Bill Henderson, a 1947 graduate of Riverside and the school’s Best Drill New Cadet of 1945, came from Savannah to Gainesville to mark 60 years since his graduation.
"I especially wanted to come up for that," Henderson said.
After attending some homecoming activities Friday, Henderson said it’s overwhelming to see the changes that Riverside has undergone. Henderson, who came to the school in 1945, remembers his days at the academy vividly, from his old teachers to the daily routine.
"They’ve modernized the school, and it’s really beautiful now and much different than when I was there," he said. "It’s hard to believe how big it’s become."
Henderson was sent to Korea shortly after he graduated from Riverside. He said his military training at the school helped him with his duties in the Marine Corps. He also attended the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia.
Henderson wanted to go to Riverside when he was younger, because his father had gone to military school.
Sixty years later, the world has changed, but Riverside students still follow a path similar to Henderson’s.
Lt. Col. Tersoo Uhaa of Stone Mountain is a senior at Riverside this year. He is the academy’s top-ranking cadet. He, too, has a family history of military school. Uhaa wanted to go to Riverside because his older brother had attended.
Uhaa said that attending Riverside has given him discipline and patience he may not have gotten in a public school."Had I stayed in public school, I wouldn’t be a ‘man’s man,’" Uhaa said.
Uhaa’s routine is similar to the one Henderson kept at Riverside in the 1940s.
Kate Maine, director of public relations for Riverside, said that a lot of students at the school are nephews, sons or grandsons of Riverside alumni.
"There are a lot of family connections that we have," Maine said.
But there are differences.
Unlike Henderson, Uhaa does not plan to join any branch of the military, even though both of them will have graduated during wartime.
Maine said that most students who attend these days do not join the military directly after graduating, if at all.
She said that is different from Henderson’s days at the academy, because since the Vietnam conflict the public’s perception of the military has changed.
She said the school focuses on college preparation, and Riverside has had a 100 percent college acceptance rate for nine years.
Riverside underwent a large renovation that started in 1997. Maine said that helped prepare the school for its second century of training young men. The school now admits day students, as well.
One hundred years later, Riverside still has the same focus it did when it opened its doors in 1907.
"We know boys," Maine said. "We’ve been helping boys excel for 100 years."