Culver Summer Schools, Camps changes outlined



Culver Summer Schools and Camps are aiming for the right balance of moving forward with innovations which make sense, and sticking with the time-honored traditions that have helped define it. That's an effort which goes well beyond what is arguably the most visible change in the program this summer for many: the shift from the longstanding Sunday evening time slot for beloved Garrison parades, to Saturday evening.

Summer Schools director Don Fox, moving into his first summer at the post, detailed other changes -- and the reasons behind them -- before an audience of Culver Kiwanians last Thursday at the Culver Public Library.

Fox, who succeeded longtime CSSC director Tony Mayfield, was introduced by Kiwanian David Baker, who said, "It makes us longtime Culver residents feel good" when people who move on to faraway places and return because, as Baker added, "Culver is the place to be."

A 1975 Culver Military Academy graduate, Fox became an attorney and worked for the Departments of the Navy and Air Force both as an active duty and a civil attorney. He would go on to run the US Department of Ethics, which operates out of the White House and which primarily examines the ethics of presidential appointments, a position Fox said was "fun and exciting for five years."

When he learned the Summer Camps director's position was still open, Fox said, he investigated and it became clear that Culver Head of Schools John Buxton "was looking for someone who had worked in a large, complex organization and could manage the staff and balance a budget," qualifications Fox felt he had.

He added he and his wife are "thrilled" to be able to live and work in Culver, rather than just retire here. Both of the couple's daughters attended summer camp (one also graduated from Culver Girls Academy) and consider Culver their second home, he said.

Going into this summer, Fox said CSSC has "a great staff, some exciting things going on, and a great legacy to build on," which he attributed among others to past directors such as Mayfield, Fred Lane, and Bruce Holaday.

He also noted this summer is seeing record numbers in terms of enrollment and applications.


Projecting towards the future and using the year 2020 as a target date begins with a look at the next few years, said Fox.
He explained the summer program had added a number of new offerings over recent years, including Junior Woodcraft, Halloween Camp, mini-camps, and more.

"The goal is a sustainable program that works both in terms of enrollment and financially; you've got to balance the traditions of Culver with keeping it fresh and innovative. It's good to do the same old stuff if it makes sense. If there's new stuff that makes sense, we need to be willing to try those too, but the changes have to support the mission of Culver, which is all about character and leadership."


This year saw more than 2,000 applicants for the CSSC's primary, six-week camps, a record number (1,407 is the maximum bed space for the program, Fox added).

Around 200 Junior Woodcrafters arrive the weekend of June 7, he said, as opposed to 140 last year.

More than 400 seasonal staff will add to the payrolls and the local economy, he noted.

Fox also corrected the sometimes-stated misconception that 60 percent of summer students come from Mexico (a figure he said someone quoted to him).

A pie chart he displayed demonstrated that the majority of attendees are North American, and while a "large slice" of non-US campers were indeed from Mexico, more than 30 countries in total were represented, including a growing number from the perhaps-surprising origin point of Jordan.


Changes to the well-established CSSC program are intended, Fox explained, to be "more parent and kid friendly," and include elimination of half day classes on Saturdays and Tuesdays; instead, classes will simply be Monday through Friday. Woodcrafters will start one hour later, in order to allow them more sleep.

A seventh class period is being added two evenings per week with a special emphasis on high-demand classes such as waterskiing, and most intramurals are being moved to evening to take advantage of the twilight hours.

Track and swim meets, he added, will take on a relay format.
Of course, the aforementioned Garrison Parade shift moves one of the most celebrated and cherished summer school traditions to 7 p.m. each Saturday night, with the equally revered Council Fire performance slated for 9:30 p.m. the same evening ("a double header," Fox quipped).

"Our focus was on parents (in making the decision). If you live further away that Indianapolis, you will be home very late Sunday or missing work on Monday (if you attended Sunday evening Garrison parades as previously scheduled)," explained Fox, adding that Saturday parades had long been a part of summer homecoming weekend already. He said the older schedule could be resumed in the future if the change didn't work.


The "big thing" this summer is the addition of two brand new butterfly (girls') cabins at the Woodcraft Camp, something largely driven by the program turning away "scores" of girls interested in the camp but unable to be accommodated by previously existing cabins. Both were donated by international families.

All Woodcraft cabins will also be re-numbered, since Fox joked that few could understand the previous system. Starting this summer, the girls' side will feature single to double-digit cabin numbers, and boys' side numbers will start at 100, which should make it easier, Fox suggested, for staff and family to keep track.

Two pioneer-era log cabins used for many years by the Indian Lore department are in "terrible shape," he said, and were under consideration for demolition. However, Fox said he was well aware that longtime Indian Lore head Dick Zimmerman, in his history book of the camp, had described one cabin as a local pioneer home which came to Woodcraft in 1913 and was moved to the present camp in the 1960s. The other camp, also quite early, was donated by a Woodcraft alum.

Fox said Marshall County resident and architectural historian Kurt Garner was brought in recently and was able to confirm one cabin was from 1850 or earlier (this in part by observing axe -- rather than saw -- marks on the logs) and the other from later in the 19th century (by then the tool of choice was a large, two-person saw).

