Valley Forge Military Academy & College Gets Revamp from President Stacey R. Sauchuk
As a female civilian head of a military academy with an 80-plus year history, there's no doubt Sauchuk has her work cut out for her. But with a hefty resume and clear goals, Sauchuk may give the institution a much-needed about-face.
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In the midst of its 85th alumni celebration this spring, so many students at Valley Forge Military Academy & College wore literal and figurative badges of honor. In a special video, a poised Shenika Walker wanted the world to know that she’d learned perseverance and patience at the school. She’s now enrolled at Ball State University.
Looking on, Stacey R. Sauchuk couldn’t have been prouder. “You walk this campus, and it’s just an amazing experience,” says the school’s new president, who took the helm last month. “You don’t get saluted many places anymore.”
Sauchuk calls herself an “out-of-the-box hire.” Talk about an understatement. She is the first female civilian president at a private military academy and college in the country. As it turns out, her education, business experience, skills and leadership style were a spot-on match for the job.
Born and raised outside Baltimore, Sauchuk came to the Main Line to attend Eastern University, where she studied for a career in social work, graduating in 1981. She later served on Eastern’s board of trustees.
Sauchuk eventually gravitated toward sales, and then it was on to graduate school at Temple University. She became a psychologist and returned to social work, managing programs for a child-welfare agency in Philadelphia. More recently, Sauchuk served as COO for ESF Summer Camps in Haverford. She also had a tenure as president and CEO of the Art Institute of Philadelphia.
Sauchuk arrives on VFMA&C’s Wayne campus during a time of declining enrollment and administrative turnover—and she’s poised to make some serious changes. “We have to preserve what’s great and rich about this experience, but we also have to be innovative,” she says. “What’s unique is the military model, but where do we fit in anymore?”
During the job-interview process, the message from the school was loud and clear: Return the focus to the cadet experience, further academic excellence, boost retention, focus on development, and grow enrollment by “fixing the marketing engine.” That means changing the outside perception that VFMA&C is a school for the “bad kids.”
“It’s not,” Sauchuk says.
Other crucial positions at the school remained unfilled until the president was hired. Sauchuk is responsible for hiring a director of development, a commandant and an athletic director. She will live on campus but keep her home in Gladwyne.
At the top of Sauchuk’s to-do list: establishing evening and weekend programs for veterans and regular folks to help fill empty classrooms. She also must ferret out new revenue streams while preserving and utilizing VFMA&C’s prime asset—its 100-acre physical plant.
Other than seeing cadets at parades and other events around Wayne, Sauchuk hadn’t had much exposure to the school. Then, as board chair at Eastern, she was involved in a 20-acre land purchase the university made from VFMA&C in 2010. After being on campus, she walked away with a “wow.”
Perhaps it’s as much of a “wow” as the institution is getting for naming a woman as its president. And she’s nonmilitary, too. “That duo is pretty significant,” says Sauchuk. “But the vast majority of those who’ve reached out have been positive. They’re so excited that Valley Forge has the vision to try something different. There will be naysayers, but that doesn’t bother me. If this hire does anything, it makes a huge statement right out of the gate that it will not be business as usual.”