Retired U.S. Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan receives playful honor during annual alumni gathering

Gordon R. Sullivan ’59 embodies authority. He served 36 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a general and having led as the Army’s 32nd chief of staff. He was also chairman of Norwich University’s Board of Trustees for about two decades; the university honored him by putting his name on the campus’s museum and Bicentennial Stairs.

This month, Sullivan had a 7-foot bronze statue of his likeness unveiled in Quincy, Massachusetts, where he grew up and was honored with other revered armed forces generals. At Norwich’s Presidential Inauguration Day, soon-to-be-sworn-in Dr. Mark Anarumo spied Sullivan in the first rows of seats by Jackman Hall and shouted him out.

“Thank you,” Anarumo said to Sullivan.

Sullivan stood, motioned back, and said, “Thank you.”

These moments were respectful and serious. But during Homecoming weekend, Joe Egolf ’64, found Sullivan can also savor silliness.

1964 flag
Members of Norwich University’s Class of 1964 line up near Sabine Field on Sept. 25, 2021, for the Alumni Parade during Homecoming weekend. (Photo courtesy Joe Egolf/Norwich University Class of 1964.)

As crowds gathered Saturday for the Alumni Parade at Sabine Field at Haynes Family Stadium, Egolf queued with 1964 classmates Mike Capone, Charlie Flagler, Curtis Michael and Bruce Moskos. In an email, Egolf wrote that he spotted Sullivan and approached him with a gift.

Egolf joked that he’s a member of the Senior Buck Society, a Facebook group Paul McMackin ’66 started a few years ago. Egolf said he joined the society as soon as it formed to support the hundreds of senior bucks who love and support Norwich.

In armed forces slang, “bucks” are U.S. Army or U.S. Marine Corps privates. In the Army, “buck sergeants” are the second-lowest noncommissioned officers, above specialists and corporals, but below staff sergeants. As Norwich President Emeritus Richard W. Schneider explained in an email, in Norwich’s Corps of Cadets, “senior bucks” are, tongue-in-cheek, senior privates with no rank — “buck privates.”

Apparently, Sullivan was once a Norwich buck.

“Thirty feet in front of me is four-star General Gordon Sullivan. He was a mess hall ‘senior buck,’” Egolf wrote. “I saunter over to him, get face to face and I say, ‘Sir, you are seriously out of uniform.’”

Sullivan was startled, Egolf wrote, returning an “are you nuts?” glare.

“I then announce, ‘You are not wearing your Senior Buck Pin,’” Egolf wrote. “And I pin one on him, realize it’s crooked, and reattach it correctly.”

By then, Sullivan was laughing.

“He was a good sport with me and my nonsense,” Egolf wrote.

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