Norwich University Graduates 444 in Historic Bicentennial Commencement Ceremony

NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Norwich University celebrated commencement during its 200th year of educating citizen soldiers in service to the nation with a ceremony on Saturday, May 11, in Shapiro Field House, in which 444 students graduated from 32 undergraduate programs and one master’s program.

At a 2 p.m. ceremony, New York Times best-selling author and historian Alex Kershaw, who penned “Citizens & Soldiers: The First 200 Years of Norwich University,” gave the commencement address to the Class of 2019 in Norwich’s bicentennial year.

Graduates include future military officers, law enforcement officers, and many who will go on to graduate school, jobs in the federal government, athletic training, construction management, and numerous sectors of public service. The Class of 2019 was comprised of 159 civilian students and 285 students in the Corps of Cadets.

Kershaw, who is a graduate of Oxford University, highlighted standout alumni, such as Norwich engineers who built the United States in the 19th century. A WWII historian and British native, Kershaw highlighted specifically a 1944 graduate, Private Richard Austin, who “jumped into the darkness above Normandy, one of the legendary Screaming Eagles,” to liberate Europe. He lauded Norwich’s many ‘firsts’ particularly the first eight women who in 1974 became the first female members of the Corps of Cadets. Kershaw concluded his remarks to the Norwich University Class of 2019 with this: “You are lucky…This place…provided a great platform for [Norwich alumni] success, a launching pad. Norwich gave a distinct, a rigorous and importantly a disciplined and moral education, and that basis will serve all of you very well as you go forward.”

The ceremony also included remarks from an enactment of Founder Captain Alden Partridge reflecting on how Norwich has grown and succeeded 200 years after its founding.

In honor of the university’s bicentennial in 2019, Norwich University recently released “Citizens & Soldiers: The First 200 Years of Norwich University.” The book chronicles the history and legacy of the nation’s oldest private military college and birthplace of ROTC and the alumni who have defined American and world history over the past 200 years. Drawing upon Norwich University’s extensive archives and museum collection, Kershaw spent two years researching and writing the book. Kershaw’s compelling narrative style is interwoven with photos, maps, illustrations, and timelines.

On Sunday, May 12, Norwich University’s graduating future officers will hear remarks from a fellow graduate at this spring’s joint services commissioning ceremony. U.S. Army Major General Mark J. O’Neil ’86 returns to the Norwich campus to speak to ROTC commissioning officers in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines, during a formal ceremony to mark the occasion on Sunday, May 12, at 9 a.m. in Shapiro Field House. Approximate commissioning numbers are: Army, 81; Air Force, 26; Navy, 12; Marines, 17.

Currently O’Neil serves as the Commanding General, U.S. Army Alaska, of which he assumed command in 2017. He graduated from Norwich University in 1986 earning his commission as an Infantry Officer from Norwich University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). He began his career as a Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer and Scout Platoon Leader with the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

About Norwich University

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). 

Norwich will celebrate its bicentennial in 2019. In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders, Norwich launched the Forging the Future campaign in 2014. The five-year campaign, which is timed to culminate in 2019, is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities and is designed to enhance the university’s strong position as it steps into its third century of service to the nation.

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