Gallery: Norwich University’s 2015 Commencement Celebration

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May 13, 2015

Norwich said goodbye to the graduating class of 2015 this weekend. But not before celebrating their many accomplishments. Related article >>

Norwich’s 2015 Graduates: From Many Walks, Many Stories

Master of Architecture degree recipient Katherine Anderson was the first Norwich graduate to cross the stage. Bachelor of Science cum laude graduate Christian Pardo was the last. All 432 will leave their mark.
Norwich University Office of Communications

May 11, 2015

Norwich said goodbye to the graduating class of 2015 this weekend. But not before celebrating their many accomplishments.

At Saturday’s commencement ceremony, an emotional President Richard Schneider wished graduates well, telling them that the occasion was bittersweet. “We don’t want you to go. But we can’t wait for you to start your lives.”

Former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole gave the commencement address after receiving an honorary doctorate in public service. With warmth and humor, she advised Norwich graduates to serve their communities, their country, and the world.

“Service is not something you do just while in school, while in uniform, or when you have free time to give,” she said. “Service is a lifelong commitment. And I can tell you from experience, dedicating yourself to serving others is the most rewarding way to live your life.”

For many in the standing room crowd at Shapiro Field House, the real stars of Commencement weekend were the graduates, all 432 of them.

Some of the 264 cadets and 168 civilian students arrived four years ago with a clear vision of their future. Others thought they did, but changed their mind mid-course. A few are still figuring it out.

Rikki Feightner from Piqua, Ohio, knew by age 7 that she wanted to join the Air Force, inspired by her dad’s stories. A double major in international studies and Chinese, she studied abroad five times in China, Taiwan, and Turkey and commissioned into the Air Force as an officer on Sunday.

Luke Puleo from Bolton, Mass., thought he wanted to become a Marine officer but found a stronger calling in government. Following a senior year internship, he joined the Department of Homeland Security, will study for a master’s degree and hopes to become a federal criminal investigator.

Karla Brent from Lancaster, Penn., spent the spring semester in Berlin studying architecture and finishing her master’s thesis. She dreams of working across a continent or an ocean designing sustainable architecture for people who need it and hopes to never stop learning.

Some in Norwich’s graduating Class of 2015 came from small towns they couldn’t wait to leave. Others came from big cities. A few crossed half the globe to study at Norwich.

Zachary Larson left behind the tiny Cascades logging town of Lacenter, Wash., and a high school where the aspirations felt just as small. He studied death row exonerations as a summer research fellow, will serve in the Army, and plans to attend to law school and run for public office one day.

Meredith Hinz traded crowded San Jose, Calif., and its millions of cars for her aunt and uncle’s alma mater in picturesque New England. Now an RN, soon she’ll care for ICU patients at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire.

Jiacheng Zheng came from Nanjing, China, on a five-year student visa by way of high school in Arizona. A cadet, he majored in business management and accounting, joined Marine ROTC, and showcased his passion for ballroom dancing at the 60th International Debutant Ball in Manhattan. He enlists in the Army as a combat medic, on a path to US citizenship.

Some Norwich graduates were the first in their families to go to college. Others had a head start and made the most of it. A few second-guessed whether college was for them.

Giselle Lopez from Hobbs, N.M, was raised by her hard-working single mother and saw first-hand the effects of domestic violence. She is the first in her family to graduate from college and heads to law school in the fall to become human rights attorney. She wants to fight for the rights of people who cannot fight for themselves.

Tory Kethro from Barnstable, Mass., came to Norwich from boarding school in the Berkshires. She studied criminal justice with her Cambridge-educated mentor Prof. Elizabeth Gurian and is off to graduate school at Northeastern University in Boston in the fall. She plans to earn a PhD and hopes to collaborate with her Norwich mentor again.

Ryan Fecteau from Danvers, Mass., wanted to join the Marines right after high school. But he says his mom begged him to go to college first. The criminal justice major and Norwich University Research Fellow says he glad he did. He plans to enlist in the Marines after graduation.

