Norwich University Alumni Donate Vietnam Letters to Archives

Office of Communications | Norwich University

December 19, 2014

When American soldiers serving in Vietnam wrote letters home, they often included—on the backs of the Airmail envelopes—the number of days until homecoming. Now, the Vietnam letters of two members of the Class of 1966 are available in the Norwich University Archives, and thanks to these generous donations, researchers can see firsthand these details and others.

On Veterans Day, the family of the late Lt. Col. Howard C. Lewis ’66 donated two sets of letters that he, as a young captain, wrote home from in-country, 1969. It became the first collection of its kind at Norwich University. The donation includes letters Lewis penned to his twin brother Harold, who also attended Norwich, and parents Daniel and Dorothy Lewis. The collection also includes several photographs of Howard and the Lewis family (1964-1966) and material tied to the dedication of the Lt. Col. Howard C. Lewis Memorial Chapel at the Camp Ethan Allen Firing Range in Jericho, VT, in 1988.

During his Vietnam service, Lewis was cited seven times for bravery and was awarded the Soldier’s Medal, five Bronze Stars, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, two Army Commendation medals and, later, the Vermont Medal of Merit. Following his return from Vietnam, he joined the Vermont National Guard, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel. He lived in Barre with his family until his death from cancer in 1987—the result, his family believes, of his exposure to Agent Orange. More than 500 people attended his memorial. The Barre-Montpelier Times Argus called the service “one of the largest funerals ever held in the Granite City.” At the time of his death, he was survived by wife Sandra Roscoe Lewis, and two children.

The Lewis donation evolved from a collaboration between Lewis’s youngest brother, Donald Lewis ’72, and the Norwich Record—Norwich University’s alumni magazine. Don Lewis originally presented the letters for publication in the winter 2015 issue, dedicated to Norwich alumni who served in Vietnam.

Shortly thereafter, another member of the class of 1966, William F. Bonk, donated his collection of Vietnam letters. Bonk had also provided a collection of letters to the Record for publication, and afterwards, graciously offered them to the Archive for public access.

The collection consists of letters written by Bonk to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bonk of Connecticut, during his service as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, February through October 1968. The collection also includes color slides documenting his time in Vietnam as well as a single slide probably taken during his NU commencement in 1966.

These gifts constitute the first two substantial manuscript collections from the Vietnam era to be available in the University Archives. They will serve as the foundation to helping students, faculty, staff, alumni, and researchers better understand the Norwich experience in Vietnam.

To access these collections, please contact the Norwich University Archives, Kreitzberg Library, (802) 485-2947 or

Undergraduate Research Highlights From the College of Liberal Arts

By Isabel Weinger Nielsen | College of Liberal Arts

December 5, 2014

Students in the College of Liberal Arts, working with faculty mentors, have been involved in many exciting projects at Norwich University. Some recent highlights:

Psychology major Ali Shahidy ’17 is the first student from Afghanistan to attend Norwich University. His summer research project, under the mentorship of Criminal Justice Professor Travis Morris, was titled “How is Jihad Marketed in Kabul, Afghanistan?” Shahidy was able to develop six typologies through which Jihadi information is disseminated, and concluded that Jihadi information circulates in Kabul on a regular basis, in multiple manners, and on a large scale. However, the study could not conclude that all texts are propaganda with a specific purpose to influence and encourage people to join a Jihadi movement; some texts or speeches on Jihad are ideological concepts that are taught as part of the religious studies, and therefore they can’t be defined as propaganda. Shahidy said, “I valued the opportunity to conduct one-on-one in-depth academic works with a faculty mentor who is an expert on the subject matter. The research project is a process through which I have learned tremendously about academic research from my mentor.” Shahidy will be staffing the Undergraduate Research information table as one of its new Ambassadors.

Wren and Gwynn’s London

Shaili Patel ’16 is a double-major in architectural studies and history who was mentored by Professor Emily Gray. Patel traveled to London this past summer on an Undergraduate Research Fellowship to conduct research in the British Library. She studied two architects who conceptually redesigned the city of London: Christopher Wren in the late seventeenth century, and John Gwynn in the late eighteenth. Patel’s paper has been accepted for presentation at the Phi Alpha Theta (history honors society) undergraduate research conference in November at Roger Williams University. Patel said “working on the project was an adventure; it was a story coming to life. I spent most of my time in the British Library looking at old maps. While I walked around the city, these maps became reality, and I could imagine how London looked and felt in the 17th and 18th centuries. The project was a limitless expansion of imagination and creativity. “

Nile Journal

Frank Carissimo, a double major in history and studies in war & peace with a minor in political science, will graduate in December 2014. Mentored by History Professor Rowly Brucken, Carissimo will present a paper based on his summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at the Phi Alpha Theta conference. His paper, “War and Hardship on the Nile: The Journal of Frederick Charles Miller,” is based on a journal of Charles Miller that was donated by a Norwich alumnus to the University’s Archives and Special Collections. In 1885, Miller documented an expedition to rescue British Governor-General Charles George “Chinese” Gordon from the city of Khartoum, a subject which had never been studied by historians. Frank said, “The Miller journal of 1885, one of a collection of four, was fascinating to research, as each day brought more unstudied pages [to light]. The research was extremely rewarding as it was the first project I’ve completed thus far in which no other person or source-other than the 1885 Miller journal-could answer my questions.”

Post-WWII Japan

International studies major Jake Freeman ’17 was mentored by Dean Andrea Talentino. His summer research project, “From Destruction to Stability,” examined the methods and circumstances that led to the successful rebuilding of Japan after WWII through the national investment of social and economic resources by the United States for the purpose of developing a mutually beneficial relationship of security and economic interests.

Freeman’s study showed that economic policies promoting the middle class, combined with social institutions that continue to reinforce the outcomes of those policies, along with a mutual security interest make a successful mission. Freeman said, “The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and working closely with Dr. Talentino opened my eyes to research being a professional way to discover things no one else has and, that each person’s research is a small jigsaw piece to a [complete] picture of understanding.”

About Undergraduate Research

Norwich students have a wealth of options when it comes to learning. One of the most exciting developments in this area is the Undergraduate Research Program, which provides funding to students for summer research projects, original research, or creative work projects done during the academic year, as well as opportunities to present papers at professional meetings.

Each October, a Faculty Scholarship Celebration is held on campus featuring displays of faculty/student joint summer research fellowship projects. In December, an Undergraduate Research Symposium generates conversation about research methods across disciplines and gets students thinking about independent research. The symposium provides a collaborative forum for students to develop their research ideas and introduces them to a range of funding opportunities. In May, a Student Scholarship Celebration allows students the opportunity to display their research abstracts from the previous summer or academic year, and recipients of upcoming summer grants are acknowledged.

A recently created Ambassadors Program enlists Undergraduate Research fellows from the previous year to promote the program by visiting classes, attending department meetings, displaying their research posters in the Wise Campus Center, and providing information to future student researchers.

English Professor Amy Woodbury Tease and Criminal Justice Professor Travis Morris are the COLA representatives to the Undergraduate Research Committee.

Read more about Norwich Undergraduate Research.