Norwich Commencement |The Speeches: Gen. Raymond Odierno’s 2016 Graduation Address

Photo: Gen. Raymond Odierno addresses the Norwich University Class of 2016 during commencement ceremonies at Shapiro Field House

Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno received an honorary doctorate in military science from Norwich University on May 14, 2016, after which he delivered the 2016 Norwich University Commencement Address. A copy of his prepared remarks follow.

President Schneider, thank you for that very kind introduction and your incredible leadership and stewardship of this great university. I’m excited and inspired for our nations future as a look out upon the men and women of the class of 2016.

And it’s such a pleasure to be back at this beautiful campus. Every time I come here I’m struck by what a perfect setting this is to develop and educate young men and women to be future leaders. An Incredible setting with incredible people creates the right atmosphere for learning

Today is the day to celebrate the hard work and awesome achievements of the class of 2016. First, I want to thank the Faculty and Staff who invested so heavily in every student’s development. Your steadfast commitment and dedication has contributed greatly to every student who will receive their coveted diploma today. To all the family members and friends here today. You have supported your students for the last 4 years and for some maybe a bit longer. I will not mention any names. Your love and support allowed each of these men and women to grow and mature and realize their goal. You should be very proud of your son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, brother, sister, niece or nephew. They have demonstrated endurance, resilience, dedication and selflessness. We all can agree they are very different from the young men and women who entered Norwich in 2012. Students lets give the Faculty and staff and all your friends and family members a round of applause.

Before I go any further, I’ll just say that I’ve learned over the years that being a good Keynote speaker is the art of saying a lot without talking a lot. I remember the message from a young school boy who had to give a report on Julius Caesar. “Julius Caesar was born a long time ago,” The boy began. “He was a great General. He won some important battles. He made a long speech. They killed him.” So today today with many anxious graduates and families I’ll try not to earn Caesars fate.

Norwich is a special place that has had an outsized influence on our military and our society. Of course, as the birthplace of ROTC, you’ve produced thousands of military leaders for our nation, including well over a hundred general officers and flag officers who played key roles in our forces. One of those, General Gordon Sullivan, graduated from this school in 1959 and went on to be one of the most consequential chiefs of staff our Army has ever had.

But beyond those accomplishments, for two centuries you’ve also been a model for the entire American higher education system. And for more than four decades you’ve been a place where the military and the civilian worlds come together in the classroom and on the campus in a way that is as unusual as it is valuable. There are many military colleges and academies around the world, but to find one that has military and civilian students fully integrated, side by side, as they are here, is exceedingly rare, and each of you has gotten a rare grounding in both worlds as a result of that.

And that cross-grounding is so important. Everyone here has the opportunity to choose your own destiny. It is my belief that No one’s destiny is predetermined. You will define yourself by your choices and actions. There is no greater gift then the one of selfless service to the betterment of human kind.

We, all of us, had the good fortune to be born in or to immigrate to a country that lives on the principle of serving others and the greater good. As you leave here, I’d charge you to dedicate yourselves to doing your part in the life of your nation through service of your own, whether it’s by taking up military commissions; or by seeking careers in teaching or healing or civil service; or maybe by doing local volunteer work as you pursue careers in the private sector. Whatever your walk of life, the future of the nation is going to depend on people like you making the choice of selfless service. Of course, that’s a choice that Norwich graduates have always made, just as your distinguished fellow alumnus General Gordon Sullivan did. He not only served 36 years in the Army, but for the past 18 years he has served as the President of the Association of the US Army, an organization dedicated solely to the welfare of our soldiers. More than half a century of service to his country and its Army…believe me when I say that Gordon Sullivan could have had any job and commanded any salary he wished, but he chose a lifetime of service to his country and his fellow service members. In my book, that’s the epitome of selfless service, and just like you, he started that journey right here at Norwich.

As Americans, we choose to selflessly serve our country not simply because it’s the place we’re from. America is not just a place; it’s an idea, one that is unique in human history. When we are in service to our country, we are in service to the uniquely American idea that individuals have the right and the ability to choose. Never forget that your own actions, hard work, and everyday experiences are the things that will determine what you become in life, and not what someone else has predetermined you will become.

