Two Valley School alumni, Ian Fox and Noah Lawson, class of 2020, have been appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Valley School was honored to host the ceremony last week at Ian and Noah’s request. Pennsylvania USMA Admissions Field Force Co-coordinator, Brigadier General Robert Sembower (R-PA), presented a brief video and spoke to the candidates, their families, friends, and the school community about the rigor of West Point’s selection process and the intensity of the institution’s academic, professional, and physical programs.
West Point appointees generally excel academically throughout their high school careers, have an extensive record of extracurricular activities, demonstrate exemplary leadership skills, and have received congressional or service-connected nominations. In accepting their appointments, Ian and Noah commit to four years of what is perhaps the nation’s most unrelenting academic, physical, and field-specific training. They will enter the Armed Forces as commissioned Army officers and will serve a minimum of five years of active duty and three years in the reserves.
Acceptance to West Point is remarkable given that only 1,200 of the annual 50,000 applicants gain admission. But Ian and Noah’s appointments are especially significant in that they began their education together at Valley School in kindergarten and were classmates through 8th grade. “It is extremely unusual for West Point to accept two applicants from the same district” explained Sembower, “but to have two who have been lifelong friends and come from the same school and class is virtually unheard of. They are truly exceptional young men.” Though they attended different high schools— Noah will graduate from Ligonier Valley High School and Ian will graduate from Shanksville-Stoneycreek High School—their shared childhood, common goals, and parallel West Point application experiences kept them connected.
At the acceptance ceremony, Noah and Ian each addressed the audience, thanking their families and friends for unwavering support, looking ahead with confidence, and reflecting back with gratitude. They recalled the moments when West Point became their ambition. For Noah, it was in sixth grade; for Ian, it was in eighth. When asked what qualities they each possess that have prepared them for the challenges that lie before them, both young men referenced the character education they received at Valley School. Noah explained that “Valley School helped to form the foundation for my character, values, and selflessness. Having strong character and values is essential to being an ideal cadet.” Ian reminisced about learning the value of hard work at Valley School. “Though I struggled sometimes with math, I had a teacher who believed that success is a matter of hard work. I took his message to heart and dedicated myself to study and practice, and was able to stay at the top of my class. That taught me that I can’t be satisfied with giving a mediocre effort. I don’t deal in half-measures.”
When asked how they’ll approach the infamously-difficult first year at West Point, Noah stated, “By taking it one day at a time and never putting my head down, no matter how hard it becomes. I will also rely on and give support to my fellow cadets.” Ian similarly referenced the importance of attitude. “I believe that mindset is critical. I’ve always enjoyed challenging endeavors, but at some point, it will become grueling. When that happens, I’m going to stay positive. I’m going to tell myself that I can do it.”
After Ian and Noah accepted their appointments and accompanying scholarships (amounting to over $400,000 combined), they spent time visiting with their former Valley School teachers—some of whom are now retired but returned to the school for the occasion. Teachers always want the best for their students and are glad for their dreams achieved, but for many present last week, the dedication, perseverance, and ambition Ian and Noah embody made for an especially heartwarming reunion. We congratulate Ian and Noah, and with infinite pride, wish them much success, strength, safety, and fulfillment.
In an environment that is safe, challenging, nurturing, and disciplined, Valley School provides a balanced and strong program of study for a diverse group of children. Our goal is to stimulate in each young person lifelong habits of moral behavior, seeking wisdom, and doing good works for others.