They both grew up in Aldie, with their family driveways on the same road about a quarter mile apart. They were in the same class at Hill School from Kindergarten all the way through the eighth grade. And now, George Williams and Annie Dunlap also have something else in common:
This fall, they will both be attending college at two of the nation’s most prestigious military institutions—Dunlap the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Williams the Naval Academy in Annapolis.
“It’s going to be an Army-Navy rivalry right there on Aldie Dam Road,” said Richard Williams, George’s properly proud father, and himself a Hill graduate.
Until recently, George and Annie had no idea they’d be making Hill history, the first time two students from the same class would be matriculating at the two academies at the same time. They were friends and neighbors growing up but went their separate ways in high school. George attends Woodberry Forest, an all-boys boarding school in Orange, Virginia, and Annie goes to John Champe High School in Aldie.
“It’s really such a coincidence,” Annie said of both being accepted to the two academies. “He went off to Woodberry so I really haven’t seen him that much, but I’m looking forward to talking to him about it.”
Said George, “I think she knew what she wanted (about her choice of college) before I did.”
Annie said her first exposure to the military came when she was in the fourth grade and visited the Marine base in Quantico to see her uncle complete his training. At about the same time, she also was picking up a lacrosse stick at Hill, a sport her father played in high school. She was soon playing in a local rec league, then competing at Hill and eventually on a travel team.
Over the last three years, she captained and was named the most valuable player on her high school team and won numerous all-conference and all-regional honors, as well. When she learned that Army had added a Division I women’s lacrosse team to its athletic program several years ago, it definitely got her attention.
“I contacted the coaches and visited West Point when I was in the tenth grade,” she said. “I loved it, loved everything about it. We went on a tour. I observed some classes. My mom thought everyone was supposed to be marching to class, that it was super strict. But people were laughing; it seemed relaxed and very normal to me. I met the lacrosse team, and that was super fun. I connected with everyone. A saw that a lot of the professors were officers and I thought it was great they came back to teach.”
From then on, West Point was her first choice. She was nominated for her appointment by Rep. Barbara Comstock and plans to focus on an academic course that will involve international relations and strategic studies.
George Williams plans to study mechanical engineering at the Naval Academy and also will be heavily involved in athletics. At 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds, he’s a natural to row on Navy’s crew team, a grueling sport both his parents also participated in as college students.
Several years ago, he attended a rowing camp in southern Virginia and then attended summer crew camps at the Naval Academy, as well.
“He went there more for the rowing than from the perspective of going to school there,” said his father, Richard Williams. “But you’re there for a week, and you really get a sense of the place. He went back the next year and his interest developed from that.”
His family also had significant military ties, including his maternal grandfather, a career officer in the Navy for 37 years. “We had several relatives who had gone to the Academy and played football,” said George, who received his Naval Academy appointment from Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. “For me, it was definitely ‘this would be really cool to do.’”
Both George and Annie also said their time at Hill School provided a strong foundation, both academically and athletically, for their continued success in high school, and now obviously beyond.
“Hill was a very good experience for me,” George said. “It really prepared me for Woodberry.”
Said Annie, “going from a small independent school to a public high school made me appreciate all the individual attention I got at Hill. The teachers paid attention to the little things, and they helped me develop really great habits. Hill definitely got me ready to do well in high school.”
Katherine Weeden, one of Annie’s math teachers and her lacrosse coach at Hill remembers the spring of 2013 and including the following comment in her report card “This season I treated Annie as my unofficial assistant lacrosse coach. Her leadership, encouragement, and work ethic helped every player improve. In games, she typically won the draw and then adjusted the tempo, and placement of the players, to ensure a positive experience for every member of the team.”
“We are exceptionally proud of both Annie and George,” said Head of School Treavor Lord. “What is especially gratifying is knowing both of them since they were five years old! It has been a pleasure to watch them grow as students, athletes, and leaders. They are hard workers and very disciplined. We are confident that they will do well at the Academies.”
And now, there’s plenty more to come for the two former classmates, friends and neighbors marching proudly down Aldie Dam Road and on to West Point and Annapolis.