Jim Fowler would be only third Brown County student since '80s to attend service academy

EARLY — At Early High School this fall, a 17-year-old senior named Jim Fowler hopes to become the first Brown County student in more than a decade to be admitted to a service academy, and the third since the 1980s.
    Fowler is still in the application process and he hopes to win a nomination from Congressman Mike Conaway to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. If he wins the nomination, it will be up to the Naval Academy to accept him.
    Fowler, who hopes to become a Marine infantry officer, is from a family that has a history with the military. Fowler visited the Naval Academy recently as an invitee at the academy’s expense.
    “I thought it was pretty great,” Fowler said of his visit. “I hung out with my plebe, which is basically a freshman there. Everybody was in uniform, and they have to answer with a bunch of respectful words.”
    If Fowler wins the appointment and graduates from the academy, he will have obtained an education valued at more than $400,000 and earned a commission as a naval officer. He’ll also have a commitment of several years as a naval officer.
    The service academy appointments of Brown County students occur “not often enough,” said retired Brownwood ophthalmologist Dr. Steve Kelly, who with Dr. Dan Locker, also retired, services on Conaway’s committee that nominates applicants.
    “We haven’t had anybody for several years.”
    The last Brown County student to be appointed to a service academy was Joey Ellis, who graduated from Brownwood High School in the early 2000’s, Kelly said. The last two before Ellis were two Brownwood High graduates in the ‘80s, he said.
    A handful of other students have applied over the years but could not meet the rigorous standards in one or more areas, Kelly said. Others started the application process but did not follow through.
    A high school student can be nominated by a U.S. congressman or senator, and there are also presidential and vice-presidential nominations, Kelly said. There are also athletic appointments, he said.
    The criteria for admittance to a service academy are character, intelligence, leadership and physical fitness, Kelly said.
    “The competition is fierce nationwide,” Kelly said. “They want the best of the best. It’s tough. It requires a significant commitment. A service academy education is one where kids will reach their maximum potential — academically, physically, mentally and leadership-wise.”
    Class size at the Naval Academy is about 1,000 each year, but that number can vary depending on the needs of the Navy, Kelly said.
    Fowler must have his application to Conaway’s San Angelo office by Oct. 18 if he is to be considered for a nomination to the academy, Kelly said.
    Fowler is one of three siblings raised by his grandparents, Wyman and Diana Kelcy. Jim and his sister, DeeAndra, a student at Texas State University, and younger brother Jeramiah, an Early High School student, have come to “love, respect and cherish God,” Diana Kelcy said.
    Kelcy said Jim is “motivated, determined and a hard worker, and very compassionate. He pushes himself. He’s a very strong person. He’s going to make a good Marine.”