Friday, Nov. 12, 2021
Would you be willing to risk everything for the greater good?
Well, many of our students, employees and alumni have done just that by answering the call of duty and serving in countless capacities to defend our country. I thank them all sincerely for their service and I say to them; for you, we are grateful.
S&T’s 150-year history is filled with ties to honorable military service. Founded just six years after the end of the Civil War, three of our earliest faculty members were veterans of that conflict: James Abert and George D. Emerson, who fought on the Union side, and Robert W. Douthat, who fought on the Confederate side. Like other land-grant institutions of that era, our university was required to teach military tactics in addition to engineering and science coursework. In fact, Norwood Hall sits on the former site of Fort Dette, a Union outpost built in 1863. Some of the stones used to construct Norwood Hall are even from that Civil War fort.
In virtually every conflict and war since our founding, Miners have answered our nation’s call to serve. From Colonel Frank C. Bolles, a Spanish-American War veteran who started his studies in Rolla and graduated from West Point, to the late Dr. Donald Siehr, a professor emeritus of chemistry who was a Korean War veteran, many notable Miners served in various capacities throughout S&T, UMR and MSM history. Joe Ballard, Cory Chafin, Dr. Dick Elgin, Samuel “Bo” Mahaney, Dr. Barbara Rutter, Dr. Keith Wedge and four Miners who contributed to the Manhattan Project are just a few of them. In fact, over 75% of our students enlisted in 1917 when the U.S. entered World War I, along with six faculty members and our football coach, who earned a citation for meritorious action while fighting in France.
Several Miners served during World War II. Even in a POW camp after surviving the Bataan Death March, alumni Gene Boyt and Robert Silhavy were determined to celebrate St. Pat’s and did so using meager food rations to improvise what they called an “engineer’s cake” and “champagne.”
George A. Whiteman, who attended our school in the 1930s, became the first aerial casualty of World War II when his plane was gunned down by Japanese fighters during the attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 80 years ago. For his valor, Whiteman Air Force Base near Sedalia, Missouri, now bears his name.
These are just a few examples of the many, many alumni and members of our S&T community who have put country before self. Imagine traveling thousands of miles from your home with no guarantee that you would return safely to see your loved ones again! That is precisely what our veterans have done.
I often talk about pursuit of purpose. No one personifies this more than those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country. So if you see a veteran, stop and offer a handshake, thank them and let them know that you are grateful for their service.
To our Miners who have served, I say thank you with sincere gratitude.
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