Some in the Class of 2015 filled rows of seats with with friends and family during commencement. Other saw just their parents. A few defined family on their own terms.

Christopher Cole from Ashaway, R.I., invited more than 15 people, including his fiancée Lauren. The chemistry major and Navy ROTC scholarship recipient said his great-grandfather—a strong, 89-year-old WWII US Navy vet—Leroy Babock couldn’t make it at the last minute.

Rikki Feightner said her mom was coming to Norwich for the very first time, along with her father, and her friend, Norwich alum Chris Legge, an Army 1st Lt. who was flying in from Korea to cheer her on.

Some graduates thanked their professors in person. Others in writing. Many in their hearts. Giselle Lopez thanked Prof. Patricia Ferreria for opening the world of literature to her and Prof. Sean Prentiss for still remembering the short story she wrote as a first-year Rook.

Alexandra Palmer from South Windsor, Conn., thanked Prof. Megan Doczi for sparking her interest in neuroscience, which she’ll pursue as a PhD candidate at the University of Calgary this fall.

Many thanked their friends. Doug Delpha from Felts Mills, N.Y., wrote from graduate school in Geneva, Switzerland, to praise Andrew Bracy, his best friend from high school and the Norwich lacrosse team.

Many have aimed high after graduation. Katrina Laidlaw from Dunblane, Scotland, will pursue a master’s degree in international affairs at the London School of Economics, splitting her time between Beijing and London. She hopes to work for the British Foreign Office and one day serve as a diplomat.

Many hope to change the world. Many will lead. Many will work. Some will travel. Some will go to graduate school. Some will try something different. But first they had to walk center stage, shake hands and accept their Norwich diploma.

Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan ’59, USA (Ret.), the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, advised graduates to savor the occasion because life changes and such moments are fleeting.

Many graduates could articulate what their Norwich experience meant to them. Some said it was too enormous to capture. A few winnowed it to a single word.

Frank Carissimo from Bristow, Va., said Norwich offered a new beginning. The undergraduate research scholar and triple major says he entered as a deplorable student and left as a superior one. He said Norwich taught him one enduring lesson: Try.

Transcript: Brig. Gen. Raymond Descheneaux’s 2015 Norwich Commissioning Address

On Sunday, May 10, 2015, Norwich University alum and United States Marine Corps Reserve Brigadier General Raymond R. Descheneaux ’87, the Corps’ Assistant Deputy Commandant for Aviation (Mobilization), addressed ROTC commissioning officers from the Class of 2015 at the formal Norwich commissioning ceremony. A copy of his prepared remarks follow.

Norwich: A Legacy of Leadership

Thank you, General Sullivan for that kind introduction. And thank you for all you continue to do on behalf of our University. From your earliest days as a cadet through your time as the 32nd Chief of Staff of the Army, through today, you continue to lead from the front. As Norwich’s most distinguished graduate in our school’s history, it is my honor to share this stage!

President Schneider and the Trustees of Norwich University, I want to personally thank you for this incredible opportunity to come home and be with my extended family. I cannot truly express my gratitude. It has been a pleasure getting to know each of you.

Today, Norwich is recognized globally because of your vision and guidance. In uniform our out of uniform, Norwich grads can be found making a positive difference in every corner of our planet and in every walk of life.

To MG Todd and all the distinguished guests I share this stage with; you have lived your life by example and we continue to look to you for guidance, you are a beacon of inspiration to us all.

To the Faculty and Staff, I thank you for your pushing these officers out of their comfort zone and expanding their view of the world. Because of you, their pedigree is unmatched.

To our military team of instructors, you are the ones who introduce reality to theory. You are where the rubber meets the road. You know what these officers will soon be confronting and have shaped their training accordingly. Thank you.

Before I continue, I would like to take a moment to wish all of the mothers in this gathering a Happy Mothers Day!

To the parents, family and friends who helped make this day possible, without your commitment, love, and sacrifice none of this could have ever happened.

