From a wonky Thomas Jefferson letter to President Schneider’s shoes, an abridged and sometimes irreverent visual survey of the last 200 years

1. “Lightning” the horse

Made of fiberglass, “Lightning” was used to teach cadets the basics of attaching bridles, reins, saddles, stirrups, and other tack used by horse-mounted cavalry. It was all but inevitable that Lightning later became the source of campus pranks. He made surprise cameos on the steps of Jackman Hall and in administrative offices and even lived in a student dorm for a spell.

2. Rook poster (1945)

For nearly a century, entering freshmen cadets, or “rooks,” have tested themselves during the intense-by-design training period known as rookdom—the rules of which are established by upperclassmen. Rules Nos. 1 and 2 from this 1945 poster tell you about all you need to know:

  1. Ye shall be known as “rooks” to all, and shall come running at the utterance of the lowly word. Remember, by all means, that ye are considered the amoeba of this institution.
  2. Since ye possess the official rank of “rook,” ye hold rating over the Colonel’s dog, the Commandant’s cat, and all the Admirals in the Navy.
  3. Samovar

Spurred by the Cold War, Norwich ran an intensive summer Russian language program from 1968 until 2000. Students and faculty agreed to speak only Russian during their six- to eight-week immersions in Slavic language and culture. One professor, who regularly traveled to the U.S.S.R., brought back this samovar, or tea urn, to share with students. The Russian School was in keeping with a very old Norwich idea: Founder Capt. Alden Partridge was the first to teach modern languages at an American college, believing that military officers should be able to speak with their adversaries.

3. Samovar (2019)

Spurred by the Cold War, Norwich ran an intensive summer Russian language program from 1968 until 2000. Students and faculty agreed to speak only Russian during their six- to eight-week immersions in Slavic language and culture. One professor, who regularly traveled to the U.S.S.R., brought back this samovar, or tea urn, to share with students. The Russian School was in keeping with a very old Norwich idea: Founder Capt. Alden Partridge was the first to teach modern languages at an American college, believing that military officers should be able to speak with their adversaries.

4. Lady Liberty (2019)

Several members of the Class of 2019 created this inspired beer-can folk art late one night in their dorm room in response to a new ban on campus alcohol consumption during Commencement celebrations. The scaled-down Statue of Liberty holds a torch/empty whiskey bottle (complete with working, battery-powered LED lights) and the Norwich University Student Rules and Regulations handbook.

5. Early baseball

For more than a century, teammates and mentors have been a central and lasting part of the Norwich student experience. Today, student-athletes at Norwich participate in 20 NCAA varsity sports.

6. Theta Chi Crest

Norwich cadets Frederick Norton Freeman and Arthur Chase established the Theta Chi fraternal organization at Norwich in 1856 in the South Barracks of Norwich’s original campus in Norwich, Vermont. Theta Chi and other fraternities would play an increasing role in campus social life until all Greek houses were banned by NU President Maj. Gen. Ernest Harmon in 1959.

7. Early Wilson globe (1819)

A rare example from the period, this globe of the known world was one of the first purchases made by Capt. Alden Partridge after founding the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy in 1819. Given current efforts to globalize the Norwich learning experience, the artifact is as relevant today as it was then. Smithsonian Institution staff once asked to borrow the globe made by James Wilson, the earliest globe maker in the United States. They were politely told, “no.”

8. Polo ball (1923)

Skilled equestrians who trained as mounted cavalry officers, Norwich cadets also excelled at polo. Riding horses supplied by the U.S. Army, the team dominated their Ivy League opponents during the 1920s. This ball commemorates a Norwich-Harvard game from 1923. Final score: Wick 12, Harvard 2.

9. Serpent (19th century)

A bass wind musical instrument related to the tuba and the coronet, this incomplete example was played in the N.U.C.C. Regimental Band during the 19th century. Established in 1820, the band is the oldest collegiate band in the country. Next year, the award-winning ensemble will perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

10. Apple Macintosh Plus computer

An early pioneer among its peers, Norwich launched its first online master’s degree program in 1997. Today, the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies offers 19 online master’s and bachelor’s degree programs and a growing roster of postgraduate professional certificates and continuing education programs. In May, 444 students graduated from NU’s traditional brick-and-mortar campus, while 497 online students received their degrees a month later. during the annual Residency Conference.

11. Ersatz “Mrs. Alden Partridge” Portrait (19th century)

James Abare ’57 and some friends found this portrait and scrawled “Mrs. Alden Partridge” at the bottom. Out carousing one night, they hung it behind a bar. University staff later heard about the portrait and demanded that Abare and his friends return it — despite their protests that it wasn’t real. Years later, James’ son Paul spied the mislabeled portrait at the Sullivan Museum and revealed its provenance.

12. ROTC patch (1917)

Norwich served as the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in 1916. The training of mounted cavalry units at Norwich demonstrated to U.S. Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood “the feasibility of a program of effective military training for college students and that such training could contribute significantly to national defense,” writes noted historian and professor emeritus Gary Lord.

