ROTC hosts second annual Hall of Fame induction

By Brittney Nadler

The University’s Army ROTC will host its second annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Friday to recognize University ROTC alumni who have made significant leadership contributions in both the military and civilian world.

The medal ceremony will take place in Huff Hall on Friday at 10 a.m., followed by a celebration for the Armory’s 100th anniversary.

The Hall of Fame will receive eight new inductees: Sam Skinner (’60), Thomas J. Homer (’70), Michael Symanski (’70), Jack Kotter (’61) and Debbie Olson Read (’73) as well as Melvin A. Goers (’40) and Andrew Barr (’23) posthumous.

Inductees will have their photos and a short biography hung on the wall in the Armory and will also receive a medal to commemorate their inductions, according to Eric Stetson, military professor.

“We created the program to recognize the accomplishments of our alumni — what they’ve gone on to do in the world with the leadership they learned here,” Stetson said. “We all created the program because we wanted to increase interaction between our alumni and our current army cadets.”

Skinner is a former U.S. secretary of transportation and White House Chief of Staff, who was in office in the early 1990s and will be inducted this year .

At last year’s ceremony, Chancellor Phyllis Wise, President Robert Easter, a member of the Board of Trustees and numerous college deans attended the ceremony to induct the 14 new members. Stetson said the ROTC has inducted individuals as “far back as the early 1900s.”

“We create a connection between the very distinguished alumni and the current cadets and students who are in our program,” said military instructor Jason Staub.

He said that many individual colleges might not be aware of how successful the alumni are, so inviting them back provides opportunities for them to reconnect.

“It took us about a year to figure this out. We said, ‘This program has been producing leaders for all around the world for the past 140 years, and there’s never been a single program to honor them,’” Staub said. “We said, ‘Okay, it’s probably 140 years overdue.’”

Christine McGuffey was inducted last year and is considered a pioneer of her time, Stetson said.

She was the first female Cadet Battalion Commander who was commissioned from the ROTC program, and graduated in 1976.

Following graduation, she had a 24-year military career and served during a time when women were just beginning to be permitted to participate in Army ROTC, and was one of three women enrolled in the University’s ROTC program during that time.

Inductees are either nominated by other alumni or by the ROTC’s own research team, according to Stetson.

“The Hall of Fame ceremony is important because it celebrates history of the University,” Stetson said. “We try to uncover and present some of the history of the University and its relationship with the military to educate those present about that tradition in history.”

Cadet Samuel Chubb, senior in LAS, is in charge of public affairs for the ceremony.

He coordinates with the press, creates the slideshow, meets the inductees when they arrive and makes sure the event is publicized appropriately.

“There are a lot of individuals in this program that have done a lot of great things, and we’re trying to make sure they get the publicity for the things they’ve done,” he said.

From noon to 3 p.m., following the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the ROTC is hosting the Armory’s 100th anniversary celebration.

The celebration commemorates the original purpose of the building, which was to provide a training facility for cadets as well as the other purposes it has served.

At the time, the Armory was the largest structure without a center support, an engineering feat in 1914.

The celebration will include a luncheon open to all students and alumni with purchase of a ticket. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time either by calling the ROTC office or visiting their website Historical photos will be on display and the Marching Illini will perform.

“I don’t think all students here realize how important military is to the University.You’ll see us walking around in uniforms and that’s it,” Chubb said. “It’s going to be a great event. It’s different, it’s something that people enjoy, it’s something that people learn a lot about the University from.”

Brittney can be reached at [email protected]