Now, to the commissionees. I talk with you today as a brother in arms, a fellow graduate and a friend. From all of us here today, congratulations for making it through the crucible we call Norwich. As we all know, the hard part is not getting into Norwich, it is graduating from it.

The day you have been waiting for is finally here. By now, your car is, or should be, mostly packed with old uniforms, new uniforms and four years of who knows what. Mentally, there is Still a whirlwind-list of things you need to wrap up. Meanwhile, you have company in town! Then, of course, is the much anticipated, final drive down 89 South.

Well, for the next few minutes, I invite all of you to stop, catch your breath, and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and the atmosphere of this special event. This ceremony is an amazing moment-in-time…and it is ours to enjoy.

Today will mark the first day of your life as a commissioned officer. Before you take your Oath of Office, I would like to offer a few thoughts. As you know, what comes with this Oath is a great responsibility and an incredible challenge. As of today’s commissioning, you have one objective in life; to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

For the United States military, this is a very complex and varied order that spans the globe. However, it truly boils down to one fundamental purpose: To fight and win our nation’s battles. Period!

You have made the conscious decision to take a path less traveled; one of military service as an officer in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps.

Very soon, you can expect a high octane, rocket ship ride into the stratosphere, so tighten your chinstraps and lean forward. There may be no guardrails where you travel.

For our new officers, you have prepared your adult life for this challenge. You intuitively understand that military service is a calling and not just a job. In this world, if you are not thoroughly prepared, others depending on you may pay a painful price for your shortcomings.

I don’t have to tell this crowd, the threats are real. Many of you will be forward deployed faster than you realize. As we enjoy this morning, the reality is, our nation is locked in a clash of human wills, a war of ideas.

Right now, our enemies are actively preparing for or engaged in combat with our fellow countrymen. The enemy plays by their own rules; and for them, there are no rules.

Radical extremists, near-peer competitors, state and non-state actors top the charts of emerging or maturing threats in 2015. Nuclear proliferation, terrorism, cyber-warfare, and piracy remain in the headlines. Then of course there are the natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes, and now Ebla outbreaks. Sprinkle in regional instability or contested space and there is your powder keg. This is the world you are inheriting, the domain you must master.

However, threats to our liberties and our Republic are nothing new. There will always be new bad guys, new technologies, and new realms of instability to overcome. After 196 years, Norwich has gotten pretty good at producing warrior-statesmen that can confront and eliminate the next new threat.

Norwich men and women with backs of steel have answered our nation’s call and have moved to the sound of gunfire since our first graduating class. This is who we are, and this class is no different. The commissioning Class of 2015 already knows this.

Based on my calculations, when the Twin Towers fell, you were in grade school. Armed conflict and the defense of all-we-hold-dear is all that you know. It seems your path to this commissioning is only natural.

You also know the price for eternal vigilance. You know the recent names, faces, and personalities of those colleagues who have made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. They and all of our brothers and sisters who have made this sacrifice will always be remembered. Today, we stand united as a testament to their service!

You have entered this calling with eyes wide open. You represent the next “greatest generation” of Americans and I’m proud to stand amongst your ranks.

Remember, coming from Norwich, you are well suited to operate in the modern battle space; a diverse battle space that blends combined and coalition partners, joint forces, inter-agency and non-government entities.

You will soon find yourself operating in a volatile, uncertain, and complex environment. And yes, there will be competing interests. To succeed, you will have to learn to thrive in this chaos; and master this domain!

To assist you I offer a few brief thoughts. Remember who you are and where you come from. Your family and Norwich have prepared you well for this journey.

Trust your instincts.

Reinforce your character and integrity at every turn. Never, ever compromise your standards.

Constantly seek self-improvement and master your profession with a vengeance.

Never underestimate your enemy or overestimate your capabilities.

Starting now, you must develop an intense if not insane work ethic. Sound extreme? Perhaps, but consider this, our enemies do not rest. They are preparing for you at this very moment. They are focused, driven, and unrelenting. They are resourceful. They have already been in the fight.