Fiber optic cable and Wi-Fi are installed at the Woodcraft Camp, which allows staff to conduct more classes there utilizing the internet, which also cuts down on busing campers to the main camp.

A number of Woodcraft buildings which were underutilized or only utilized for storage were repurposed this year, he added.

In the area of safety, personal vehicles are being diverted away from the Woodcraft Headquarters area and instead will be parked in the old basketball courts at the camp.

"You'd never design Woodcraft then as it is now," Fox asserted. "Kids have to cross two roads to get from their cabins to the buildings."

The Academies' ice rink chillers may or may not make it through the entire summer, he explained, and are slated to be replaced August 1, after which the rink will shut down with plans to be open again in time for hockey season. Roller hockey will be introduced at summer camp as a backup and permanent addition.

Units 5 and 6 -- two of the 16 motel units located at the western edge of the Culver Academies campus -- were demolished this past spring, though Fox emphasized everyone is housed, with some in the remaining motel units sharing two roommates instead of just one.

Over time, he said, the remaining motels are expected to be demolished as well, but a series of events dependent upon a new boys' dorm -- which will facilitate moving the girls dorms -- must first take place, all of which will likely take a few years.

The Academies golf course is undergoing a "massive renovation," Fox said, with the most visible aspect being the restoration of the original bunkers, plus addition of a number of tees. Some tees will be stretched back and some forward, and tees will also be leveled as part of the work, he said. The course is closed for play until spring of 2015, though parts will be available for instruction. Part of the former Academies airport runway will be utilized as a new driving range and practice facility in the final course.


Over 70 classes will be offered this summer, Fox reported, including two new ones taught by winter school faculty: equine sculpture and an evening landscape painting course.

There is hope of adding some "Chautauqua-like" evening educational components utilizing boarding school staff for a multi-generational audience. Those presentations would be "just fun stuff" and not tested for credit.

A major change will also be in the area of registration, with summer 2015 re-enrollment opportunities by July of this summer. CSSC hoped to better manage parental expectations with a published schedule of admission milestones as well, added Fox.

There's also hope of deeper utilization overall of the winter school faculty and "centers of excellence" already strong during the boarding school months, such as the sailing, horsemanship, hockey, and tennis programs, which can add incentive by offering more of a year-round enhancement opportunity for students on a given athletic track.

Family camp is limited to one week, due to an already packed schedule, though two long weekends are also being considered.

Asked whether 'balanced calendar' approaches to public and private education outside of summer are being examined for their potential impact on Culver's summer program, Fox affirmed that they are.

In fact, he said, some students already miss the first few days of their school year by attending summer camp. The CSSC board is examining the matter.


CSSC was launched in 1902 with the Culver Summer Naval School, and saw its first international student as early as 1905. Two years later, the Summer Cavalry Camp was added, and in 1912, national Boy Scouting pioneer Daniel Carter Beard led the launch of Culver's Woodcraft Camp, something Fox described as "quite a legacy" for current Woodcraft director Heike Spahn to live up to ("She's more than up to the job," Fox added).

Fox pointed out that the role of Culver's summer program is often unseen in the telling of the legendary rescue of over 1,000 during the great flood in Logansport in 1913 by Culver Military Academy cadets.

Those cadets, he noted, could not have operated the massive Culver cutter boats had they not been well-trained Naval School students.

The school's summer aviation program launched in 1920 with seaplanes, and 1965 saw another milestone: the arrival of girls to the summer program, something Fox suggested was necessary as a precursor to the 1971 establishment of the Culver Girls Academy during the non-summer months.

He added that 30 percent of the boarding school girls and boys have had some type of summer experience at Culver prior to attending CMA or CGA.

He also said CSSC today has some 20,000 living alums, "far more" than the boys or girls winter programs.

Fox presented a chart tracking enrollment in the summer program since its inception, something he said Buxton suggested likely mirrored the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which Fox said "it pretty much does!"
Enrollment dipped, he noted, during the Vietnam War, "when Culver and the things it stood for were misunderstood," and a drop was visible during the more recent recession.



Please note that some CSSC dates were incorrect in last week’s (Jun5, page 3) Culver summer calendar. Below are confirmed correct dates and times. --Editor

Fri., June 20 and Sat., June 21: Registration for returning and new campers, respectively.

Saturdays from June 21 through July 26, 4 p.m.: Carillon recital, Memorial Chapel

Saturdays from June 28 through July 26, 7 p.m.: Garrison parade

Saturdays from June 28 through July 26, 9:30 p.m.: Woodcraft Council Fire

Fri. and Sat., July 11 (west shore) and 12 (east shore): Moonlight Serenade

July 18-20: Summer school Homecoming weekend

Wed., July 30: Communications Relay

Thurs., July 31: Woodcraft graduation

Fri., Aug. 1: Upper Camp retreat and graduation

Family Camps begin Aug. 3 and 10, respectively

Culver Academies (boarding school) classes begin Aug. 26