Riverside Military Academy
Riverside Military Academy is a private, college preparatory, boarding and day school for boys in grades 7 through 12. Riverside's 206-acre (0.83 km2) campus is located on Lake Sydney Lanier at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Gainesville, Georgia, USA. Riverside's academic year runs August through May each year. Each summer, Riverside hosts a four-week summer school program which may be attended by boys from any high school.
Riverside Military Academy, founded in 1907, is a leading military college preparatory school for boys in grades 7-12. The Academy is located on a 206 acre campus on the shores of Lake Sydney Lanier in Gainesville, GA. It is one of the few remaining institutions of its kind in the country. While many other all-male, boarding, military schools have deviated from their original mission, Riverside, for over 100 years, remains true to its founding principles to prepare ethical young men of character for success in college and in life. The Academy emphasizes individual hard work in the classroom and on the athletic field, the development of leadership through military activity, and instilling character through education and example.
The Riverside vision began with two Gainesville, Georgia, businessmen and professors, Haywood Jefferson Pearce and Azor Warner Van Hoose, Jr. Pearce was president of the local women’s school, Brenau College, and based upon his success there, these men gathered support from more than 30 local investors to charter an all-male, military school. As a result, construction for Riverside Military Academy began in 1907. The doors opened in the fall of 1908.
By 1913 the 25-acre campus included two brick buildings and a small wooden cottage. That same year, Pearce needed to fill a vacancy in Riverside’s administration and discovered Sandy Beaver, a talented young educator in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Sandy Beaver’s move to Gainesville was the beginning of a 56-year career at Riverside that can be said to be life-changing for many of the young men who came under his influence.
Once at Riverside, the early years of Beaver’s presidency were hectic. In the spring of 1916, Lanier Hall, the administration building, burned. Arrangements were made to transfer the students to Chick Springs Military School in South Carolina, and Riverside was closed for rebuilding. Beaver’s primary job was to secure funding for the rebuilding. Using the property as collateral, he borrowed $15,000 to repair Lanier Hall. By September 1917 the facilities had been rearranged so that a mess hall, kitchen, office, and classrooms were set up on the first floor of South Barracks and the second and third floors used for dormitories for the 40 enrolled students. Work on rebuilding Lanier Hall continued throughout the year with many “Bull Ring” hours being served by cadets going toward the rebuilding. The work was finished in the summer of 1918.
In the 1920s, an era remembered for flappers, speakeasies, and women earning the right to vote, Riverside cadets and faculty continued to work hard and reap the rewards. Riverside became an official JROTC program in 1923 and earned its first Honor School designation in 1925. It was one of only 10 such schools designated by the Secretary of War, and the only one in the South. The post-World War I faculty included Lloyd D. Brown, who commanded the 28th Infantry Division in World War II. General Beaver’s son, Colonel John L. “Judge” Beaver graduated in 1929 and went on to serve in World War II and was awarded the Bronze Star. He later served as superintendent from 1946-1963 when he retired. He was chairman of the RMA Board of Trustees from 1969 to 1993. John Beaver is credited with increasing Riverside’s assets during the 24-year period of his chairmanship nearly eight-fold, providing the school with a secure financial base larger than many colleges and universities.
To assist in the expansion of the facilities and, thereby, to increase the size of the student body, the people and the merchants of Gainesville donated matching funds during the 1920s, which, over the next decade helped put the Academy on solid financial footing. Local residents also purchased from the Georgia Power Company about 40 acres of land bordering the northern boundary of the Academy property for the construction of a nine-hole golf course. It was used for about 12 years, but during the Depression the course was used very little and the Academy eventually bought the land in 1935. An area of approximately 35 acres was also purchased by the Academy, so that between 1923 and 1936 the Academy added enough acreage to bring the campus up to approximately 200 acres.