You’ve heard it said many times that our country is the land of opportunity, and it’s true. I say that as the son of first-generation Italian-American parents (who are unfortunately no longer with us) and who, if they had been here to see it, would no doubt have been surprised to see their son as the Chief of Staff of the Army, considering my family’s somewhat humble beginnings in the lower East Side of New York. But as people who left the old world to come to a new one, I think they would’ve instinctively understood that this is a country where anything is possible for anyone. Where the place in which you begin your life doesn’t dictate how you live it or where you end up.

The right to make your own path in life is a precious gift that you and I have received, one that most of the world doesn’t share. Think of how many people are born, live, and die on this earth without experiencing that kind of freedom, or how many people have been willing to die just to give their children a small chance at it. I urge you to cherish this gift and not to let a day go by without making the most of it.

I’m sure for many of you the thought that the rest of the road ahead of you isn’t already defined is a bit daunting. But don’t let this deter you. Embrace it and have confidence that no one knows what you want to accomplish in your own life better than you do.

The world today is a dynamic, complex and exciting, but unfortunately it is also a dangerous place. The military graduates among you are entering the profession of arms at a time of uncertainty and unpredictability, in which our country and its allies face a challenging economic, security, and political environment around the world.

We once again find ourselves in a national dialogue regarding our national security priorities and what the future U.S. role should be around the world. It is an important discussion that will shape our future. The American way in the past has been to dangerously draw down our military forces after a prolonged conflict like the world wars, Vietnam, or the post-9/11 wars. It’s understandable; we are a peace-loving people who for most of our history have been protected by the two oceans that physically separate us from much of the rest of the world. But we have to face the fact that in the modern era, whenever we have decided to withdraw from the world, we have only made ourselves and our way of life less safe. We can’t afford to make that same mistake again now.

Almost everyday on the news we are reminded of the growing instability around the world. Failed and failing states are causing shockwaves through the post-World War II order that the United States and its allies created, an order that was designed to prevent the recurrence of world wars. The velocity of instability around the world is greater than at any other time in my life, driven partly by the proliferation of technology and digitization of information, which have created new capabilities that both friendly and enemy entities can use.

The US will be involved in resolving conflicts arising from the diffusion of state power and contests among a rising number of regional powers and social movements. Hostile nation states are likely to use non-state actors as their surrogates, and our adversaries will fight in networks across regions to create instability and insurgencies that will affect our country’s interests, and to which we will have to respond. We can already see across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Pacific a level of instability that is unprecedented, and with it a clear threat to the homeland.

Steering our nation safely through this kind of environment in the coming decades is going to require strong, capable leadership at all levels, and in all forms. It will require Competent Committed leaders of Character both civilian and Military whether it be in business, education, engineering and the sciences, or throughout our government. In other words, we need great leaders in every facet of society. We need all of you graduating today to take up the mantle of leadership no matter what field you choose to work. Follow the example of great Norwich leaders of the past such as General Sullivan, Robert McDermott former CEO of USAA and Emily Caruso national champion in Air rifle and a member of 2 Olympic teams.

They each earned the trust of their superiors, subordinates and peers by performing their duties with competence, displaying commitment to the mission, and demonstrating character in their decisions and actions. Effective leaders also have a physical and mental toughness to get themselves and their team through difficult conditions, as well as moral courage to handle the difficult choices that will inevitably present themselves. And they set and enforce high standards of performance for themselves and their subordinates.

Once they’ve established this kind of foundation, the best leaders in the future will be the ones who can constantly learn and adapt, because as you are quickly going to find out, there are no predetermined solutions to the problems you’re going to face. And the pace of change is only going to increase as time passes. Being successful will require an adaptive and innovative mind, a willingness to accept prudent risk in unfamiliar or rapidly changing situations, and a flexibility to adjust based on continuous assessment.

