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New Citadel president stresses high standards

Denounces recent political scandals
By James T. Hammond of The State
Republished with permission

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

CHARLESTON — Lt. Gen. John Rosa, new president of The Citadel, sought Tuesday in his first appearance before the Corps of Cadets to create a sense of urgency.

He challenged cadets to hold themselves to an ethical standard higher than today’s national leadership, which has been confronted with a rash of scandals and corruption.

“In my lifetime, our country has never needed principled leaders more than it does today,” Rosa told the cadets, citing news accounts of Washington politicians taking bribes in exchange for their votes and influence.

One in particular, former California Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, has given Rosa a sense of purpose in his new role as president of The Citadel. Cunningham was a decorated Vietnam-era fighter pilot, venerated by Rosa, also a highly regarded Air Force fighter pilot.

Following his illustrious military career, Cunningham entered Congress. Last year, he resigned on the eve of being indicted for taking millions of dollars in bribes from government contractors.

“I held him on a pedestal. He was a guy I always admired. It’s a shame,” Rosa said.

Rosa, former superintendent of the Air Force Academy, took over Jan. 1 as the 19th president of The Citadel. Known as a troubleshooter, Rosa assumed the position at a time when the South Carolina military college is free of controversy.

At 53, Rosa could serve for decades and shape the institution in ways few others in his position have.

A graduate of The Citadel class of 1973, Rosa met his wife, Donna, while a student there; they were married in the campus chapel. His youngest son graduated from the Corps of Cadets.

Rosa said The Citadel is a vessel of good character and integrity. His wife said he suffered through the controversy over the admission of women during the 1990s. Rosa was then wing commander at Shaw Air Force Base, had women pilots under his command, and believed his alma mater should be open to everyone, regardless of gender.

“I didn’t care (about their gender) as long as they could fly the airplane and perform the mission,” Rosa said.

Cadets said he brings to the campus a sense of excitement they have not felt before.

Dwayne Steppe, a 21-year-old junior and graduate of Spring Valley High School, described Rosa as “dynamic.”

“I think he’s going to bring back a level of morale that has been missing, a new level of excitement,” Steppe said.

Colette Baumle, a junior from Tarpon Springs, Fla., liked Rosa’s appeal to cadets to hold themselves to a high ethical standard. Noting conversations with friends back home about cheating at other institutions, Baumle said “you just cheat yourself” when taking shortcuts in school.

Rosa will soon turn to a tougher part of his job, soliciting money from the General Assembly. He has a briefing with House members Jan. 24.

» New Citadel president stresses high standards
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