Hard times descended on the nation during the 1930s. Riverside, however, benefited from the frugal stewardship of Sandy Beaver. It was during these lean years that Riverside managed to enter a golden era. It had long been General Beaver’s dream to create a Riverside campus in Florida and move the students and faculty there during the rough, cold winter months in the Georgia mountains. Three properties were available, and Beaver settled on a 200-room, three-story hotel in Hollywood that had been built in 1928 to house guests who wanted the Florida sunshine but did not want to be on the ocean. The building’s original cost was $800,000, but because it was idle after only one season’s use, the corporation owning the property was eager to sell and get out of paying the yearly property taxes. On that basis General Beaver proceeded with the real estate coup of the century – he purchased the property for the total sum of $10. To complete the campus, a nearby school, which had been built by the city of Hollywood, but never used was leased by Riverside for $150 a season. Riverside furnished desks, tables, chairs, blackboards, etc., but later installed these in its own facilities which were built in 1937 on property acquired south of the original circle.
The idea of two campuses and spending three months a year in Florida was attractive to parents and cadets. Enrollment increased and additional facilities were necessary at both locations. By the late 1930s both plants were of approximately equal size and capable of handling student bodies of about 600 students. This size of the student body was maintained until the end of World War II.
The 1930s will also be remembered for the many apple dishes featured on the Riverside menu. The forward-thinking General Beaver invested in a Georgia apple orchard, but rain, drought, low prices, and poor apples all contrived over several years to render it a poor investment. However, the cadets benefited from more than an apple a day, and Beaver eventually managed to unload the venture without a loss.
It was in the early 1930s that Sandy Beaver earned his rank of “General.” Eugene Talmadge was elected governor of Georgia and, in appreciation for services rendered, he appointed Beaver a brigadier general in the Georgia State Militia. Militarily, because of his knowledge of languages, Beaver had been appointed in the 1920s as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve of the United States, Staff Specialist Section. Governor Talmadge also honored Beaver with an appointment to the board of regents of the University System of Georgia. He was soon named chairman of the education committee, and he later served as chairman of the board.
On April 6, 1936, a devastating tornado struck Gainesville. The storm killed 200 people and the town lay in ruins. Riverside cadets, who had just returned from the Florida campus, marched downtown to the rescue and provided protection against looting until the National Guard arrived. Other cadets served as infirmary assistants and ham radio operators, and one even assisted the local undertaker. It was one of Riverside’s “finest hours.”
During the WWII era, interest in military schools exploded and enrollment leaped to nearly 800. RMA added a junior college and graduates received commissions as 2nd lieutenants. The Fuseliers Honor Military Society, a voluntary special drill platoon, was created in 1947. Meanwhile, the students remained in Gainesville throughout the academic year as travel was curtailed. During those years, 1942-1947, the Florida campus was leased to the Navy for use as an aerial gunnery school. Over 2,000 graduates of RMA served in World War II and 77 alumni lost their lives in the war.
In 1941 Riverside Military Academy Inc. was incorporated as a nonprofit Georgia corporation, and soon thereafter received a determination from the predecessor to the Internal Revenue Service of its charitable tax-exempt status. A board of trustees was formed, and minutes show that the first board meeting was on June 30, 1941. Membership consisted of Beaver, president; John H. Hosch, secretary; A.C. Wheeler, Hammond Johnson, John L. Beaver, and Annice L. Beaver. Records show that these members remained on the board until 1976. The custom was for the board to meet only once a year in May at which time General Beaver reported on the school year. It is understood from oral history that General Beaver ran the school nearly single-handedly and the board’s role in the school’s operations was minimal.