13. Vial of shredded data (2011)

This glass vial holds destroyed multimedia that contained plans, video, telemetry, and photographs belonging to Osama bin Laden. The sample was collected during the raid and death of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, and donated to the Sullivan Museum and History Center by an anonymous Norwich alum. The gift speaks to the highly dangerous and classified work that many Norwich alumni engage in while serving their country.

—with SMHC staff

14. World War I artillery shell (c. 1918)

This example of trench art commemorates the Battle of Argonne Forest in France, part of the 47-day Allied Meuse-Argonne Offensive along the Western Front that brought World War I to its bloody conclusion on Nov. 11, 1918. When America first joined the war, the Norwich Board of Trustees awarded seniors their degrees two months early. It’s estimated that at least 650 students and faculty served during the conflict.

15. Truman Ransom portrait (19th century)

Before enrolling at the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy at age 16, Truman Ransom worked as an apprentice chairmaker and painter. He later served as NU’s second president and is credited with introducing the French word essayons (the basis of “I will try”) to the university’s lexicon. A colonel in the U.S. Army, Ransom was killed at Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War in 1847.

16. Norwich banner (1976)

In 1974, Norwich admitted its first female students to the Corps of Cadets. Among the first eight was 1976 graduate Roberta Moskos Cooper. She decorated this felt banner with the name tags of some of her fellow female cadets and the rooks they led.

17. Program, Junior Ring Weekend (1963)

A Friday night dance was the clear highlight of Junior Ring Weekend for the Class of 1964. But the weekend was packed with other activities that reflected the times, including an aqua show in Goodyear Pool, a “rock-and-roll” concert on Sabine Field, and a screening of the Jerry Lewis film “It’s Only Money.”

18. Eppendorf pipettes

Norwich received its first grants from the National Institutes of Health via the Vermont Genetics Network in the early 2000s to jumpstart biomedical research. With new, dedicated lab space, faculty and student researchers ushered in a new era of first-order inquiry using DNA sequencing and other cutting-edge science. A more recent addition to the NU research portfolio: CRISPR gene-editing technology.

19. Nurse’s cap (c. 1970s)

Facing declining enrollment due to the Vietnam War, in 1972 Norwich University merged with Vermont College, a two-year women’s college in neighboring Montpelier. The move transformed Norwich from an all-male military college to a coeducational institution with civilian students. The merger brought nursing and criminal justice programs to campus, today two of NU’s largest majors.

20. Letter from Vietnam (1969)

As a young Army captain serving in Vietnam, Howard C. Lewis ’66 often wrote his parents Daniel and Dorothy Lewis in N.H., as well as his twin brother Harold, a fellow Norwich alum. Lewis survived the war, but not the Agent Orange that his family believes caused his cancer and led to his passing in 1997. While too many alumni have lost their lives in war, they have not been forgotten by their classmates, friends, and loved ones. See the latest example on page 32, where members of the Class of 1969 pay tribute to their friend 1st Lt. Richard Gray, who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1971.

21. Thomas Jefferson letter (1815)

The former U.S. President and Capt. Partridge exchanged numerous letters debating how to best measure mountain elevations. Jefferson favored a geometric approach, Partridge a formula based on barometric readings. Later work by the U.S. Geological Survey revealed Partridge’s calculations measured up within a few percentage points, while Jefferson’s were off by, well, a mile. Sorry, UVA.

22. James Burt’s Hassock (c. 1940s)

A U.S. Army tank commander during World War II, James Burt ’39 served with distinction in the 2nd Armored Division (a.k.a. “Hell on Wheels”). He received the Medal of Honor—the U.S. military’s highest honor—for his valor in the Battle of Aachen in Germany in 1944. Burt commissioned this cushion while serving in North Africa and sat on the leather-bound hassock while riding in his tank, likely named “Francis.

23. “Dewey” meerschaum pipe (c. 1899)

This decorative pipe bears the likeness of 19th century U.S. Navy Admiral George Dewey, a Montpelier native who attended Norwich before enrolling at the U.S. Naval Academy. Famous for his naval victory in the Philippines at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, Dewey returned to Vermont as a national hero and laid the cornerstone for Dewey Hall in 1899. The building was completely renovated this year thanks to the university’s Bicentennial Forging the Future campaign.

24. U.S. Coast Guard uniform shoes

In May 2020, President Richard W. Schneider will retire after 28 years of service, one of the longest tenures of any university president. Suffice it to say, the Ph.D. and retired Coast Guard admiral leaves big shoes to fill. And while President Schneider has endured more than his share of ribbing about his natty Coast Guard uniform, there is a deep Norwich connection: two hundred years ago, founder Capt. Alden Partridge enjoyed leading students on country excursions dressed in, you guessed it, a white linen suit.

25. Grit (timeless)

Grit isn’t a singular requirement for a successful military or civilian career — or life, for that matter. But it certainly helps. For the past two centuries, Norwich has offered it in abundance to any student willing to work for it.


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