The reason these traits are so important is that the weight of leadership is going to fall upon your shoulders right away. For the soon-to-be military officers among you, you are going to have to make decisions that have real consequences for other people, and you’re going to have to do it right out of the starting blocks. For all of you, within just months you’re going to find yourselves with expectant faces gathered around you, probably many of them older than you, awaiting your guidance, asking you, “What should we do? That’s the responsibility of leadership. It’s daunting, but embrace it.

As you cross the stage today and receive your well deserved diploma celebrate your accomplishments. But, I also want each of you to commit yourselves to a lifetime of service to others. Choosing the harder right over the easier wrong. Each generation has the responsibility to build on the success of previous generations. That is what has made this country Great!

I have mentioned the importance of character a few times already. I emphatically suggest that each and everyone of us is defined by our character. Your character will be tested and it will be the most important test you ever take. Stand up for what is right, don’t be afraid to make tough decisions and treat everyone with dignity and respect, this will earn you the respect of your fellow employers.

Great leaders inspire ordinary men and women to be extraordinary and to achieve what was believed to be unachievable. That is what this country has been built on.

I’ve had the chance to live and work all around the world, and the one thing that is very clear is that there is no nation like the United States of America. There is no other nation that allows each individual to rise and perform to the best of their abilities and provides them the opportunities to do whatever they want. However, it is your choice. I challenge you to make the best use of that choice.

Norwich is a special place I have watched them put their arms around their own during the most difficult times. Be proud of this great university and all it stands for. You will carry its legacy wherever you go or whatever you do.
Congratulations for your accomplishment on this special day. It is time for all you to change the world each in your own way. I wish you nothing but the best of luck and great success in the future. Thank you very much, and God Bless America.

Norwich University Celebrates Graduating Class of 2016

Photos: Norwich President Richard M. Schneider
Norwich University Office of Communications

May 14, 2016

Norwich University celebrated Commencement today, sharing its affection, pride, and faith in the Class of 2016.

Affection for the 469 young men and women it was privileged to serve and know these past four years. Pride in their individual character, hard work, and many accomplishments.

Faith that they will apply what they learned at Norwich—about themselves, about leadership, about their chosen field, about each other—to solve some of the many challenges facing the world today.

“We can’t wait for you to get out there and do amazing things,” Norwich University President Richard W. Schneider told the 296 Cadets and 173 civilian students about to receive diplomas in 1 master’s and 32 bachelor programs.

Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno delivered the Commencement address before an audience of 4,000 at Shapiro Field House this afternoon.

He urged members of the Class of 2016 to blaze their own path and to serve the nation and others. “Give back. Give to others. Make a difference in other people’s lives,” he said. “That will be your legacy as a graduate.”

After the last diploma was handed out, a sea of Norwich cadets and black-robed civilian students hurled their white caps or pumped their fists skyward.

Other smaller ceremonies took place throughout the day too, starting with the Nurses Pinning ceremony at 10 a.m. in White Chapel. Speaking to a group of senior nursing graduates, NU School of Nursing Director Paulette Thabault told them, “We’re so proud of you.”

“We hear over and over how well prepared our [nursing] students are,” College of Professional Schools Dean Aron Temkin told them. “You guys are ready.”

Graduating nurse Samantha Nelson gave the school’s class address, evoking knowing laughter as she recalled the thrill of wearing scrubs for the first time, the anxiety-inducing wait for exam results, and countless other milestones. “We supported each other,” she said. “We made it together.”

Across campus, faculty at NU’s School of Architecture + Art held a senior show and awards ceremony for its graduating seniors and master’s students. School director Cara Armstrong kicked off the celebration, telling graduates, “I know I’m going to get choked up, so I’m going to keep it brief.”

Associate professor of Architecture Danny Sagan told the assembly, “The world needs … architects.” He said the world has experienced a historic shift in the past five years. For the first time in human history, the majority of the global population now lives in cities.

Architects are uniquely positioned to solve problems connected to our built environment, he said. “If there are people who are trained to make the quality of life better, it’s architects.”