Some say you should “work smarter, not harder.” I say, in the world you will be operating, if you are not working both smarter and harder, you are already falling behind the power curve. For them to succeed, they must remain one step ahead of us. They trust you will be lazy, pre-occupied, and ineffective. You will prove them wrong.

You must master your profession so that you can get out in front of their thought process. The best hockey players don’t skate to where the puck is but where it is going. Anticipate failure and wrong turns when operating outside of your comfort zone. Correct your shortfalls, and never, ever give up. This is the difference between victory and defeat.

This is the new world you will be operating in! Remember this, as an officer it will never, ever be about you. It will be about the men, women, and the families in your care. Challenge, mentor and guide them to improve their physical, mental, and moral capabilities.

You will soon be handed the keys to America’s most precious natural resource, the American warfighter. Like those of yesteryear, this post 9-11 warfighter is amazing. Like you, they run like stallions, have the tenacity of a pit-bull, the cunning of a fox, and an insatiable hunger for information. They serve by choice and possess an unlimited fountain of ambition.

You will learn from them and they will learn from you. As a commissioned officer you have the additional obligation to develop and care for them. As a parent to a child, you must mentor, inspire, and always lead by example. You must also have compassion and understanding; a firm and guiding hand. They will emulate you. You are grooming our next generation of leaders.

Success is not based on machines or technology, but rather human nature and the will to succeed. This is has always been the intangible yet critical element of warfare; inspiring an individual’s will to overcome adversity. This is why the United States military is so successful in the art of “centralized command and decentralized control.”

We groom and trust our subordinates. Properly led, the American service member will deliver incredible results with their heart and soul. No threat on Earth can stop them!

And now, the torch is being passed and it is up to you. The future is yours; you will seize the moment. Like the Norwich men and women before you, there is no doubt you will blaze your own noteworthy trail in our Nation’s history!

We again want you to know how proud we are of your achievements. We know this world will be a safer place because of you. On behalf of your entire Norwich family, we wish you god-speed, fair winds and following seas as you become an officer in the United States military.

Thank you. Norwich Forever!

Baccalaureate: “Cootie Girl & the Construction of Moral Character,” Prof. Randall Balmer’s 2015 Norwich Address

An ordained minister, PhD, and chair of the Department of Religion at Dartmouth College, Prof. Randall Balmer gave the 2015 Norwich University Baccalaureate address in White Chapel on Friday, May 8, 2015. He came at the invitation of his friend, Norwich University Chaplain William Wick. A copy of Reverend Balmer’s prepared remarks follow.

Cootie Girl & the Construction of Moral Character

John 8:2-10

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’

I remember the eyes as though it were yesterday. They were pretty. Blue. Expectant, yet afraid. “This is Diane,” one of my new fourth-grade classmates said, pointing in her direction. “Don’t let her touch you. She’s the Cootie Girl.”

I did not know then – and I’m not entirely sure today – what a cootie is, but I could tell from the context that it wasn’t a good thing. Cooties – and, by extension, Diane herself – should be avoided at all costs.

I was the new kid at Wenona School. My family had just moved to Bay City, Michigan, from the farm country of southern Minnesota. I was fearful myself in this alien environment, and insecure. I had never seen a one-way street until that summer of 1963, yet there I was living on DeWitt Street, which was bracketed at both ends by three-lane, one-way streets, each headed in the opposite direction. I was fearful every night when I crawled into bed; I tried to stay awake and listen for an inevitable intruder so I could warn my family and summon the police. Once I finally did succumb to sleep, sirens, another new phenomenon, woke me nearly every night. By the time of the first day of school, I was desperate for a friendly face amid these city kids everywhere around me.

There was, I could tell, something different about Diane. My family was hardly affluent – not by any stretch of the imagination – nor were the kids at Wenona School. But the dress she wore was tattered. Her shoes appeared to have been repaired crudely and by hand. Someone whispered that she and her mother lived alone. At lunchtime, she ate alone. Although she had a pleasant smile, Diane looked slightly disheveled and unkempt. Waiflike. A wisp of dishwater-blonde hair fell awkwardly across her forehead and into her eyes.

