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The Power of One Man’s Vision

Not many people know who Captain William (Bill) Gary, USMCR (ret) was. He recently passed away and it gave me pause to think about the impact his vision has had on me. Captain Gary was the driving force in founding The Marine Military Academy (MMA) in 1965.

He had a vision of providing young men, including his own son, with an education based on traditions and ideals inspired by the United States Marine Corps. In the early 1960s, Capt. Gary began looking for a school for his son. He specifically wanted to send his son to a secondary school that embraced the ideology of the Marine Corps. Capt. Gary believed the concepts of leadership, discipline and moral values could be successfully applied to a college-preparatory education. He could not find such a school, so he decided to start one. In 1963, he recruited a group of prominent Marines to assist him, including Gen. Vernon McGee, USMC (Ret); Lt. Gen. Edwin Pollack, USMC (Ret); Lt. Gen. Holland Smith, USMC (Ret); Brig. Gen. Walter McIlhenny, USMCR (Ret); and Maj. Orrin Johnson, USMCR (Ret).

MMA’s home was to be in Prescott until Capt. Gary and his supporters learned of Harlingen Air Force Base, located in the southernmost part of Texas. The defunct military base was used to train combat navigators during World War II. Gary envisioned the base as a campus, a campus for an all-boys, military boarding school. He began building the educational laboratory that would develop today’s young men into tomorrow’s leaders.

Capt. Gary spent two years laying the foundation for MMA, finding financial backers and recruiting staff. On September 9, 1965, MMA opened its doors to 58 cadets; six would comprise the first graduating class of 1966.

I attended MMA from August 1968 until I graduated in May of 1974. I am a direct beneficiary of Capt. Gary’s vision. I learned concepts of self-discipline, preparedness and honor that, in many ways, have been more valuable to me than the rest of my education. Capt. Gary was tireless in bringing his vision to life despite having limited personal resources. I regret that I never thanked him personally.

The impact one can have on community is too often undervalued. If you have a vision of something bigger than yourself don’t hide it. MMA has graduated hundreds of young men equipped with values and principles that have a positive effect on society thanks to one man’s vision.



The Power of One Man’s Vision