Outside Chaplin Hall, unfamiliar sights bid farewell to the unseasonably cool spring. Bright sunshine, lush lawns, leafing trees, and cars parked along the Upper Parade ground. License plates spoke of celebratory road trips from Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Iowa, Illinois, South Carolina, and beyond.

Elsewhere, at a reception for the NU College of Science and Mathematics, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff and Norwich Board of Trustees Chair Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan ’59 chatted with newly appointed chair Alan Deforest ’75. They stood in Weintz Courtyard at the granite foot of Norwich founder Alden Partridge, surrounded by faculty, students, and their families.

In Dole Auditorium, engineering majors were inducted into the Order of the Engineers and received stainless steel pinky rings, a symbolic reminder that lives rest on the integrity and safety of their work.

Beyond rings and diplomas and hopes and dreams and future plans, Norwich’s graduates carried something else today. They carried the things they learned here about themselves and their lives going forward.

“Norwich taught me to be a confident, independent woman,” says Shaili Patel, a civilian student who double majored in architecture and history. “It showed me that I have the capabilities to be a leader, as well as the capacity to grow and learn as a person.” Patel will begin a master’s program in architecture at Norwich this fall and will later commission as an officer into the U.S. Navy.

Samantha Thornton majored in criminal justice major and served as first lieutenant in the Corps of Cadets. The former homecoming queen from Tampa, Fla., says Norwich helped her discover a remarkable inner toughness and her professional passion for helping victims of sexual assault. “I think I learned here that you can accomplish anything—really, honestly—anything put before you,” she says. “It’s a mindset. Whatever anyone throws at you, you can most certainly do.”

Olivia DeSpirito, a biology major from East Brunswick, R.I, joined the Corps of Cadet at Norwich, served on the university’s Honor Committee and traveled to Macedonia. “What I really learned about myself here at Norwich is that you have in yourself the power to do great things—provided you don’t give into pressure around you.” She starts graduate school this fall, studying forensic science to fulfill a childhood dream of becoming a forensic pathologist.

Kenneth Sikora, a commuter student from Calais, Vt., majored in biochemistry, led the Norwich Fencing Club, and translated medieval Chinese poetry while completing the university’s rigorous academic Honors Program. As an undergraduate, he investigated the differential expression of genes that influence cancers among countless other research projects.

Sikora, who plans to apply to med school, says one thing he learned at Norwich was to take a deep breath. It’s natural to be nervous in front of a crowd. The feeling will pass, often in just a minute. Then you can tell the world what you know.

Norwich Commencement | The Graduates: Phung Pham ’16

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Phung Pham ’16

Hometown: Hanover, Mass.
Major: Computer Security & Information Assurance (CSIA)
Student Path: Corps of Cadets

  • Association for Computing Machinery (Student Club)
  • Coaching for Leadership
  • Center for Civic Engagement


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What Norwich Taught Me

Time management and an unwavering focus on academics. Pham spent countless hours studying in Kreitzberg Library and talking to professors outside of class to understand course material. “This is not [an] easy habit for everyone,” he says. “The Norwich motto “I Will Try!” [was] always in my mind. It helped me overcome problems.”[/content_band]

Phung Pham entered Norwich University’s Class of 2016 just two years after arriving in the U.S. from Vietnam. Pham participated in the inaugural Coaching for Leadership program at Norwich as a first-year Rook. There, he met NU alum and former trustee Richard Hayden ’68. Hayden advised Pham to focus on his academics, improve his English, seek leadership opportunities in the Corps, and become a U.S. citizen. In November, Pham realized all of those goals as he took the U.S. Oath of Allegiance, the final step in becoming an American citizen.

“Phung is an example of the best that Norwich can produce,” Hayden writes. “He will be a great alum and, I expect, an even greater American.”

A member of the Vermont National Guard, Pham returns to Fort Benning, Ga., following graduation to complete seven weeks of U.S. Army Advanced Individual Training. Upon completion, Pham hopes to join the U.S. Coast Guard via its direct commission program. He also plans to continue his education at Norwich. He was recently awarded a full scholarship for an online master’s degree with NU’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies.

