Richard W. Schneider, who retired in 2020 after 28 years as the university’s top leader, receives Vermont Distinguished Service Medal

Norwich University has honored President Emeritus Richard W. Schneider’s 28 years of presidential stewardship many ways, renaming a campus building in his honor and etching his name of the top rung the Bicentennial Stairs’ top flight. On Thursday night, the Vermont National Guard’s adjutant general added his own accolade, the Vermont Distinguished Service Medal.

Schneider, a former U.S. Coast Guard rear admiral, received the award in a masked in-person ceremony separate from the Guard’s town hall meeting at the Vermont Guard’s Colchester, Vermont, headquarters. U.S. Army Maj. Scott Detweiler, the Vermont National Guard’s public affairs officer, said the Guard had planned to give Schneider the award in May 2020 when he retired from the university, but the coronavirus pandemic scotched the plan.

Tracey Poirier ’96, who in 2019 became the first female commander of the 124th Regiment Regional Training Institute and the sixth female colonel in Vermont Army National Guard history, attended the awards presentation with fellow Norwich alumni Gene Enriquez ’07, a U.S. Army major, and Juan Coleman ’06, a U.S. Air Force master sergeant. (Poirier is Norwich’s assistant vice president for leadership and student experience.)

“Dr. Schneider’s outstanding tenure at Norwich University has left an indelible mark, one that will carry on in the future leaders of the U.S. military, higher education and business.” Maj. Gen. Gregory Knight, Vermont National Guard adjutant general

Maj. Gen. Gregory Knight, the Vermont Guard’s adjutant general, filled the award citation document with a bullet-pointed list of Schneider’s merits. Knight called Schneider a longstanding and valuable partner who benefited the Guard and Vermont by cultivating a lasting service-before-self culture among students.

“At any given point, nearly 200 NU cadets serve in the ranks of the Vermont National Guard,” Knight wrote, adding that Schneider helped make Norwich a major supplier of lieutenants for all armed forces branches.

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Maj. Gen. Gregory Knight, the Vermont National Guard’s adjutant general, stands with Norwich University President Emeritus Richard W. Schneider and his Vermont Distinguished Service Medal on Thursday in Colchester, Vermont. (Photo by Donald Branum/Joint Force Headquarters/Vermont National Guard Public Affairs.)

Norwich cadets excelled as they served, Knight wrote, many becoming senior military leaders.

Knight praised Schneider for improving the university campus by adding buildings and improving infrastructure. Knight also praised Schneider’s leadership, which sparked the National Center for the Study of Counterterrorism and Cybercrime’s launch and $50 million in externally funded Norwich University Applied Research Institutes research that kept the university on state and national defense’s leading edge.

The citation further called Schneider an exemplar of selfless service, loyalty and dedication who perpetuated the university’s longstanding citizen-soldier legacy. Schneider’s partnership building, Knight wrote, shaped the university’s future and benefited Vermont profoundly and lastingly.

“Dr. Schneider’s outstanding tenure at Norwich University has left an indelible mark, one that will carry on in the future leaders of the U.S. military, higher education and business,” Knight wrote. “Dr. Schneider’s service is in keeping with the highest traditions of service to the state of Vermont, the Vermont National Guard and the United States military.”

Valuable partnership

Schneider said he was surprised and humbled to receive the award — Knight said the Guard wanted to thank him for contributions but wasn’t specific. Having 10 Norwich graduates at the ceremony was special, Schneider said.

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Norwich University President Emeritus Richard W. Schneider receives the Vermont Distinguished Service Medal on Thursday from Maj. Gen. Gregory Knight, the Vermont National Guard’s adjutant general. (Photo by Donald Branum/Joint Force Headquarters/Vermont National Guard Public Affairs.)

“I was very moved and humbled,” Schneider said. “And having Norwich people around me was the icing on the cake.”

Schneider said the university and the Guard have a great symbiotic partnership — the Guard sends troops to the university, which educates them and sends them back as second lieutenants.

“When I accepted (the award), I said, ‘Look, I’m accepting this on behalf of all the people at Norwich who work so hard to support our Guard,’” Schneider said. “We’re proud of them and what they’re doing, they’re deploying again, they’re giving us shots.”

The Guard said in January that 950 Vermont soldiers and 80 airmen would deploy by the end of June to a variety of missions. On Jan. 14, Knight told Burlington, Vermont, television station WCAX-TV, Channel 3, that he couldn’t specify where the Guard personnel would go or what they’d do, but said one deployment area is the U.S. Central Command, which covers Iran, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

As Schneider alluded, the Guard earlier this week helped lead an Operation Warp Speed vaccination clinic on campus for students contracted with or enlisted in the armed forces.


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