Riverside Military Academy (RMA), located in Gainesville, Georgia, founded in 1907, is a leading military college preparatory school for boys in grades 6-12. It is one of the few remaining institutions of its kind in the country. While most other all-male, boarding, military schools have deviated from their original mission, Riverside, for more than a century, remains true to its founding principles in preparing ethical young men of character for success in college and in life.
The Riverside vision began with two Gainesville, Georgia, businessmen and professors, Haywood Jefferson Pearce and Azor Warner Van Hoose, Jr. Pearce was president of the local women’s school, now Brenau University, and based upon his success there, these men gathered support from more than 30 local investors to charter an all-male, military school. As a result, construction for Riverside Military Academy began in 1907. The doors opened in the fall of 1908.
By 1913 the 25-acre campus included two brick buildings and a small wooden cottage. That same year, Pearce needed to fill a vacancy in Riverside’s administration and discovered Sandy Beaver, a talented young educator in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Sandy Beaver’s move to Gainesville was the beginning of a 56-year career at Riverside that can be said to be life-changing for many of the young men who came under his influence.
Sandy Beaver, born in Augusta, Georgia, was a graduate of the University of Georgia where he studied English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Sanskrit, and Spanish with a goal of becoming an international lawyer. He participated in Phi Kappa, the debating society, and played varsity baseball and football. One of his closest friends at the university was Eugene Talmadge, a future governor of Georgia, and an influential friend of Beaver’s throughout life. Beaver’s plans for a career in law changed when he accepted a position as an instructor at a boys’ preparatory school at Stone Mountain, GA. In addition to putting aside his aspirations to become a lawyer, he also turned down the opportunity to be Georgia’s first Rhodes Scholar.
Beaver knew that if Riverside was to be successful it had to have an outstanding faculty. Those early years were spent building a faculty of men whose names have become legendary among the cadets who had them as instructors. Many of them remained at Riverside for 20 or more years, and buildings and organizations at the Academy bear their names today. The most famous of these legendary figures are pictured in the photo gallery on this page.