Occasionally, the Cootie Girl would play along. After listening to taunts on the macadam that passed for a playground in this strange new world, Diane would chase her tormenters, who would shriek in horror and run away. Anyone she tagged, boy or girl, had cooties, which, although it appeared to have no long-term effect, was not considered a good thing by the fourth-grade cohort at Wenona School.

Like a pack of wolves taunting a moose, children of that age can devise ingenious ways to belittle anyone they choose to ostracize. I recall one day standing in a queue across the hallway from a janitor’s closet. One of my classmates had apparently been musing on the word “custodian” painted on the door. “Hey, look,” he shouted, moving his hands across the letters and articulating the syllables slowly: “CUS-TO-DIAN.”

Everyone chortled at the brilliance of the put-down, of course, but I caught the wounded look in Diane’s eyes. Yet another insult, yet another wound to carry home that night. “And where do you stand?” the eyes asked. Would the new kid become just another tormenter, or maybe, hoping against hope, a friend?

I think I recognized even then that it was a defining moment. It was a kind of test. Are you with us, my new classmates were asking, or are you going to be a geek, a loser, an outcast like the Cootie Girl? In the words of the Pharisees in the Gospel reading, “What do you say?”

Jesus fashioned an entire career out of his association with outcasts. He spent his time with harlots and tax collectors rather than the hoi polloi of his day. He healed gimps and paralytics and those we would call neurotics and schizophrenics today. Fishermen were hardly the élite of Palestinian culture in the first century. And when the Jewish equivalent of a lynch mob was collecting rocks to execute the adulterous woman, Jesus crouched down, scratched a few letters in the sand, and, with a few well-chosen words, dispersed the mob.

The Gospels don’t record what he wrote there in the dust, but my guess would be that it had something to do with who we are, all of us, in the divine economy. Perhaps Jesus listed the names of her accusers, and perhaps he added the names of every man who had ever slept with the accused woman, and – who knows? – there may have been a name or two that appeared in both columns. The bearded men packing stones were no better than the woman caught in someone’s bedroom. We are all sad and pitiable, the dusty letters read. We have terrible secrets and overwhelming fears, and one of the signs of our wretchedness is that we organize into packs to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are somehow not as lost or as desperate or as hopeless as we know we really are. There is safety in numbers, and one of the timeless ways we congratulate ourselves is to draw lines and boundaries, marking off who is good and bad, righteous and unrighteous, saved and damned, cool and not cool – careful, of course, to locate ourselves on the right side of those lines.

That’s what the Pharisees were doing with the woman caught in adultery. They had formed into a pack and, armed with their impeccable understanding of the law, what was right and what was wrong, they determined that she was on the wrong side of their lines. Women had a tough enough life in first-century Palestine, but this woman had violated their rules, and she must die! Anything short of death would have upset their system, would have skewed their precious lines.

Perhaps her real crime was not love or even passion. Perhaps her real crime lay in the fact that she had exposed the shallowness, the pettiness of her accusers, for when Jesus finally confronts them with their own peccadilloes, they slink away in silence.

When my daughter entered high school, she expended a great deal of energy worrying about whether or not she was part of what she called the “high group” – meaning, I gather, those who were considered the social élite. I’ve never been part of the “high group,” nor have I aspired to be. But pecking orders can be fearsome, and if you run afoul of the established order or find yourself on the wrong side of social convention, the consequences can be devastating, as my daughter learned. As the woman caught in adultery learned. And as Diane, the Cootie Girl, knew every day of her life at Wenona School.

I’ve been musing a lot in recent months about the notion of honor. Honor is not a word you hear very much any more. Many schools, including my own, have what they call an honor code, which is meant as a hedge against cheating. As nearly as I can tell, many schools adopted honor codes in the years following World War II, after honor had been forged among soldiers on the battlefields of Normandy and Corregidor and Iwo Jima. But the notion of honor took a hit during the Vietnam War – through no fault of the soldiers themselves, but because of the perfidy of the Johnson administration and the Pentagon. Honor suffered irreparable damage during the Nixon years. Jimmy Carter, a Southern Baptist Sunday-school teacher, sought to restore honor to the presidency, but by then betrayal had given way to cynicism, and we have never fully recovered.

