Each month leading up to BMA’s 50th anniversary celebration on June 12-14, 2020, we present to you an academy alumnus/alumna. Join us as we look “Inside the Den.” Learn about how the academy has evolved over time, and gain new insight on how the school shaped these Burkie Bears’ lives in ski racing and in life.
Since its inception in 1970, the academy has been home to 1,178 students, including 36 who have gone on to compete in the Olympics and 145 who have been members of national teams representing the USA, Australia, Canada, Chile, Estonia, Great Britain, Japan, South Korea, and Spain. Above and beyond the athletic success of its alumni, BMA has always embraced a progressive educational model that focuses on engendering creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving in all of its graduates. To learn more about BMA’s celebratory reunion, CLICK HERE.
This month, we present you to Andrew Foukal. After graduating from BMA in 2002, Andrew went on to earn a degree in Physics and is now the co-founder of an energy storage development firm in Virginia. Read more about his journey and how BMA still impacts him to this day.
Why did you choose to attend BMA?
I was fortunate to grow up skiing at Burke. I started racing in the junior program from the age of about 8 or 9 and loved every minute of it. I had some great coaches – Steve Murphy, Dwyane Johnson, to name a few – who were parents of other kids in the program and had accomplished ski racing backgrounds themselves. I idolized “the Academy” kids when I was in the junior program, so it was only a matter of convincing my parents to let me go.
What memories stand out the most from your Burkie days?
One of my first Burke memories was unintentionally joining the cross-country running team. I started at BMA in my sophomore year. The first physical test was the 1.75-mile run. I was a tall and lanky kid with a lot of nervous energy. I put all that energy into the run, and I finished in 10th place amongst the boys. The icing on the cake after two hard days of tests came when Ric Prescott introduced himself to me and let me know that by finishing in the top 10, I was now a de facto member of the BMA cross-country running team for the fall. Needless to say, I did not finish in the top 10 of the 1.75 mile run my junior and senior year.
What was your favorite workout at BMA?
There was a short period of time where one of the coaches thought it was a good idea to do sprints up Dish Mill Brook. This involved a large number of students sprinting as fast as they could against the current. Sometimes you could stay dry for a stretch by jumping from rock to rock, but eventually, everyone slipped and fell in, sometimes up to their waists. The workout was hilarious because everyone was constantly slipping and falling. Unfortunately, that also resulted in a few sprained ankles and some minor hypothermia; I don’t recall doing the workout more than once.
What are special classroom memories from your BMA days?
I had a great group of teachers while I was there (’99-’02): History from Kathy Gunderson and Val Weinstein, Math from Chaim Lodish and German with Marcus Vogt. I’ll never forget Ric Prescott and his beard teaching the Krebs cycle stages in biology while sporting his spring morning run attire — sun-faded purple spandex shorts and an old t-shirt. My favorite teacher was Tom De Carlo. I was also fortunate to have him as my advisor, which meant that I occasionally got to go to dinner at his house where he and Hillary would cook amazing meals for us. He would regularly make his students read out loud to the class, which I loathed. In one class, I was reading my section and the word “organism” came up. Instead of saying the correct pronunciation, I said “orgasm.” Everyone in the class lost it, including Tom and me. Tom was laughing so hard that he was tearing up. My embarrassment quickly faded as I realized the silliness of the moment. Tom is still to this day a great mentor and friend of mine.
What did you do after graduating?
I went to Bates and graduated with a degree in Physics. I skied there for one season. I had a couple of concussions my senior year at Burke that cut my season short. They made me realize that I was ready to be focusing on other things in life than just skiing.
What was your professional journey after BMA?
After Bates, I went on a cross-country motorcycle trip for 8 months with a few friends from college. It was an amazing experience and a great way to see the country as well as learn how to maintain and repair a bike. After that, I pursued my passion for sailing and materials science and started building carbon fiber racing sailboats in Rhode Island. Unfortunately, that company went bankrupt in the recession of 2008. I then kept pursuing my materials science interest and went to work in Boston for an emerging technology consulting firm. From there, I joined a start-up solar development firm for 10 years. I am now a co-founder of an energy storage development firm in Virginia called East Point Energy.
What lessons did you learn at BMA that you’ve carried forward in your adult life?
I learned the power of a community. When you’re surrounded by people who are and pushing themselves to be the best and supporting each other, it makes everyone better. Burke also taught me grit – how to set long-term goals, have the courage and resilience to keep working hard to achieve them and learn from your mistakes and setbacks.
What is your relationship to skiing now?
My wife grew up skiing recreationally and it is one of our favorite activities to do together. We have been teaching our 4-year-old how to ski for the past two seasons. His favorite athlete is Mikaela Shiffrin. Seeing how much he loves to ski gives us a lot of joy. Even in Charlottesville, Virginia, we have a small hill (Wintergreen) less than an hour away, so we are looking forward to skiing being a regular family activity.
Do you plan to attend the 50th?
We try to make it back to Burke about once a year to ski. I hope to get back for the 50th, but my wife is expecting our 3rd baby in May, which will restrict my travel. If I do make it, it will be a bit of a last-minute decision.