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Keeping a legacy alive

Former NASA astronaut Rick Hauck, A62, A87P, J92P, rarely passes up an opportunity to recommend ROTC. He says that it helps students to pay for an expensive education, to expand their horizons, and to gain experience that will serve them in any field.

"I can't imagine how my life would have evolved without my ROTC training and my ensuing Navy career," says Hauck, a former Space Shuttle Challenger commander inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2001. "I received my commission as a Navy ensign immediately after graduating and reporting for duty to a Navy destroyer at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Within 18 months, I was given the opportunity to shoulder the responsibility of directing a 2500-ton ship, with a crew of 250 men, day and night. I matured quickly and learned immensely by working to achieve goals as a member of a team—both as a leader and as a follower."

Military training and the challenges that follow have been a defining experience for generations of graduates like Hauck. In fact, one of this year's honorary degree recipients, General Joseph Hoar (ret.), USMC, A56, served as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command between 1991 and 1994 and is Tufts' highest-ranking alumnus.

The relationship between Tufts and officer training began in 1941 when President Leonard Carmichael fought for the establishment of a Naval ROTC (NROTC) program at Tufts. In 1943, Tufts College became part of a new nationwide officer training initiative, the V-12 program; V-12 students were sent to Tufts from other universities, and enlisted sailors from the Atlantic and Pacific fleets were placed on active duty on campus. After the war, Air Force ROTC was in operation and Army ROTC units continued in the medical and dental schools. In 1951, during the Korean War, almost 70 percent of the male undergraduates were enrolled in ROTC programs on the Hill.

Then, in 1972, with growing student protest at Tufts and in outside communities against the Vietnam War, Tufts trustees voted to end ROTC training on campus. That decision would become a painful one for many alumni with indelible memories of service and sacrifice.

In recent years alumni have rallied to ensure that ROTC's past, present, and future remain visible at Tufts. Their move began in earnest in 1995, when Fred Weiss, A46, A48, a Tufts NROTC graduate, started a drive to create a memorial on campus for World War II V-12/NROTC graduates; that vision ultimately led to the creation of a small terrace. With additional funds the group began a V-12/NROTC Memorial Prize fund; prizes are now awarded annually to junior or senior students who are either direct descendants of alumni from Tufts V-12/NROTC or other college programs during World War II, or are part of the current ROTC program. In addition, the committee donated two display cases for the Tisch Library to display V-12/NROTC and WWII memorabilia and reunion classes exhibitions.

Last year, one of those V-12 graduates, Jason Samuels, E45, E84P, spurred the creation of Advocates for ROTC, now nearly 400 strong. The Advocates represent military alumni of Tufts and friends of Tufts ROTC, says Samuels, and strives to honor those who have served and will serve their country. "We have great hopes," he says, "that we will keep alive the importance of Tufts' ROTC programs to the college experience and to our nation."

ROTC is not without some controversy. The government's policy that prohibits the service of gays and lesbians in the military conflicts with Tufts' own policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. "The government's policy puts two principles that we hold dear at Tufts in conflict: our commitment to public service, and our commitment to being an open and inclusive campus, where we only discriminate based on ability," responds President Lawrence S. Bacow. "This conflict is unfortunate, but it cannot be avoided. We will continue to support ROTC at Tufts while we also lobby to reverse the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy that creates this tension."