The History of RMA: Past, Present, and Future


Student Council 1968

Ann Sumner Thorp

This year has brought many new and exciting changes to our school. With two new buildings and a new road, RMA is changing in a big way. But enough about the present, let’s take a look at the past and see how RMA has grown over the years.


Our beloved, Mrs. Patsy Bradley provided the following information.  She has been at RMA since the beginning. As the first buildings on campus were being constructed, the administration worked in a small office located in downtown Rocky Mount. The first school year in 1969 brought in 168 students, first through eleventh grade, and it only included an administration building, four academic buildings, and the gym. The first head of school was Richard E. Cutler who led fifteen teachers, one athletic director, one librarian, two office staff members, and one custodian.


Turner Westray Battle was instrumental in the founding of our school. According to Mrs. Bradley, “He along with a group of local businessmen founded RMA in 1968.” Battle served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for six years, and his leadership helped the school become accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1973. In honor of Mr. Battle, the Turner W. Battle Scholarship was started after his death rewarding students who show leadership, scholarship, college potential, and school spirit. In 1974, Kindergarten was added, but it wasn’t until 1985 that Pre-K was added.


The second year after opening, RMA doubled its enrollment to 315 students, and in 1974 reached 429 students. Students ate lunch upstairs in the gym where the concession area is now until 2002 when the cafeteria was added. The only sports offered during the first school year were JV and Varsity basketball and JV and Varsity cheerleading. In 1986, the Ann MacPherson Memorial Scholarship was added in memory of 1984 graduate Ann Weaver, who passed away two years earlier in 1984.


One frequently asked question is how the school’s location was picked. According to Mrs Bradley, “Our original Board of Trustees (13 members) wanted a location that could be annexed to the city so that utilities would be provided, and the current location of the school was perfect for the job.” Other interesting facts include that the courtyard was called the “Mall” area, and there were no covered sidewalks (imagine a rainy day). Also, Bill Goode was not the official photographer; a man named Will Bragg was, and students had to visit his studio to get their picture taken.


Now that we have covered the past, let’s jump to the recent past and then our future. About five years ago, the EDGE project was set into motion with new projectors and computers for sixth through twelfth grade. The projectors have been a valuable asset to the classroom allowing teachers to show presentations and videos. The computers have allowed students the flexibility to type notes and papers and work collaboratively on projects. More recently, RMA started an exchange program for students from China. These new students have given RMA a taste of Chinese culture and have allowed RMA students to form friendships with our guests from across the world. More recently, RMA has started building a new playground for students called Tyler’s Peak in memory of Tyler Strandberg who passed away in 2015. The playground is located behind the school and brings a bit of Wyoming to the back area of campus. Another recent school project is a new road leading to the back of the school allowing for better access to the sports fields behind the school.


Of special note, two new academic buildings are in the midst of construction. These new buildings will provide more classrooms and space for learning as well as a small theater for the arts and foreign language department. It has been 30 years since the last academic building was built, so we are all in the unique position to see this wonderful academic addition to our school, brick by brick.


While Mrs. Bradley contributed a lot of the information to this article, we should also highlight other faculty members with considerable amounts of services for our school. For example, Ms. Libba Weaver (1977), Ms. Yvonne Wiggins (1986), Mr. Billy Colbert (1980), and Ms. Carolyn Patton (1985). While people in our community point to buildings on our campus as RMA, it is actually the people who have come before us and are here now that make RMA, RMA. We have a rich history and an exciting future, thanks to people, the RMA Family.


RMA Homecoming Queen 1968 Shawn Daughtridge