Norwich Commencement | The Graduates: Kenneth Sikora ’16

Photo: Kenneth Sikora poses in white lab coat before chalkboard

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Kenneth Sikora ’16

Hometown: Calais, Vt.
Major: Biochemistry
Minor: Biology
Student Path: Commuter

  • Academic Honors Program
  • Norwich University Fencing Club
  • Chameleon Literary Journal
  • Summer Research Internship
  • Undergraduate Research Program Ambassador
  • Published research in The Oswald Review + the International Journal of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics


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What Norwich Taught Me

“[Norwich] taught me all the basics of performing research—formulating a research question [and/or] hypothesis, writing a proposal, troubleshooting, failing, and communicating results with an audience comprised of individuals who are not familiar with my field’s lingo.”

“I am deeply grateful to all the professors who taught me,” says graduating senior Kenneth Sikora. “Without venturing into hyperbole, the least I can say is essentially every one of them was a generous, kind, patient, and knowledgeable teacher.”

Sikora plans to attend medical school in the future, where he hopes to train as a general practitioner. During three intense years at Norwich, he solidified his love for language and chemistry, he says, and led the fencing club while completing NU’s academically rigorous honors track.

Inspired during a world literature course with writing professor Sean Prentiss, Sikora became interested in the translation of medieval Chinese poetry. He began work on Lady Su Hui’s Star Gauge, written in A.D. 360, and plans to continue the project after graduation. He also published a refereed journal paper on Beowulf and edited the campus literary journal, the Chameleon.

In the lab, Sikora studied bioinformatics among other topics, examining the differential expression of genes behind certain types of cancers as part of a research project. He developed a protocol to express the H.pylori enzyme NDGluRS in E.coli bacteria with Assistant Professor of Biochemistry & Chemistry Ethan Guth. He also worked with Associate Professor of Chemistry Seth Frisbie to test the fit of calibration curves, which are often used to convert electrical signals to chemical concentrations.

Asked to comment on a highlight of his time at Norwich, he says, “My experience was that the whole time was a highlight, with only one or two dim spots. Perhaps my introduction to the field of research was brighter than the rest. But my first organic chemistry class was equally thrilling at the time.”

Norwich Commencement | The Speeches: MG John W. Baker’s ’85 Commissioning Address

Photo of Maj. Gen. John Baker ' 85 speaking to Norwich ROTC commissioning officers on the Norwich campus

On Sunday, May 15, 2016, Norwich alum and U.S. Army Major General John W. Baker ’85 addressed ROTC commissioning officers from the Class of 2016 at the formal Norwich commissioning ceremony. Baker, who serves as Commanding General of the Army’s 7thth Signal Command (Theater), shared the following copy of his prepared remarks.

Alan, Thank you for your kind introduction. General Sullivan, sir, it’s always good to be with you. Thanks for your service. Lieutenant General Valcourt, good to see you sir and all the other general and flag officers, welcome.

So, good morning, Rooks! Just kidding! Thought you might like to hear that word one last time! Although you know that in the military Second Lieutenant and Ensign are just other words for “Rooks!” But seriously, good morning team mates. Let me start by thanking Admiral Schneider for inviting me to speak. It is an honor to be present with the faculty, future officers, and families from Norwich – my alma mater! Thanks also to professors of military science, COL Eric Brigham, COL Andrew Hird, and COL Robert Kuckuk and their spouses Vicki, Alicia, and Jennifer, as well as the other ROTC officers and NCOs for leading our future officers! I would also like to thank everyone that has made this occasion possible today and for the warm reception that my wife, Laurie and I have received upon returning to “The Hill”. And, the Norwich Band, give it up for the toobies! The Honor Guard and Salute Battery!

You know, my dad brought me to Norwich in the fall of 1980 during my senior year of high school. My dad served in the Army for over 31 years; enlisted at 18 and was commissioned at 19 through Officer Candidate School. He was a tough artilleryman. Over the years of his career he met many Norwich graduates in the Army.

