Eastern Arizona College student appointed to West Point

Photo By Sophia Saldana/Courtesy EAC: From left, Keith Alexander, EAC special assistant to the president, Gary Sorensen, EAC dean of students, Hyrum Gray, and Aaron Burk, EAC dean of academics, STEM and Allied Health gather outside EAC’s Go Monsters! mural to commemorate Gray’s appointment to West Point.

By Kris McBride/EAC

THATCHER — An Eastern Arizona College student has been appointed to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Hyrum Gray, who attended EAC from 2021 – 2023, becomes a West Point cadet next month and attributes his academic success to EAC.

“EAC has given me the tools and credentials to qualify for an appointment at West Point,” said Gray. “Without learning consistent skills from professors who care about me, I would not have had the academics to survive and thrive at West Point. EAC’s been an amazing steppingstone, and something I will never forget.”

Gray is the son of Clinton and Shauna Gray from Sierra Vista, Arizona, and the fourth of five children. His younger brother Alonzo currently attends EAC and was recently awarded the College’s student of the year award in advanced manufacturing. His grandfather Clinton Gray attended EAC and played on the College’s basketball team.

Gray says he’s always wanted a military career but didn’t feel he had the academic background to attend a prestigious college. He credits EAC’s deans and professors for preparing him for advanced studies at West Point.

“I had a low GPA in high school so I came here to EAC to redeem myself,” said Gray. “I took chemistry, anatomy, physiology, EMS, and math courses all the way up to trigonometry. Two EAC deans, Gary Sorensen and Aaron Burk, really took me under their wings. They mentored me and talked to me about the options I had in life and they really showed me how to be a scholar, how to be consistent in my studying. I was in Aaron’s last anatomy and physiology class before he became a dean and he taught me a lot. It’s the people that you meet who are the most amazing, and EAC is a hidden gem in that respect.”

Outside the classroom, EAC’s faculty, staff, and the larger Gila Valley community helped Gray develop the necessary contacts to gain admission into the West Point academy. Keith Alexander, EAC’s special assistant to the president, contacted Senator Krysten Sinema’s and Congressman Juan Ciscomani’s offices and deans Sorensen and Burk wrote letters of recommendation for him. Dr. Clayton Hargis with the Mount Graham Regional Medical Center and Vance Bryce, executive director of the Graham County Chamber of Commerce, also helped Gray receive the appointment by sending letters and making contacts.

“Hyrum is the first person appointed by Congressman Ciscomani to attend West Point,” said Alexander. “Members of Congress are each given up to ten nominations a year. Most appointees only get one nomination, Hyrum received two. EAC is proud of Hyrum’s appointment and we are thrilled to have played a role in it.”

Gray is one of ten students from Arizona entering West Point as a cadet next month. The youngest student is 17 and Gray is the oldest at 22. The cutoff age for admissions is 23, so this was Gray’s only shot.

“I was working at Gila Hank’s Café when I got a call from Major Nicole Bisacchi my field force representative,” said Gray. “She said, ‘Hey, this is last minute, but you’ve received an appointment and I need you to accept it within the next day for it to be valid. Do you have any questions?’ It was crazy because I was expecting a call from the Senator’s office because that’s usually how it works, but I accepted the appointment over the phone and got super excited. As soon as I hung up, I yelled out ‘I got the appointment! I’m going to West Point!’ and everyone at Gila Hank’s cheered. My endorphins were crazy. I remember thinking, ‘I can rip a tree out of the ground right now!’”

Gray’s scholarship to West Point amounts to approximately $350,000 and covers tuition, room, board, and medical. All cadets who attend are on scholarship and are required to pay it back by serving in the Army.

“Hyrum was one of the most tenacious students we’ve ever had,” said Aaron Burk, EAC’s dean of STEM and allied health. “He just kept after it. He knows what he wants and he works until he gets it.”

Gray will spend a few days in Manhattan with his parents and younger brother Alonzo before beginning basic training. He will then join roughly 1,200 other West Point cadets in leadership and military classes taught by the nation’s top military leaders as part of their college course load.

“EAC and West Point have a lot of things in common like small classroom sizes and teachers who want to be there,” said Gray. “EAC helped me grow up. The maturity I gained here will be of great use.”

During his time at EAC, Gray was active in various student life activities. He was co-president of the Healthcare Career Club and a member of the EMS and Resident Life clubs. He was on the cleaning crew for the FSY 2022 summer camp and served as a resident life assistant for EAC’s Mark Allen Hall, working directly with the baseball team.

“Being a resident assistant at EAC was an incredible benefit,” said Gray. “You learn to talk to people, the scholarship is very generous, and you get a lot of study time. I would highly recommend applying for those positions.”

Gray hopes to major in pre-medical sciences and minor in Arabic or Chinese. He says that his goal is to pursue a medical career in trauma or reconstructive surgery.

When asked what advice he’d give to someone considering EAC, Gray stated, “EAC’s professors care about your success and want you to learn. So, get good at asking questions, and be consistent with your homework.”

Eastern Arizona College offers a world-class education at a fraction of the cost of universities. The College’s professors prepare students for advanced studies at top universities and for in-demand careers through high quality certificate programs and associate degrees. EAC is also pursuing accreditation for two bachelor’s degrees, a Bachelor of Music in Music Education and a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences.

“EAC prepares students for what’s ahead and most leave debt free,” said Gary Sorensen, EAC dean of students. “Our students excel in industry-related professions and in corporate areas as well. I can’t remember any other students from EAC going to West Point, but Hyrum can have all the confidence in the world that the education he received at EAC will serve him well.”

Enroll Today in EAC Fall Classes:  Classes begin on Aug. 21. Call EAC’s Financial Aid Office at (928) 428-8287 for details. Register by calling EAC’s Records and Registration Office at (928) 428-8270, or online at www.eac.edu.

About Eastern Arizona College

Eastern Arizona College – the first community college in Arizona – has helped students claim their dreams since 1888. With campuses in Thatcher, Globe, and Payson, EAC’s qualified and caring instructors prepare students for the most in-demand careers and advanced study at universities. EAC offers more than 80 certificates and degrees, including the #1 nursing school in Arizona, a fine arts program featuring the only marching band in Arizona, and an engineering program that brings students up to speed for success at universities and top-tiered firms. Students thrive at EAC, making friendships that last a lifetime. EAC’s vibrant student experience includes on-campus housing, more than 30 clubs and organizations, active intramurals, and nationally ranked athletic and e-sports teams. At EAC, most students leave with $0 debt. Let EAC provide an affordable way for you to claim your dreams. Contact admissions@eac.edu or call (928) 428-8272 today.