Major General John S. Grinalds
U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
President, The Citadel
During commencement last month, the 114 cadets who rose to take their oath as commissionees received a standing ovation from well-wishers packed into McAlister Fieldhouse. That spontaneous tribute -- a telling Citadel moment -- was a fitting recognition for those willing to put themselves in harm's way to defend our freedoms.
John S. Grinalds
Major General, USMC (Ret.)
President, The Citadel
The 2005 commencement was full of such inspiring moments. The band's music, the faculty processional, the full rack of diplomas and the signature hat toss all signify the rite of passage that transforms cadets into alumni.
Though new graduates share common experiences with all alumni, each class is unique. Events and personalities mold each class, giving the collective group a distinct character that makes it unlike any other class that spent a different four years here.
What is unique and memorable about the Class of 2005? Several thoughts come to mind.
While the Class of 2005 was unique, these young alumni still share bonds with all Citadel graduates that come from living in our leadership laboratory where life is guided by values we hold dear: honor, persistence, duty, teamwork, intellectual rigor, spiritual growth and a readiness to accept challenge.
- The Class of 2005 was the 9-11 class. Fourth class cadets had been here less than a month when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon. In October some of their classmates were briefly activated -- the beginning of a series of deployments that would take fellow cadets away from their education for a few weeks, a semester or a year.
- When this class arrived on a steamy weekend in August 2001, its 694 members set a record. The largest entering class in recent history, 2005 accounted for nearly a third of the Corps and forced some late-arriving upperclassmen to live in the nearby Howard Johnson's for three weeks. Nearly 80 left during fourth class training but the 616 who remained made others take notice because of their size and enthusiasm. Four years later, more than 400 graduated.
- The Class of 2005 led the return to Padgett-Thomas Barracks, watching the groundbreaking ceremonies with Senators Inouye and Hollings the year they arrived and moving in to a sparkling new PT as seniors.
- While the Class of 2005 worked its way through The Citadel, Enron and WorldCom dominated the news. Those white-collar catastrophes prompted calls for ethical reform in business with positive results for some of our graduates. All of the business majors with accounting specialties got early job offers, many with the kinds of generous packages usually reserved for our engineering grads.
- The Class of 2005 led The Citadel to new heights in community service, earning a national award from the American Red Cross and special recognition from the United Way for the Corps' support of blood drives and charitable donations. In March, they started what they hope will be a new tradition of sending care packages to troops serving in Iraq.
- Members of the Summerall Guards marched in the inaugural parade marking the fourth time members of the Corps had participated in a presidential inauguration.
- They have reached supreme levels of achievement. Engineering major Ray Foltz was one of five grads nationwide to win a National Defense Graduate and Engineering Fellowship hefty enough to pay his way through a Ph.D. program with a generous stipend.
- Sadly, they have experienced the finality of death. Tim Creager, who left at the end of his sophomore year to join the Marines, was killed in Iraq last July. Class members Andy Lewis and David Gasque died in auto accidents accidents.
As a postscript, the 2005 commencement is a day I will always treasure because of two events: Class President Russell Brown presented me with a 2005 class ring and the Board of Visitors presented me with an honorary degree.
I am proud to be able to now say, "I wear the ring." It is a privilege and an honor to be one of you.