our operating costs and shipping is FREE.

We are looking forward to seeing you for this year’s special reunion. Plans are in the works for a great weekend. If you haven’t been to a GMSAA reunion or haven’t been back for several years, make sure you plan to attend this October, 18-21. From what I hear, rooms are going fast in Lewisburg. Phil McLaughlin has set aside a number of rooms at a special rate at the Greenbrier Hotel. Make sure you mention GMSAA when making your reservation.

Grey Webb
President,
GMSAA