The decade of the 1950s were marked by strong enrollment in the post-WW II years and during the Korean War. A notable personality arrived at Riverside in 1951 by the name of Col. William D. Maginnis, who came from Gulf Coast Military Academy. He joined the staff as head football coach and epitomized the Academy’s motto of “Mens Sana in Corpore Sano,” that is, “A sound mind in a sound body.” For more than 42 years Maginnis served in the positions of coach, athletic director, principal, and eventually superintendent. In January, 1958, when the cadets arrived at the winter campus at Hollywood-by-the-Sea, FL, a fire broke out in the main building, which was evacuated. The cadets stood by for the rest of the day, and were in dire straits over the following night in the town, forced to make out as best they could.The next morning, they were grouped together, and bussed back up to the Gainesville campus. A choice was made, where as a cadet could go home, or stay while the campus was made suitable for winter occupancy. Most opted for the former. A week or so later, classes resumed. The Florida campus was shut down permanently.
The 1960s began with a scare as General Beaver suffered a heart attack. Legend has it that he maintained it was only indigestion, but by diet and sensible exercise he recovered and lived until the close of the decade. He died at the age of 86 on December 7, 1969. Of his passing, one of his students wrote, “General Sandy Beaver died without an enemy in the world; he had outlived all of them!” Thanks to the visionary strategy and strong financial foundation laid by General Beaver, Riverside was able to weather the societal storm that negatively affected so many military schools in the 1960s and 70s. More than a school master, he was the school’s chief strategist and his mark remained well beyond his death. He was succeeded by Col. James K. Mooney as head of the Academy, the first of eight men (including two interim heads) who would lead Riverside over the next 40 years.
With the death of General Beaver, membership on the board of trustees changed. John L. Beaver left the faculty due to illness in 1963; he remained on the board and became chairman at the time of his father’s death. He was joined by his sisters, Louise Beaver Chandler and Lucile Beaver. Frank Wiegand, a local Gainesville stock broker, also joined the board.
The Academy weathered the anti-military climate of the 1970s and maintained enrollment. New buildings were built on the Gainesville campus, including the impressive John L. Beaver Field House, which was completed in 1982. The 1980s marked the close of the Florida campus on March 23, 1984, bringing to an end an era of dual campuses and school at the beach. Urban sprawl had encroached upon the campus to the degree that safety and security for the cadets became a concern. The sale price of $8 million, however, was not a disappointment.
By 1992 membership on the board still included Heywood Hosch, Lucile Beaver, Louise Beaver Chandler and Frank Wiegand. Gainesville representation came from local media mogul John Jacobs, ’40, who served for 30 years. Other alumni on the board included Don Misner, ’53, of McLean, VA; and Jerry Blackstock, ‘62, of Atlanta. This board was responsible for the design, financing, and rebuilding of the present-day Riverside campus.
The 1990s were not an easy era for Riverside and military schools in general. Since the 1960s military schools waned in popularity and struggled financially with low enrollments. Confronted by shrinking enrollment and outdated facilities in need of maintenance and repair, between 1998 and 2000, RMA borrowed approximately $85 million through the issuance of the Series 1999 Bonds and the Series 2000 Bonds. In addition, the Academy spent another $20 million from the endowment to essentially rebuild the entire campus. The new campus created a safe educational atmosphere with academic, residential, and athletic facilities that rival those of many small colleges. The rebuilding program began in 1997 and was completed in 2004.
The famous Riverside endowment was created with proceeds from profitable investments made by General Beaver and later by Col. J. L. Beaver, Sandy Beaver’s son. The endowment grew from $15 million to more than $120 million. Historically, the endowment was used to supplement tuition revenue to operate the school. It was a known fact that every cadet’s tuition was paid, in part, out of the endowment, thereby, keeping the parents’ costs artificially low. An independent and forceful leader, General Beaver felt Riverside should be self-sufficient and operate without the financial support of alumni or donors. He was known to have torn up checks or returned them, if a well-meaning supporter sent in a donation. Consequently, Riverside did not cultivate effective relationships with its alumni until the early 2000s.
Riverside’s current president, Dr. James H. Benson, Col USMC (Ret), was recruited by the board of trustees in the spring of 2009 to lead the school in cutting operating costs, growing the enrollment, and leading the charge in fundraising. In addition, the board charged Dr. Benson with improving the Corps’ morale, military fitness and protocol, and ensuring that the school’s historic academic, character development, leadership, and military emphasis remained central to the Academy’s mission and purpose.
