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Norwich University Kicks off 200th Anniversary Year


By Daphne E. Larkin, director of media relations and community affairs at Norwich University

In 2011, in response to damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene, teams of Norwich students gave a total of 4,000 hours of service to neighbors over the course of one month. Photo courtesy of Norwich University

Two hundred years ago, Capt. Alden Partridge, a former superintendent at West Point, founded Norwich University as part of his mission to educate citizen soldiers in the skills needed to build and defend the republic. This makes 2019 a significant milestone in the history of Norwich University, and a year-long schedule of events is underway—starting with a full day of programming on February 20 at the State House in Montpelier and a community scavenger hunt sponsored by many local  businesses (See insert in this issue.)—to pay tribute to the many positive impacts the school has had on Vermont and the United States.

Today, Vermonters can feel the impact of Norwich in their local hospitals and medical providers—we place many nurses in local and regional institutions every year. Norwich students and graduates are everywhere, designing sustainable housing in area architecture firms, working on roads and bridges, developing solutions to mitigate stormwater runoff in public spaces in response to climate change, and building sustainable communities.

Every year Norwich students spend thousands of hours volunteering in the community, from staffing after-school programs to helping neighbors remove snow. In 2011, in response to damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene, teams of Norwich students contributed a total of 4,000 hours of service to neighbors over the course of one month.

Norwich is the oldest and the only private Senior Military College (SMC) in the country. SMC is a federal designation that recognizes colleges or universities that have a standing Corps of Cadets—students who attend classes in uniform—and offer the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. 

Norwich also educates many non-military students. Some of these so-called “civilian” residential or transfer students might have prior military service, or they might just come to Norwich for a specific academic program, an athletic team, or because they appreciate the structured, professional atmosphere the Corps of Cadets creates on campus and in the classroom.

Partridge’s legacy lives on in the way that Norwich continues to innovate education today. We continue to identify the areas of education critical to society, such as new disciplines like cybersecurity, international business, and construction management, and build an academic program around that need. We are also investing heavily in international education opportunities that prepare students to be culturally agile in their thinking and leadership.

In anticipation of celebrating the 200-year anniversary, five years ago we launched our bicentennial “Forging the Future” campaign. The five-year fund-raising campaign, timed to culminate this year, is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities. It is designed to enhance the university’s strong position as we step into our third century of service to the nation.

We achieved our goal a year ahead of time, raising $100 million solely to support the academic program at Norwich and our students via scholarships. That is how much our alumni, employees, and friends believe in our mission. As a result of our campaign, we have newly enhanced programs and facilities in cybersecurity, the arts, engineering, architecture, sciences, and liberal arts.

On campus, the Sullivan Museum and History Center highlights many Norwich firsts and other examples of innovation, growth, and historic breakthroughs in several exhibitions. Many in central Vermont might not know about the many “firsts” that happened here. Here are a few:

Norwich has the country’s oldest collegiate band; it was the first college to teach civil engineering; in 1974, the college admitted women into the Corps of Cadets, two years before the United States Military Academies, with our first female cadet graduating in 1975. This year, Norwich appointed its seventh female Regimental Commander—the top student leadership position in the Corps of Cadets—with psychology major and student-athlete Morgan Woods. Norwich’s first female cadet colonel was Sarah S. Patchem, who held the position in 1997. Norwich was early in online education, too, establishing its first online program in 1997.

We hope that you will join us at the State House and events during the rest of the year to celebrate the past 200 years and take the first steps into the next 200 of doing both Vermont and the country proud.

Daphne E. Larkin is director of media relations and community affairs at Norwich University.