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Military academy's new leader plans to keep tradition alive

| Saturday, April 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

WAYNE — Stacey R. Sauchuk, the first woman to head a private military academy in the United States, hopes to attract more female cadets to the Valley Forge Military Academy and College, and to increase the school's enrollment.

Sauchuk, 53, who will assume her post as president on June 1, was on the scenic campus Thursday to meet with a reporter and also to sample foods from cadets' home countries for the school's annual International Day celebrations. Students hail from 28 foreign countries and 30 states and territories.

“I really am very student focused,” said Sauchuk. “I want them to know that I'm interested in their opinions, their experience and that I think that our job is really to make sure that experience is the best that it can be here.”

While Sauchuk, who grew up near Baltimore, does not have a military background, she is an alumnus of nearby Eastern University and served on the board of trustees of her alma mater, including seven years as chairwoman of that board. During that time, she got to know VFMAC when Eastern negotiated a land purchase, she said.

Sauchuk, who holds master's and doctoral degrees in educational psychology from Temple University, was president and CEO of the Art Institute of Philadelphia and held management roles in the institute's parent company, Education Management Corp.

Interim President James Doyle said that Sauchuk brings a wealth of experience in educational leadership.

“We went through a very rigorous process,” he said. “Well over 100 candidates applied.” Sauchuk was vetted by teachers, staff and alumni representatives.

While she hasn't served in the military, Sauchuk plans to keep the military focus of the academy.

“I'm 100 percent committed to the military model,” she said. “What the board was feeling was a need for a fresh perspective.”

One of her goals is to increase the school's enrollment. Currently, there are 487 students in grades 7 through 12 at the academy and the two-year college program. The school's highest enrollment some years ago was 1,200, she said.

“I'd love to see us get back to 1,200,” she said. “That won't happen overnight. At that point there will be a vibrancy and energy that will be very exciting.”

There are 19 women cadets in the college. Sauchuk said she believes she can draw more women in with marketing and also by improving athletic opportunities.

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