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A march through Citadel history
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Three historians discussed The Citadel’s history and its changes today in a panel discussion entitled “Marching Through Time: The Citadel, 1842-2006.” The discussion was a pre-inaugural event to honor Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa, who will be formally installed as 19th president of the college Friday.
Rod Andrew Jr.
Rod Andrew, an associate professor of history at Clemson University and the author of a book entitled Long Gray Lines: The Southern Military School Tradition, 1839-1915, began the discussion. By 1860, he said, 100 military academies and colleges had opened in the South. The purpose of these institutions was two-fold: they provided state military protection—a check against Federal powers—and at the same time they provided a classical education for residents. Antebellum college campuses were traditionally rowdy places, and it as thought that the military training would strengthen the character of the young men and prevent mischief.
The Civil War dampened the popularity of military education. With The Citadel closed after federal occupation, the future looked bleak for the survival of one of the leaders of military education. But through the perseverance of alumni, the college’s gates were once again reopened. The college’s legacy from this period, Andrew said, is not the involvement in the war, but rather the moral, mental and physical complement it provided to traditional education.
Senior faculty member, history professor and noted author, Col. Gary Nichols, discussed the Summerall era. After a 43-year renowned Army career, Summerall became the college’s 10th president and the one who saved the military college from collapse during the Great Depression. With the college mired in heavy debt, Summerall enforced strict measures to remedy the crisis. Faculty salaries were cut 20 to 25 percent. He cut his own salary by 40 percent. Pencils were used until they were one-inch nubs. Phones were disconnected, and strips of foolscap became the means by which the campus communicated.
At the same time, Summerall focused on restoring the strength of the student body by raising money. Robert R. McCormack, editor and owner of The Chicago Tribune and one who served under Summerall in the Army, made a sizeable donation to fund scholarships as well as the building of the chapel.
Under Summerall’s tenure, the curriculum was expanded, faculty began getting advanced degrees and the college received full accreditation. He resigned in 1953 after serving the college 22 years. He was 86.
Alex Macaulay, a ’94 Citadel graduate, an assistant professor of history at Western Carolina University and the author of two books, discussed the struggles the college has faced in the years since World War II. Problems with hazing have prompted the college to conduct self studies on the fourth class system. With the enrollment of Charles Foster in 1966, the first African American, and Joseph Shine after him in 1967, the college began to experience racial tensions. And when Shannon Faulkner petitioned for admission into the college, the battle over coeducation erupted in the early 90s.
Since those years, the Corps of Cadets has become stronger with women and minorities occupying an important place in its ranks. The Citadel has consistently been recognized in U.S. News & World Reports rankings, and this year it was recognized by Newsweek as one of America’s 25 hottest colleges. Still, Macaulay said jokingly, there are two things that are consistent: “The Citadel is recognized for producing honest, principled leaders, and it’s still harder to make it through The Citadel than U.S.C.”