Car parade on campus will let Norwich University community salute much respected, soon-to-retire leader

Richard W. Schneider has loved the parades — the thumping of feet, the trumpeters’ bleats, the lining of streets. He and his wife, Jaime, have gamely ridden in many Norwich parades over his 28 years as Norwich University’s president. On Labor Day weekend, for example, they rode on the university’s bicentennial float through Northfield as grand marshals of the Northfield Labor Day Parade.

On Tuesday, instead of being in a parade, the Schneiders will be honorees.

Starting at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, cars will enter Norwich’s campus from the south end and line up along Power Plant Road (in front of Andrews Hall and Haynes Family Stadium). At 11:45 a.m., the procession will head up Jackman Hill and enter the Upper Parade Ground through the gates next to Jackman Hall. The Schneiders will watch from Jackman Hall’s steps.

“I think we all yearned for a way to say thank you for (his) incredible leadership over the last almost three decades.” Kelli Sutton-Bosley M’13, M’16, associate program director, College of Graduate and Continuing Studies

Drivers, safely ensconced and physically distanced in their cars, will pass Jackman honking, waving and displaying signs and balloons to wish the Schneiders well. They’ll continue down the Upper Parade Ground’s eastern side to the Goodyear gates, where they will exit. Norwich Associate Vice President of Alumni and Family Relations Diane Scolaro said the parade will be able to accommodate hundreds of cars.

Scolaro said the timing was right for a parade, with the Schneiders moving out of Woodbury Hall and commuting from their home on Lake Dunmore for the rest of May. Col. Mark Anarumo, the president-elect, is set to take over Norwich’s leadership June 1.

“We wanted to host this event when they could both attend,” Scolaro wrote in an email. “Our plans for President Schneider’s farewell were derailed by COVID-19.”

Scolaro said a sendoff event in Naples, Florida, went off as planned March 8. But the next day, state officials reported the first positive COVD-19 test in Vermont. The ensuing public shutdowns led to scrapping of celebrations in Boston; Washington, D.C.; and on campus with students, faculty and staff.

“We continue to plan for a Norwich/Northfield celebration on Friday, June 26,” Scolaro wrote. “But without knowing whether the current restrictions on travel and gatherings will still be in place seven weeks from now, the car parade provides an opportunity for folks in and around Norwich to show their respect and thanks while practicing appropriate social distancing.”

The parade stands as another example of Norwich’s ingenuity and grit. Just as students, faculty and Schneider himself creatively marked academic year-end rites during the coronavirus lockdown (video technology enabled virtual tributes), university officials, particularly College of Graduate and Continuing Studies colleagues Megan Liptak and Kelli Sutton-Bosley, hatched this parade idea, Scolaro said.

A driving ovation

Liptak M’09, Residency Conference and events coordinator for the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies, said she’s gotten to know and respect President Schneider first as a master’s student, then as a 10-year employee. She said she’s mingled with Jaime Schneider at university functions and in a women’s broomball league.

“(President Schneider’s) work and his legacy will leave a lasting impression on me and on the university,” Liptak wrote in an email. “Dr. Schneider’s exit from office is not what any of us imagined it might be. As he has stated in many of his recent video updates and staff town hall meetings, this is not how he thought it would go, either.”

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A well-wisher shows a sign expressing love for Norwich President Richard W. Schnieider during a May, 5, 2020, car parade near the Upper Parade Ground. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

“Given current circumstances and the likely moratorium on large gatherings for the foreseeable future, I pitched the idea of the parade as it offered the best way to show him how much we respect his work and his legacy and that he will truly be missed,” she added. “One last standing ovation — or driving ovation as the case may be. I hope for a fabulous turnout.”

Sutton-Bosley, an associate program director in Norwich’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies, has profoundly deep ties to the university. With two master’s degrees (history, 2013 and military history, 2016), she’s a double alum. She’s also a staff member, adjunct faculty member and wife of a double alum who’s also a staff and adjunct faculty member. She’s also, she said, mother to a determined future cadet.

After watching President Schneider’s last all-hands meeting on video in computer-fed isolation, Sutton-Bosley said she was determined to make the parade happen.

“I think we all yearned for a way to say thank you for (his) incredible leadership over the last almost three decades,” she wrote in an email. “Instead of dinners, standing ovations, and all the pomp and circumstance he deserves, Schneider leaves an empty campus after talking to empty rooms.

“All I want to do is be able to say goodbye to him with all the pomp and circumstance he truly deserves,” she added. “It is my hope that the car parade wraps around Northfield several times,” she added, “though, even that would not come close to representing the gratitude I think we all feel for President Schneider.”

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Norwich University Perspectives Project: COVID-19

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