Columbia Hosts ROTC Commissioning Ceremony

ROTUNDA OF LOW LIBRARY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY - On Friday, May 19th, 2006, Columbia hosted a Reserve Officers Training Corps Commissioning Ceremony in the rotunda of Low Library. This is the first ceremony of this type since 1972 when the ROTC was phased out as a result of the controversies in 1968 over the Vietnam War. A dozen cadets from nine New York area schools were commissioned second lieutenants in the Air Force. Colleges represented including a Adelphi University, Dowling College, Farmingdale State University, Fordham University, Manhattan College, New York University, Pace University, Vaughan College of Aeronautics, and of course Columbia.

The event was attended by approximately 200 people, including parents, supporters of ROTC, military veterans who are now students at Columbia, and alumni. These guests heard a stimulating commissioning address by Lt. General Arthur Lichte, Assistant Vice Chief of Staff and Director Air Force Staff. In his remarks General Lichte, a Bronx native and 1971 graduate of Manhattan College stressed the importance of keeping in balance: health, family, mission and values as the new officers pursued their careers.

The ceremony included the Posting of Colors, remarks by Lt. Colonel John L Wilkerson, Commander of The Air Force ROTC Detachment at Manhattan College, Awards to Distinguished Graduates, and the Oath of Office. A reception followed in the Presidents room with a traditional Air Force cake cutting ceremony.

The University was represented by Provost Allan Brinkley. Among spectators in the audience were Professor Allan Silver, Jamie Bennet, President Bollinger’s Chief of Staff and various other Administration officials. Many military veterans now students at Columbia came in dress uniform. Also attending was Paul Gomperz, who was a member of the last on campus Air Force ROTC unit at Columbia in 1958.

This event came about in large part due to the efforts of Columbia ROTC student cadets Sean Wilkes, Robert Wray and the Columbia Alliance for ROTC. It was obvious to anyone in attendance that the commissioning of the new officers was a joyous and emotional experience to the parents. In fact, a Columbia Vice Provost in the audience was overheard to say “this takes me back to when my husband was commissioned.”

Hopefully, nostalgia will be followed by vastly increased support for students who wish to participate in ROTC.

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