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New Riverside Military Academy president: Military model prepares students for life
Retired U.S. Army Col. William Gallagher has been selected by Riverside Military Academy’s Board of Trustees as the school's ninth president. Col. Gallagher has been leading the school since Dr. James H. Benson, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel, retired from Riverside at the end of the school year.

Riverside Military Academy is the “finest” in the United States as a private military academy, the school’s new president, retired Army Col. William Gallagher, said Wednesday.

That reputation comes from the school’s “360-degree focus” on the “military model,” Gallagher said.

“The military model is simply a vehicle,” he said, “to enable (its students) to be accepted into the college of their choice.”

The military model teaches integrity, character, respect and leadership, he explained. That model is “laid over” the academic performance of the school.

He noted that for a decade every graduating student has had college offers, and most were for the college of the student’s choice.

He characterized Riverside as “the most respectful, courteous, optimistic 200 acres in the United States.”

Gallagher, who has been at the school about three weeks, came here from Valley Forge Military College, which has middle school, high school and two years of college programs.

He said the two schools have about the same number of students, but Riverside is a narrower age group — grades 7-12. Riverside has about 530 students, he said.

Gallagher, 57, has been busy in his time here, emphasizing he wants Riverside to be an asset to the community. He has joined the Kiwanis, is a board member for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and joined American Legion Post 7. He said he also is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

He said the school’s color guard, band and chorus are available for community events, and faculty and staff are glad to be guest speakers for groups.

When he retired in 2009 from the military after a 28-year career as an infantry officer, Gallagher said he realized he “enjoyed the training and developing of young adults.”

“So I decided to go into education,” he said.

He was associate vice chancellor for operations and administration and chief operating officer in establishing the university in Abu Dhabi. He stayed in the Middle East and oversaw seven colleges — five for men and two for women — in Saudi Arabia.

Gallagher has a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and a Master of Arts in leader development, both from West Point, and an MBA from Long Island University. He is a doctoral candidate in education with the University of Liverpool.

He said he “served pretty much everywhere the Army was” in the 1980s and 1990s.

He served in Europe, a couple of tours in the Pentagon and “all over the U.S.” He also served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said he was “focused” on West Point as a goal early in his teenage years.

Gallagher said two jobs that were “very impactful” were as chief of staff for operations and chief of strategic plans for the Iraq war.

Those were “at the beginning stage of the surge,” he said, which he characterized as “a very difficult time.”

Despite Riverside’s reputation, Gallagher said, improvements always can be made. He said he expects the school to add to its “day students” — about 15 now — especially from the Gwinnett County area. Transportation to and from school would be offered, he said.

The school also is considering a capital campaign to raise money for improvements to its natatorium and for an indoor athletic and recreation facility.

He noted that physical fitness is a part of the daily routine at Riverside — part of its emphasis on leadership.

Gallagher emphasized that leadership is a critical part of the Riverside culture.

“We first teach the cadet how to be a good follower,” he said.

They learn to be leaders by observing other leaders, he said.

“Leaders serve. Leaders work hard and roll up their sleeves,” Gallagher said. “They take care of the people they’re leading.”