A very long time ago I left the rare confines of a very privileged life in New Canaan, Connecticut, and joined the United States Army as an Infantry Soldier. To say that I had a rather abrupt awakening to the realities of life in the alligator and mosquito-infested swamps surrounding Ft. Polk on the Louisiana/Texas border in the sweltering summer months is quite an understatement. LOL
Yet, despite all odds, I not only survived but actually thrived in the first actual disciplined environment of my rather spoiled young life. Upon finishing months of the hardest physical training, I could only imagine in my worst nightmares…I was picked out of the enlisted ranks of the Regular Army and whisked off to the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (USMAPS, known as “West Point Prep”). Remarkably and completely unexpectedly I had received a Secretary of the Army Appointment to West Point and was sent to USMAPS to await the next class at the United States Military Academy as a brand new cadet.
One of my fellow “Cadet-Candidates” at USMAPS was the son of the Colonel in charge of ROTC and we became friends during our year together. I quickly surmised that winning a 4-year ROTC Scholarship would give me the same benefits of a free college education and lieutenant’s bars upon graduation as a West Point graduate. I queried my friend to ask his father, the Colonel if I might be eligible to receive an ROTC Scholarship if I tendered back my West Point Appointment to the Alternate. Unfortunately, he shut that down because I was Regular Army and not eligible for a civilian ROTC Scholarship.
Of course, I didn’t take “No” for an answer and persisted until I actually did receive the Army 4-Year ROTC Scholarship and matriculated to my all-time “dream school” of the University of Virginia, where I joined their ROTC Unit. The alternate for my Appointment was able to go on to West Point and everyone was happy…especially me.
Where it really gets interesting and is the thrust of this blog is that my attendance at UVa., opened up the doors for me to enroll in “Entrepreneurship” at the McIntire School of Commerce…a highly coveted 4th-year elective, which I was “no-way no-how” eligible for as a 1st-year student. Of course, I didn’t take “No” for an answer there either and I entered the class, acing it, and started my first “official” business from my business plan that summer after classes ended.
This now brings me to the “full circle” theme of my story here in this blog…
I made a veritable fortune as a fledgling entrepreneur that summer…pulling in $55,000 in cold, hard cash in 10 weeks as a 19-year old in his “summer job,” so to speak. Extrapolating that sum over one year I quickly surmised that in 1977 I actually made more than the President of The University of Virginia. That clinched it for me and I tendered back the remaining 3 years of my ROTC Scholarship to the “Alternate” (just like I did with West Point) and left both the University and my military service ending with an Honorable Discharge and health benefits that I still enjoy today.
As they say, I went off to “fame and fortune” but never forgot my roots. I lectured each semester in my Professor’s “Entrepreneurship” class until he retired 10 years later, catching the proverbial bug of being a teacher. I even taught an entrepreneurship class of my own years later at ASU’s Barrett Honors College and actually co-founded this Country’s first accredited “College of Entrepreneurship” at Grand Canyon University 30 years after leaving UVa. Along the way, I founded 150 new companies and even went through Harvard Business School’s elite OPM Program in the late 80s. The point I want to make here is that I NEVER forgot my debt of gratitude to the United States Army and many decades later I am about to return the favor.
Watch my upcoming blogs over the next few weeks. I think I really have something very exciting to help a lot of people….specifically our cherished Military Veterans.
Follow the “(Ad) Ventures in Capitalism” of Serial Start-Up Entrepreneur” Peter J. Burns III at www.peterjburns3.com.
Posted 15th December 2020 by Peter J. Burns III