Today, the notion of honor ranks far below such “values” as ambition and affluence. But I invite you to consider with me what honor might look like today – and if we might reappropriate it for the twenty-first century.

I suggest that the enterprise of recovering honor in the twenty-first century could do far worse than look back to the first century. In the text at hand, the passage from St. John’s Gospel, Jesus refuses to take the easy course, which would have been to join the chorus of the woman’s accusers. Jesus was already suspect in the eyes of the religious leaders; he had healed on the Sabbath, and he had suggested that simply adhering to the letter of the law somehow fell short of the mark. Jesus could have saved himself a lot of trouble and even earned some credibility in their eyes that could have saved him a lot of grief later on. He might even have picked up a stone himself. It was just one woman, after all, and not a very worthy one at that. Why not simply blend into the crowd for once? What’s the harm?

Jesus chose a different path, the path of compassion and identification with the downtrodden, with those on the margins. There was no obvious payoff for doing so, no award or citation or entry on a résumé. No one in that crowd would congratulate him for his courage or commend him for his compassion. For Jesus, the path of honor was a lonely one, one that led ultimately to the long walk up Golgotha, the place of the skull.

But Jesus did more than simply stand up to the crowd and defend an embattled individual. He also called all of them to account and rebuked them for their hypocrisy.

We have no way of knowing what Jesus scribbled there in the Palestinian sand. John is maddeningly silent on that score. I guess I’d like to think that he scratched out a few choice words for the Pharisees – “You sorry bastards are really trying my patience,” or something like that – but then Jesus thinks better of it and rubs out the curses. He stands up and surveys the scene. His eyes meet each of the accusers and then take in the woman. Back to the Pharisees and back again to the woman. Then Jesus steps back several paces, crouches down, and with his index finger traces a large circle – a circle big enough to take in the whole crowd, the Pharisees and the woman and maybe even a few bystanders, the accusers and the accused.

A circle. The quintessential symbol of femininity. A metaphor for eternity. A circle large enough to encompass everyone entangled in the web of our shared humanity, our wretchedness, our loneliness and suffering.

By now in your education – a process only begun and that will continue far beyond this day – you’ve been introduced to Aristotle’s concept of Nichomachean Ethics. This notion, which was adapted to Christian theology by St. Thomas Aquinas, holds that individuals can cultivate virtuous behavior by means of discipline and repetition. That is to say that the more we comport ourselves with honor, the more honorable we become.

I’m not interested for the moment in whether or not this is good theology. But it seems to me that honor is a noble pursuit. For most of us, the cultivation of moral character and virtuous habits is a lifelong enterprise, but every time we defend the helpless or decry the powerful, we build moral character. Therein lies the noble tradition of honor.

I wish I could tell you that you that I did the right thing back there on the macadam playground at Wenona School. We all like to be the heroes of our own stories. But I’m afraid that I’m not very good at this hero business, and I lost that opportunity for moral formation. It takes guts to stand up to peers, to resist the pressures of conformity, to choose the honorable course – and I have come to admire those with the courage to take up the cause of those less fortunate, those on the margins. And those who do summon that courage – Angelina Grimké, Elijah Lovejoy, William Wilberforce, Fred Shuttlesworth, Martin Luther King Jr. – occasionally alter the course of history. Lord knows it’s not easy to face down a mob, be they armed with legal codes or truncheons, insults or self-righteousness.

I don’t pretend that history would have been different if I had been kind to Diane, the Cootie Girl, back in Michigan more than four decades ago. But I would have been different. And perhaps she as well, if only for a moment. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was beaten and slumped over a barbed-wire fence on a cold Wyoming night; you wrapped me in a blanket and tried to revive me. I was sad and lonely, and I was wearing a ratty dress because my mother couldn’t afford anything better. But you stood up to the crowd and became my friend.

