Augusta Preparatory Day School students brought their upper school principal to tears Tuesday with a heartfelt goodbye.
The students surprised retiring Janet Hicks with a video expressing their appreciation and well-wishes.
“I seldom get ‘got’ that bad,” Hicks said to the auditorium full of high school students. “That was very sweet.”
Hicks, former commanding general of Fort Gordon, announced her retirement in January after eight years at Augusta Prep.
“She is such an amazing woman,” senior Megan Fechter said. “She’s put so much time and effort into the school.”
In the video, students described Hicks as a “cheerleader” who is supportive and motivating. Since taking over as leader of the Upper School in August 2005, Hicks said she hass attended every game, performance and school event possible.
“I’m going to be very busy (in retirement),” Hicks told the students. “But I’m still going to be at the big games and I will still be cheering in the crowd for you.”
After Hicks retired from 30 years in the Army, her first day at Augusta Prep was in August 2005.
“It took me about 10 minutes to get used to being a high school principal,” Hicks said.
She has a masters degree in education and had planned to teach before entering the Army. Hicks said there’s a lot of similarities between leading 20,000 Fort Gordon soldiers and 200 teenagers at Augusta Prep. As a leader in both positions, Hicks said she tried to ensure those she was leading were successful.
“It is just very similar in that you try to create an environment in which everybody can do his (or her) thing,” Hicks said.
With the end of the school year looming, Hicks said she is focused on getting to graduation, closing out the school and preparing her successor, Stephen Schools.
Hicks has no plans to porch-rock her retirement away. She wants to spend more time with her mother and plans to become a trained hospice volunteer. Her mother was a hospice volunteer in Iowa for many years, and Hicks said she, too, wants to serve families in need.
“Now my mom can’t do that anymore, and I want to pick up the ball and move it down the field,” Hicks said.
She’ll miss being around the students and her colleagues, but she won’t be alone. She’s taking a friend into retirement with her.
Pilot, a drug-sniffing black Labrador brought to the school regularly to perform deterrence checks of the grounds, formed a bond with Hicks during his visits. Now Pilot is retiring.
“We’re going to take care of each other for the rest of our lives,” Hicks said. “I’m adopting him. ... I’m going to have a partner in retirement and I hope my cats forgive me.”
Hicks’ students will miss her.
“You’ve always been there for all the students and it’s very sad to see you go,” Fechter said. Hicks said her time at Augusta Prep was lots of fun. She hopes graduation won’t be her last interaction with former students.
“If our paths cross again,” Hicks told the students through tears, “it will definitely be a wonderful day for me.”