Bill Magruder is aware of the reputation. He knows what goes through your mind when you hear the words.
“Over the years, military schools in general got a reputation as a place that turned around wayward kids,” Magruder says. “People would say to a (disobedient) kid, ‘You’re going to military school.’”
While he would acknowledge that military schools can indeed put juvenile delinquents on the right path, Magruder – himself a 1967 graduate of Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia – knows that these schools also do so much more.
“That structure offers something,” he says. “It offered something to me.”
Massanutten Military Academy started Magruder on a lifelong path of success. He went on to Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania before starting a long career in the construction industry in Maryland. About 20 years ago, he joined Massanutten’s board of trustees because he wanted to give back to the school that had given him so much.
“Like many other graduates, if it wasn’t for Massanutten, I don’t know where I’d be in life,” says Magruder, who’s served as the school’s chairman of the board since 2010. “I have always felt a huge debt of gratitude to the academy.”
As part of his work at the school, Magruder has strived to improve the facilities. In conjunction with one of his fellow graduates and board members, MI Windows and Doors Salesman Steve Rehman, Magruder had approximately 300 windows replaced on Benchoff Hall in the summer of 2019. The windows were donated by MI Windows and Rehman.
“When you ask a child why they picked Massanutten, frequently the No. 1 answer is, ‘We love the campus and the culture,’” Magruder says. “It’s a beautiful little school. And a lot of that is attributable to Steve Rehman.”
A member of the Massanutten Class of 1974, Rehman resides today in his native Maryland, where he followed his father Bob into the window sales business. Like Magruder, Rehman felt a need to give back to his alma mater. He quickly realized that he could help Magruder’s efforts to enhance the school’s aesthetics by donating new windows.
This beautification effort was sorely needed. According to Magruder, when he first became a member of the board over 20 years ago, the school had peeling paint and damaged furniture in buildings all over campus.
“We’ve upgraded our facilities,” Magruder says. “We now have a reliable heating system, all new furniture. We redid the gym and we redid the storefront on the activity building. The campus is gorgeous today: Everything from the landscaping to the buildings.”
Once these restorations were made, Rehman felt that it was the appropriate time to replace the windows.
“After 110 years of no air conditioning at the school, Massanutten invested over $5 million in upgrades and improvements, which included air conditioning,” Rehman says. “The old system was a central heating system without air conditioning, so there was no real cost saving to replacing the windows at the time. With the new windows, we hope to save 50 percent on our energy costs and improve the look of the interior and exterior of the building.”
For Benchoff Hall, which is the largest building on campus and serves myriad functions, Rehman chose MI’s 3540 single-hung window. Featuring heavy-duty weatherstripping and additional metal reinforcement in the sash stiles, the 3540 is an ideal vinyl window for a structure like Benchoff Hall.
“I selected the 3540 with high-performance Low-E glass for the durability and the ease of maintaining the windows,” Rehman says. “We chose a single-hung for common sense: half the moving parts, less air infiltrations, and ease of maintenance.”
The window installation at Benchoff Hall is just the latest fenestration upgrade at Massanutten. Over the years, Rehman has secured windows for numerous buildings, including the girls’ dormitory, lecture halls, and the activity center.
For Rehman, Magruder, and the rest of the board members, alumni, teachers, and staff who have worked hard to improve conditions at Massanutten, the results are paying off. The school, which educates children from fifth grade through a postgraduate year, is in the midst of a renaissance. Many of the instructors have at least a master’s degree, nearly all of the graduates go on to college, and an International Baccalaureate program was created in the spring of 2019.
And then there are the extracurricular activities. Various sports teams – from the rifle team to the postgraduate basketball team – are among the best in Virginia, and a group that specializes in running the obstacle course represents the school in Canada every year. Moreover, the Junior ROTC has been named an “Honor Unit with Distinction.”
“The quality of the students and their families has been upgraded,” Magruder says. “We’re the best-kept secret among the military schools. Our story is pretty phenomenal.”
Magruder continues to marvel at this new class of student. During his visits to Massanutten, he’s amazed at the kids’ support for one another.
“We have a talent show ever year, and the kids will do things like sing and dance,” he says. “Every now and then, a kid gets up and will struggle, he’ll get nervous. These other kids will encourage him and clap to the music and help him out. And pretty soon, you see the kid get his courage and perform. And then he gets a standing ovation from the other kids. I’ve never seen anything like it; it’s really a neat place.”
It’s also a different place than the one Magruder and Rehman remember from their own days – and they’re both fine with that. Massanutten today is more academically stringent, more diverse, more reflective of the world around it. But its overall mission remains the same as when it opened in 1899.
“Massanutten has a 120-year tradition of getting students ready for the real world through character development, leadership, discipline, and structure,” Rehman says. “The high-caliber young men and women there are striving to build character and develop the structure needed for life.”
While echoing Rehman’s thoughts about their alma mater, Magruder also notes that the school has a special place in his heart because it’s where he first learned that he could be successful. A struggling student at his old school, Magruder got the opportunity to hit reset on his academic career when his grandmother offered to pay for him to go to Massanutten.
“I decided that if my grandmother was going to invest in me, I was going to make it a worthwhile investment,” he says. “I thrived in sports, I thrived in the military. I thrived everywhere you could thrive. It was the collective experience that gave me the tools and the confidence to go forward in life. The environment was there for me to achieve.”