When I told him I’d like to go to a school up north where I could ski, play lacrosse, and wanted to participate in ROTC, he immediately said “Norwich!” We came up, toured the school; I stayed the night in Alumni Hall with some lacrosse players and the rest was history! Norwich is the only college I applied to, and maybe the only one I could get into! I knew this was the place for me at first sight.

I’m assuming that many of you, by your presence here today, share that same experience.

I’m not sure what the secret sauce of future success is, but Norwich has it in abundance! In part, it’s the sports and coaches. Back in my day, I played lacrosse at Norwich. Our coach when I was here was a legend. Coach Wallace “MAJ” Baines! MAJ started the lacrosse program here in 1968 and is in the Norwich University hall of fame. He was a “technician” of the sport, knew its complexity and intricacies. But he also knew the human dimension of building a team, of teamwork, of relationships, and bringing out the best in his players.

We all loved the sport, we all loved our team and teammates, and we all loved “MAJ” and HE…WAS…TOUGH! How tough? Chuck Norris tough! He dipped; you know, he chewed tobacco. Always had a chew of tobacco in his mouth. Problem was, we never, ever, saw him spit! Think about that. He would just smirk at the players who chewed and spit! We just figured “MAJ” had a cast iron stomach! I’m sure there’s a “MAJ” in your stay here at Norwich, too! You’ll remember this person fondly.

My own commissioning ceremony at Norwich was 31 years ago this month on 17 May 1985. General John W. Vessey Jr., the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was the commissioning officer. My experiences at Norwich shaped me into a leader as I entered the Army as an Armor Officer. The tough academics, varsity lacrosse team experiences, hundreds of hours on the national ski patrol on Paine Mountain, and four years in the Corps of Cadets all intersected to help prepare me for a lifetime of service. And for the last three decades, the leadership crucible of life at “The Wick” and ROTC training that are the key ingredients of the Norwich experience have been my foundation. You are all many steps ahead of your contemporaries from other colleges and universities as you enter your respective services. And you, too, will find your time at Norwich is the foundation from which you will grow and succeed in our profession of arms. It’s like the face-off in a lacrosse game, because I was a middy and I took all the face-offs. The face-off winner is the quickest and the one with the most agility. And just like in a face-off, you will find during your time at Norwich that the agility of thought and the speed of decision-making you have learned here for four years will give you an early edge as you come into our military. So use it and go!

Allow me to be one of the first to congratulate all 129 of you, whom we are about to commission as Second Lieutenants and Ensigns into this great military of ours! I know that you have worked hard and are prepared to take on leading America’s best young men and women; starting in about ten minutes!

Now my remarks this morning are peppered with anecdotes and insights gleaned from many years of service. Here is the first of them: “You are never too senior to be the junior.”

Let me explain. During a recent training exercise, a newly commissioned Lieutenant was driving down a muddy back road and encountered “me.” I was driving another tactical vehicle. Unfortunately, the vehicle was stuck in the mud and I mean stuck!

This very polite and eager Lieutenant got out of his vehicle and came over to me and said:
“Your vehicle stuck, Sir?”

“Nope,” I replied as I smiled and handed him the keys, “Yours is”!

In addition to my anecdotes, if you don’t take anything else out of what I will talk about this morning, then understand my remarks are about honor, courage, and service. This is what our military and Nation needs of you. This is what your fellow Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen expect of you. Our men and women in uniform ask so little of us as leaders; only to be well led by Officers of the highest character.

And, we are going to give you the opportunity to lead. The enlisted men and women that you lead and the country that you serve deserve nothing less than your best, every minute, every hour, every day that you wear the uniforms of our country. And you will lead, in good times and in the fog, friction, and uncertainty of combat.

For all of you digital natives using your mobile devices to Instagram, Skype, Snapchat, Vine, or Tweet my speech, I’ve placed the full text of my remarks on my command’s Facebook page and you can read it later. But here in this moment, as you are about to be commissioned, hear this: You will be looked at for leadership among the people that you serve — your platoon, your flight, your ship’s division, your team! They don’t want to be your friend, but it’s ok if you were friendly. They expect a human being, not a machine. But they also expect a leader. They want somebody to stand up and show them the way. That’s what we’ve trained you to do here at Norwich; show them the way!

