Leaders Emerge From Long Commitment to Military

Lessons in Leadership

With its long-standing commitment to the military, the University has provided education to thousands in the armed services—including many who have gone on to prominent leadership roles.

A group of Army ROTC cadets stand at attention
Army ROTC cadets, Veterans Day 2014. Photo by Steve Sartori.

Syracuse University has a long history of boots on the ground. Generations of cadets, soldiers, and veterans have walked across campus and into the schools and colleges that have helped prepare them in various ways for their military careers and post-military lives.

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1918, Syracuse University students heard the call of duty and joined the Student Army Training Corps activated by the War Department during World War I. The following year, the corps was transformed into the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), redefined by the government as a permanent military department to develop officers needed to lead the nation’s military. Since then, the University’s two ROTC Corps of Cadets, Air Force and Army (the longest continuous running Army ROTC program in the nation), have trained thousands of military officers.

Vintage black & white group photo of the 1918 Student Army Training Corps
Student Army Training Corps 1918, in front of the Hall of Languages. Photo courtesy of Syracuse University Archives.

During the Second World War, the University created the War Service College to offer an introductory course for military service and for women training for the war effort. The Air Corps Cadets, the Army Specialized Training Program, Women’s Auxiliary Corps officers, the Navy V-12 Program, and the Cadet Nursing Corps drew in 8,000 servicemen and –women. Those numbers set the stage for Chancellor William P. Tolley’s historic decision. At the end of the war, Tolley, a member of the presidential committee whose proposal formed the basis of the GI Bill, opened the doors to the nation’s veterans, nearly tripling the student body.

Through the years, as the needs of the U.S. military and its service members developed, the University has responded with specific programs and unique opportunities to benefit those who serve their country. These include the Defense Comptrollership Program, operated by the Whitman School of Management and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, with the U.S. Department of Defense; the National Security Studies Program, also operated by the Maxwell School; the Military Visual Journalism Program at the Newhouse School, sponsored by the U.S. Navy; the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, which started at the Whitman School in 2007; and the Veterans Career Transition Program, offered by the School of Information Studies and JPMorgan Chase & Co. For all University student-veterans, University College opened the Veterans Resource Center with a personalized set of services from recruitment to degree completion.

We have the capacity, we have the opportunity, to be the best in the world at providing opportunity and empowerment to the veterans of our armed forces and their families.

—Chancellor Kent Syverud

In 2011, the University launched the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), a bold, first-of-its-kind program to serve all 22.5 million U.S. veterans. With JPMorgan Chase & Co. as founding partner, IVMF leverages the resources of higher education to support veterans and military families by offering programs, conducting research and policy analysis, and providing technical assistance to address their specific concerns. “After WWII, more than 10,000 veterans came to this campus with global experiences, broad diversity, and a commitment to service—and they changed this institution. They made us better,” says J. Michael Haynie, vice chancellor for veterans and military affairs and IVMF executive director. “So now, as we ‘wind down’ from the longest sustained period of military conflict in this country’s history, I believe that great universities will be defined based on the choices they make to engage those men and women who have worn the cloth of the nation during this time of war. The best among us will enact the conditions where our veterans can serve yet again—as students, employees, leaders, and alumni—to position Syracuse University as a national leader in the pursuit of social and economic prosperity for the next century.”

The University’s commitment to veterans was reaffirmed earlier this year by Chancellor Kent Syverud, who cited it as one of his four priorities for the University. “We have the capacity, we have the opportunity, to be the best in the world at providing opportunity and empowerment to the veterans of our armed forces and their families,” Syverud said in his inaugural speech. “So let’s just do it. Because if we do, we will have done so much for our University, for this country, and for our veterans.”

The service members who are sustained and enriched by the University’s programs number in the thousands. Their ranks are distinguished and their stories are many. According to one estimate, nearly 50 living alumni have ascended to the rank of admiral or general.


Also of InterestLink

  • Veteran Admissions Link

    Syracuse University ranks among the nation's top schools for veterans, including being named the #1 Private School for Veterans by the Military Times.

  • Notable Veteran AlumniLink

    Syracuse University has long provided educational opportunities for veterans, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because of the perspective and experience service members bring to campus.

  • Office of Veteran and Military AffairsLink

    The Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA) serves as the university’s single point of entry for all veteran and military related programs and initiatives.