If only it were so.

I lost track of Diane long ago, although I remember her from time to time in my prayers, even all these decades later. She never made the transition from elementary to junior high school with the rest of us. Perhaps her mother found a new boyfriend or a new job. Or perhaps they decided to try a new city, to take their chances in a different school and a different community – a place where the Cootie Girl could simply be Diane, and she could start over.

What I failed to recognize those many years ago is that Diane’s tormenters were just as wretched as we thought she was. We had our own bundle of fears and anxieties. We sought to mask our own insecurities by lashing out at someone else, by drawing lines.

But the gospel draws circles. Jesus comes along and disrupts our childish games, our taunts and our sarcasm. He visits the playground and reminds us that he, the Crucified One, the Man of Sorrows, was the ultimate outcast, facing the ridicule of everyone, deserted even by those who had claimed to be his friends. He reminds us that he was suspended naked between earth and heaven for the benefit not only of the righteous or even the self-righteous but for the outcast, the person of color, for the hungry child, for Matthew Shepard, lashed to a fencepost in the cold Wyoming night, for the Muslim woman trembling with fear these days beneath her head scarf, for John Lewis and Rosa Parks – for Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, for the girl in the tattered dress, searching the crowd desperately for a friendly face.

Jesus visits our playground with a thin piece of chalk and draws a large circle. He straightens up, surveys his fellow sufferers, and gently suggests that if we have the courage somehow to see Jesus in the Cootie Girl’s wounded blue eyes, then we will have grasped something very important about the gospel, something crucial to the notion of honor.

I was naked, and you gave me a shirt. I was thirsty, dangling there from that cruel wooden tower. You came with water. I was hungry, and you brought me a slice of pie at the lunch counter, even though your boss said you would be fired for serving me. I was cold on that Wyoming night – and unconscious. You wrapped me in a blanket, hoisted me over your shoulder, and carried me home.

I was the Cootie Girl. You were my friend.

– Randall Balmer

Norwich University to Celebrate Commencement and Commissioning This Weekend 

Norwich University Office of Communications

May 7, 2015

NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Norwich University will celebrate commencement and commissioning with ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday, May 9-10, in Shapiro Field House. Both events are free and open to the public.

At a 2 p. m. ceremony on Saturday, former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole will deliver the 2015 commencement address to over 400 seniors graduating from 31 majors. The Class of 2015 is comprised of 264 students in the Corps of Cadets and 168 civilian students.

Perhaps best known as the former president of the American Red Cross and for her own political career as U.S. senator representing her home state of North Carolina, Dole is also the wife of former senator and World War II veteran, Bob Dole.

In 2012, Dole, who will receive an honorary degree from Norwich University, founded Caring for Military Families: The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, to raise awareness and support for the spouses, mothers, fathers, and other loved ones caring for wounded, ill and injured military personnel.

Norwich University officials say Dole was the natural choice for its 2015 commencement address given her lifetime of public service. This year, Norwich is celebrating the 2014-15 academic year as the “Year of Service,” the first of five years in a countdown to the university’s bicentennial celebration in 2019.

At 9 a.m. Sunday, during a joint services commissioning ceremony, graduating future officers will hear remarks from one of their own.

Brigadier General Raymond R. Descheneaux ’87, United States Marine Corps Reserve, Assistant Deputy Commandant for Aviation (Mobilization), returns to the Norwich campus to speak to ROTC commissioning officers during a formal ceremony to mark the occasion.

As this year’s speaker, Descheneaux will address more than 100 students anticipated to commission into four branches of the military – Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. The new officers will receive their second lieutenant or ensign bars, and their first salutes.

See the full schedule of weekend activities here. Post-event coverage will be posted on the website of the Office of Communications.

Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation’s six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). 

In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders and captains of industry, the Forging the Future campaign is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities. Learn more about the campaign and how to participate in the “Year of Service” here:    

Media Contact:
Daphne Larkin
Assistant Director of Communications
(802) 485-2886, (m) 595-3613
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