Next, you need to guard your integrity! No one can take your integrity from you. People can take a lot of things from you, but nobody can take away your integrity. This attribute is uniquely yours; to maintain and guard. And, it will be challenged. But, your integrity, the ability to always demand, tell and insist on the truth, to always come forward and deal with the facts, is the foundation of our military profession. We must believe what people tell us as our lives depend on the highest integrity.

Your allegiance, when you take the oath momentarily, your allegiance is to our military – and your respective service! Remember, the absolute allegiance of what you’re about is to the institution of our military. Remember that every day of your service!

Be kind to those our nation asks you to serve! Treat everyone with dignity and respect, because no one in our military is unimportant. We can’t afford to have Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen who are unimportant. Each member of our team has a critical part. We need to treat everybody with dignity and respect and the understanding that your life — your life — depends on them, and their lives depend on you.

And, you have to learn to trust your fellow Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen! You have never had to trust in someone as much as you’re going to have to trust the men and women of our military. You will weave a tapestry of trust – an unseen but very real bond that unites us. This is a very unique part of our profession.

Learn your service history! Everything that you are wearing today, your coats, your pants, the rank insignias, the branch insignias, is all built on a heritage and a legacy and it has a reason for being a certain color, shape, or style. Learn it and you’ll understand its importance. It defines who you are as an officer of our military and who you will be as a representative of our profession.

Always remember to wear hearing protection! Everything in our military is really loud: tank main gun rounds, jets, helicopter rotors, machine guns, bugles at revile, and tough Non-commissioned Officers and Chief Petty Officers. Protect your hearing so you can hear your wife or husband telling you to take the trash out, your children’s laughter, or your daughters telling you NO when you give them a curfew decades from now.

Let me end with something bigger than ourselves – I’m referring to the core values that are common to us all whether you serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines.

Serve with Honor: Conduct yourselves in the highest ethical manner. Be honest and truthful; Be accountable through your honorable professional conduct.

Serve with Courage: Courage is the value that gives us the moral and mental strength to do what is right; and always in the service of our country.

Commit to Service: Have a sense of service before self; realize your needs are secondary to the needs of those you lead.

Ok, we’re almost done, stay with me now. This bit of advice is very, very important. I want you to call, Skype, text, or write your mother once a week. No one has more unconditional love for you than your Mom. Pay it back with frequent contact.

Last thing! We’re doing this by row; like a tactical engagement officers. I want our soon to be officers to stand up and point to the family members that got you here today. That’s an order! Families, you’re the friendlies; help your officers. Make eye contact, identify your location, yell, shout, let them know how much you appreciate them, love them and thank them! Sit back down once you see them!

Family members and friends, STAND UP, yell back. That’s a request! Make eye contact. Shout to your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandsons and granddaughters, nieces and nephews, how absolutely proud you are of them. Don’t sit down until you see your officer. And remember this moment!

One last insight; this one is about the importance of timeliness, because in our military it’s all about being on time.

There was a retired Officer who landed a civilian job in a fortune 500 company. During his first week, he came in about five minutes late over a couple of days, which irritated his Boss. During his second week he came in about ten minutes late every other day to the “exasperation” of his boss. During his third week he was a half hour late; every day.

His boss couldn’t take it anymore and called him into his office and berated him for always being late. “What did they tell you when you were late in the military??” the Boss asked. The retired Officer replied, “GOOD MORNING GENERAL…”

Again, thank you very much for inviting me here this morning; it’s a true honor.

To my officers…..
Please look at me…..
You’re in the 1% now! The 1% who have volunteered to serve our nation in the military.

Now, Go out and make a difference! Lead from the front! Be the Officers that our nation needs to shape and mold our military.

And, as we say in the Army’s Signal Regiment, I’ll see you on the high ground.

God bless our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, Civilians, and our Families;

And may God bless the United States of America.

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!

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
Follow us on Twitter @NorwichNews