Riverside Military Academy's Corps of Cadets consists of over 450 students from 20 countries. As we prepare young men in grades 7-12 for success in college and in life, our distinctive military structure enhances the educational experience here by teaching them skills that help them excel individually and as a group. Our comprehensive program of academics, athletics, and leadership development sets the stage for a lifetime of success.
Tuition is $18,575 for day students, $30,950 per year for boarding students, and $34,900 for international students. Our comprehensive fee includes tuition, meals, laundry, haircuts, yearbook, and on-campus athletic events. There is an initial uniform issue fee of $2,598 for all new cadets.
Riverside Military Academy's summer programs offer our cadets, as well as young men from other schools, the opportunity to learn, grow and excel. Whether you're looking to strengthen or enhance your academic skills with our Summer Opportunity and Academic Review (S.O.A.R.) program or want to attend a camp to improve your game, develop lifelong leadership skills, or just have fun, Riverside's summer programs offer a wide range of options. Summer program tuition is $2075 for day cadets, $4450 for U.S. Boarding Cadets, and $4725 for International Cadets.
Please visit www.riversidemilitary.com for more information.
- Cee Lo Green (Thomas DeCarlo Callaway), American singer-songwriter, rapper, record producer and actor.
- James Earl Carter, Sr., father of U.S. President Jimmy Carter (attended 1911)
- George P. Oslin, inventor of the singing telegram (1913)
- Everett Strupper, leading scorer in the Georgia Tech 222, Cumberland 0 football game of 1916 and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame (1914)
- Richard S. Boutelle, CEO of Fairchild Engine & Airplane Corp. in 1950s (1916)
- Brown L. Whatley, chairman of major Florida real estate developer Arvida Corp. in 1960s and president, 1952–53, of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America (1919)
- George O. Jackson, Jr., photographer (1960)
- J. Alton Hosch, JAG colonel during the Tokyo War Crimes Trials and dean of the University of Georgia School of Law (1919)
- Football coach Red Sanders (1923)
- Admiral David L. McDonald, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations during the Vietnam War (1924)
- Baseball player Johnny Riddle (1926)
- Roger Lewis, first president of Amtrak (1928)
- Lieutenant General Bertram Cowgill Harrison, USAF, commander of Sixth Allied Tactical Air Force, Turkey (1933)
- Jazz man Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill (1938)
- Football coach Tommy Prothro (1938)
- Soap-opera actor Douglass Watson (1938)
- John W. Jacobs, Jr. (1940), Co-founder of Gainesville, GA radio station WDUN. He acquired WCGA, Gainesville's oldest radio station, and was the owner of Wide Travel travel agency and chairman of Jacobs Media.
- Leroy B. Raffel, co-founder of Arby's fast-food chain (1944)
- Howard A. Kalmenson, founder, president and CEO of Lotus Communications Corporation (1949)
- American professional golfer Bobby Greenwood (attended 1957)
- University president Luis M. Proenza (1962)
- Félix Arturo González Canto, governor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo (1987)
- Rocky Lanz, USA Winter Olympic-Worldcup Bobsledder (1990)
- Richard Manning Jefferies, Jr.Chairman of South Carolina Educational Television for twenty years (1938)
- Tyler Carter, Former clean vocalist of the metalcore band Woe, Is Me, and current clean vocalist of Issues
Many of Riverside's Alumni are currently serving in the Global War On Terrorism.
CPT Kyle A. Comfort May 8, 2010 75th Ranger Regiment- Operation Enduring Freedom
SPC Ryan M. Bell March 5, 2007 82nd Airborne Division- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Army-Navy-Air Force Register and Defense Times, Army and Navy Register, Volume 68, October 16, 1920, page 407