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Army and Navy Academy celebrates 100 years

CARLSBAD — Army and Navy Academy cadets past and present will gather this weekend to celebrate the school’s biggest achievement yet — its 100th anniversary of educating young men in San Diego County.
The weekend-long Centennial Celebration schedule features a number of events that pay tribute to the academy’s history and look forward to its future. The event will also offer friends and family of the academy’s Warriors an in-depth look at life as a cadet.
“We need to preserve our history not only as a school, but as a community, so the next students know the background,” alumnus and school historian John Burden said. “The traditions are a part of the history and what makes this school so great.”
While the Army and Navy Academy’s history spans a century of highs and lows, it was off to a successful start when it first opened in Pacific Beach in 1910.
Retired Col. Thomas A. Davis opened the San Diego Army and Navy Academy with an inaugural class of 13 students to “educate and develop young men of good character.” In the late teens and early 1920s, his school was attracting students by the hundreds, alumnus and school historian Burden said.
“Davis had originally sold shoes with his father in Tennessee,” Burden said. “But he always had a dream of opening a school based on principles of good citizenship and honor.”
The school continued to grow and at its peak more than 550 cadets were enrolled at the Pacific Beach location. However, like many others in America, Davis struggled during the crash of 1929. Just a few years later in 1936, the bank seized and foreclosed on the school, sending Davis in search of a new location, Burden said.
Davis soon relocated to the academy’s current location in Carlsbad, which was then known as the Red Apple Inn. He leased the building and 40 surrounding acres to reestablish his school with 37 cadets.
In the following years, philanthropists Arthur and Gertrude Anderson would come into possession of the property. While leadership at the school changed hands several times after Col. Davis retired, the Andersons provided continuous financial and motivational support to keep the school afloat, Burden said.
“If it wasn’t for the Andersons and their generosity, the school probably wouldn’t be standing today,” he said.
Since the academy has been in Carlsbad, it has flourished under the guidance of several strong leaders. It continues to thrive as other military academies across the country close their doors, dwindling from 2,600 schools to just 24 nationwide in recent years, Burden said.
“We’re the last one left on the West Coast, and it’s because of our solid foundation,” he said.
Under the current leadership of school president Brig. Gen. Stephen Bliss, the academy is preparing for a full campus renovation that will update more buildings and add dormitories, Nicole Knight, the school’s marketing director, said.
This weekend’s centennial event will be a true celebration of the core mission Col. Davis originally founded the school on, as well as those who have kept his dream alive. Alumni will reminisce about their memorable moments on campus while helping current cadets prepare for success in their futures, Burden said.
“There were six kids in my starting class in 1956 and four of us are still in touch,” Burden said. “We form one big family — the school is the people, not the buildings.”
Community members are invited to attend several centennial celebration events, including Friday night’s Varsity Football Game and Saturday’s formal gala. Visit for a full list of events open to the public.