Q: When did you join Bethesda?
A: I started my service as President of Bethesda Academy in the summer of 2016.
Q: What is your experience in education and how long have you been an educator?
A: Prior to accepting the position at Bethesda, I served as headmaster for 5 years at Antilles School in St. Thomas, which is considered to be one of the finest independent schools in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I also led Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville as its superintendent (president) during a six-year comprehensive rebranding period from 1999 to 2005. I taught college for eight years at West Point, and also served as Director of the Center there. I have been a teacher for 31 years and earned graduate degrees at the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Q: What motivated you to get into education?
A: I was inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s vision for his final years to establish an institution of learning for those who follow us. I thought that becoming a school leader to inspire and develop young people would be a very meaningful, intrinsically satisfying way to end my working career. And it has.
Q: What did you do before becoming an educator?
A: After graduation from West Point, I proudly served our nation as an Infantry officer in the United States Army during a 22-year career. My service included assignments in California and at Ft. Benning, GA; as well as with the U.S. European Command in Germany and in the Middle East. I also served as an infantry rifle company commander along the DMZ in Korea and culminated my military career as a tenured associate professor at West Point.
Q: What is your most meaningful contribution as a teacher/mentor?
A: As a teacher of leadership and counseling for eight years at West Point, I taught hundreds of cadets and had a life-changing impact on an entire generation of young men and women who would become superb Army officers. I take pride in celebrating the successes of my former students, whether they become community leaders or represent our Country in leading the global war on terror.
Q: What sets your leadership style apart?
A: My leadership style is very intense, focused, hands-on and engaged. During my numerous experiences as a leadership instructor at West Point, MIT, and the Army, I learned the key lesson that leadership skills can be learned if taught in several modes including theory and practical skills combined with an opportunity to learn from other successful leaders from many areas of life.
Q: What are your most memorable awards?
A: Truly, my “most memorable” award was the privilege of working with America’s finest young men and women at West Point, the United States Army, and in fine schools like Bethesda Academy. When I retired from active duty in 1999 as a Lieutenant Colonel, I was humbled to receive the Legion of Merit for my contributions to the United States Army and West Point. Also, during my doctoral studies and formal training at the University of Virginia, I was selected as a lifetime member of the prestigious Raven Society for my contributions to the University of Virginia and the Charlottesville community in leadership and community service.
Q: What is your vision for Bethesda Academy?
A: I believe Bethesda will become a transformative leadership academy that provides a superb academic and preparatory experience, both college and vocational, to help each boy reach his potential. To achieve this, we have renewed and strengthened our mission to teach meaningful leadership skills to each Bethesda boy and created a new curriculum to support it.
Q: What are three things you want the community to know about Bethesda Academy?
1) Founded in 1740, Bethesda Academy is the oldest child-care institution in the United States. That being said, we are no longer an orphanage. Now we are a private boarding and day school for young men in grades six through twelve and are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
2) Bethesda Academy is an all-male school, and as such, we are fiercely proud that 95 percent of our students graduate on time, and 85 percent of our students go on to college.
3) Bethesda Academy is formalizing an organizational structure to build an effective leadership team and beginning the transformation to a leadership academy.
Q: What are the benefits of an all male school?
A: Founded on a belief in God, Bethesda nurtures boys through competency-based, flexible instructional programs and work preparation so they will grow into responsible citizens. Bethesda offers an education in a smaller, supervised, supportive environment. The 650-acre campus features a variety of athletic teams, a wildlife management and organic farming program and STEM curriculum.
Q: Does Bethesda offer any special programs?
A: Students in grades 9–12 spend one class period of their schedule each day in one of our Campus internships. While the experiences are all unique, students are taught and expected to demonstrate solid work ethic skills. Student interns are currently managed by peer mentors in the following areas: athletics, athletic training, wildlife sanctuary and preserve, dining services, office assistants, development marketing and hospitality, introduction to digital media, teacher’s aide, cattle and beef program, farm and gardens and maintenance.
Q: How can the community get involved?
A: The community can help by providing funding support and opportunities for internships, as well as externship experiences.
Q: How many employees do you have?
A: We have 40 staff members.
Q: Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?
A: I first read “Once an Eagle” by Anton Myrer in 1976 when I was an infantry commander stationed in Korea. It is both a military book and a leadership book and a great study in character, contrasting the lives of two officers. One takes care of his soldiers and serves his country. The other man serves himself only, always seeking a higher rank. A valuable lesson I learned from reading the book is always to get on the ground and see what’s really happening with the people you lead.
Q: Tell us about your family and what you enjoy doing when you aren’t working.
A: My wife Donna and I love it here in Savannah. During my military career, I spent time at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield and developed an appreciation and love for the Savannah area, so it felt like coming home when we came to Bethesda and Savannah. Donna and I have three grown children, two daughters and a son, two of whom are teachers, and one who is an attorney. I like working out by weight lifting and exercising on a tread-climber. I also enjoy spending time with my wife, along with outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing and exploring.
Bethesda Academy President H. Michael Hughes, Ph.D.
Location: 9520 Ferguson Road, Savannah, GA 31406.