1991 graduate and retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel says he’ll work to unify students, produce leaders

To lead students into Norwich University’s third century, Col. William McCollough came home.

The retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel returned to the campus where he’d graduated 30 years ago, becoming Norwich University’s 56th Corps of Cadets commandant and the first to also have the vice president of student affairs title. He’ll assume the roles in late Spring 2022.

President Dr. Mark Anarumo introduced McCollough at a 1 p.m. ceremony on Jackman Hall’s steps, and called him the perfect choice for the new combined job, given Norwich University’s identity and trajectory.

Anarumo said Norwich can be both a top Senior Military College and have a thriving civilian student population. Having a separate students dean and commandant, he said, wasn’t in the university’s best interests.

“Right now, at perhaps more than any point in my lifetime, our country aches for the men and women of substance and character that Norwich produces.”Col. William McCollough, Norwich University Corps of Cadets  commandant and vice president of student affairs

“We have to rededicate ourselves to that core purpose, it is about the students … (they are) the reason for our existence and always have been,” Anarumo said to the crowd of hundreds before him. “So, to have you all standing together with us as one student population is incredibly important. … We have to be ‘Norwich together.’”

In an interview, McCollough, a Brainerd, Minnesota, native who emerged from among 50 candidates to earn the dual roles, said returning to Norwich gave him a sense of completion. He graduated summa cum laude from Norwich in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science.

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Norwich University President Dr. Mark Anarumo watches Tuesday as Col. William McCollough addresses students from Jackman Hall’s steps. (Photo by Matthew Crowley/Norwich University.)

As Anarumo had, McCollough called the new combined leadership role an important change for Norwich, which he said is increasingly known for creating leaders of all sorts, military and otherwise.

“Instead of trying to bring together things (separate Corps and civilian cohorts), it’s about bringing together people who have common desires on what they came to Norwich to get,” McCollough said. “They wanted to learn to be better in the service of this country, they wanted to be better leaders.”

Although McCollough is the first to have the vice president of student affairs and commandant’s titles at Norwich University, Dr. Michael Kelley, a 27-year U.S. Army veteran who retired as a colonel, handled aspects of both jobs during his nine years as commandant, from 2003 to 2011. Kelley now teaches engineering at Norwich.

In the Marines, McCollough developed into a distinguished leader. As a company grade officer, he graduated both The Basic School and Amphibious Warfare School with honors, then served in Operations Marathon, Southern Watch and Desert Thunder.

McCollough was team chief for Military Transition Team 1/3/1 during Operation Iraqi Freedom and led the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

McCollough’s leadership positions include executive officer, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines; operations officer, executive officer and tribal engagement officer, 1st Marines; and officer in charge of the Afghan National Police Advisor Team. He also directed the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and served as a congressional fellow and Marine liaison to the U.S. House of Representatives.

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As soon as he’d finished delivering his first remarks as commandant and vice president of student affairs, Col. William McCullough lingered near Jackman Hall to shake hands and chat with students. (Photo by Matthew Crowley/Norwich University.)

Leaders for the times and nation

In his Jackman Hall remarks, McCollough told the students, especially the rooks, that he remembered being where they were — trying not to lock knees and risk passing out as elders spoke. He said he was humbled to follow his Norwich commandants, Col. Timothy Donovan and Col. Anthony Carbone, and was excited to develop the leaders the times demand and the nation needs.

“Right now, at perhaps more than any point in my lifetime, our country aches for the men and women of substance and character that Norwich produces,” McCollough said. “We need the budding leaders who draw much of their identity from the experiences they had here and from their understanding of the importance of living a life that’s marked by honesty, and self-discipline, critical thinking and open-mindedness.”

McCullough said students’ success will be his own yardstick for success and he and his staff will create experiences to help them lead, wherever they land. Learning, he said, should be the priority and the goal.

He recalled calling home from a payphone in his barracks, Goodyear Hall, after receiving first-semester grades in 1987, his rook year, and being flummoxed when his father asked what he’d learned.

“He said … ‘If you get an A in a class, but you can’t tell me what you’ve learned in achieving it, then I’ve wasted my money and you’ve wasted your time,'” McCollough said, motioning to the crowd. “So, learn the subjects of your classes, learn about character and leadership and use that knowledge to learn about yourself and to figure out what you’re going to stand for in life. That’s why you’re at Norwich.”

(Slideshow photos by Mark Collier and Matthew Crowley/Norwich University.)

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