Evolution of the Board of Fellows

Origins

Following an organizational meeting on July 18, 1975, the Board of Fellows gathered on Oct. 11, 1975 for a meeting of the first members and publication of the “Activities, Purposes and Projects” of the organization. The fellows worked as a small nucleus of specialists whose personal expertise could contribute to the development of Norwich. They served to strengthen the growth of the University; to publicize programs, goals and achievements of Norwich; to influence other individuals, foundations and corporations on behalf of Norwich; to recruit friends and supporters for the University; to recognize alumni and friends especially helpful to the growth of the University; and to serve as a source for prospective members of the Board of Trustees.

From their earliest beginnings until very recently, the Fellows served the trustees and the administration by forming ad hoc committees to develop solutions to problems and establish projects for broader recognition of Norwich. These projects included a wide range of efforts: increasing circulation of the sports bulletin, seeking beautification efforts by the town of Northfield to complement such efforts on campus, establishing summer institutes to more fully use facilities and expose Norwich to a broader public determining the best use for the Ski Hill, and advocating for the cemetery.

The ’80s and ’90s

From the Spartan beginnings of the 1970s, the board grew to a membership exceeding 100 during the 1980s. The by-laws defined the purpose of the Fellows as: “…to foster and advance the welfare of the University by such good-works, wisdom, and financial support as they may be able to offer, in support of the Trustees and University Administration.” Missions and objectives changed, commensurate with the growth in membership.
During this period, the Board collected annual dues to provide for a wide range of projects that could be solved directly with the infusion of funds. In 1982 the Board instituted the Board of Fellows Medallion Award, to recognize long or outstanding service and significant contributions to the stature, reputation and vitality of Norwich University. Originally ceramic, the Medallion is now a gold metal medal and is worn by the honorees on a maroon and gold neck ribbon.

In 1992, at the suggestion of Dr. Gary Confessore, the fellows established an endowment to award annual Faculty Development Prizes. The first awards were made in 1994, and by 1996 the fund was fully endowed at $50,000. The $2,500 prize is given to assist faculty in attending professional conferences and in continuing their own personal and professional development. In addition, The Dalton S. Oliver Humanities Forum Lecture Series on the Vermont College Campus was instituted, at the initiative of Dr. Oliver (MG, USAF-Ret.), a fellow and former trustee of the University.

A variety of other projects were funded by the Fellows during this period, including the Medal of Honor Gallery and the Galloway Reception Room in Jackman Hall; the Vietnam memorial plaque in White Chapel; improvements to the Adams Memorial Tower and the Carillon; antique style lighting for the upper parade; University signs at exit 5 on I-89; and contributions for library books, student projects and the new (1984) pistol team.

In the late 1990s the membership on the board was reduced, first to a maximum of 75 members with limitation on terms of service; and then to 50. Term limits of three years provide an opportunity for more volunteers and result in a recurring rejuvenation of ideas and relationships among Fellows and faculty.

Renewed Academic Focus

With the passage of time, duplication began to appear within the functions of the various Norwich volunteer organizations. The need for volunteer activity in certain functional areas was lessened as the University grew and developed administrative staffs. A study was conducted by Trustee McCracken with the result that the various missions for the volunteer organizations are now better focused.

The mission of the Board of Fellows is now concentrated on the academic programs for the University. Working with the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), the board has completely reoriented its focus. Each fellow is now assigned to a Visiting Committee that is aligned with one of the schools. These Visiting Committees meet a minimum of twice a year with the school dean to determine how best to assist the school. An Executive Committee, consisting of the chairmen from each Visiting Committee, provides the board’s leadership and ensures the continuity of the body.

The Twenty-first Century

Norwich graduates have a long and significant history of service: to University, community and nation. The Citizen Soldiery of Alden Partridge’s vision not only encourages but expects no less. The fellows would encourage all alumni to examine the University’s volunteer organizations, focus on one that fits their interests and talents, and petition for membership, for the continued strength and academic excellence of Norwich through the 21st century.

A special thanks to fellows David Briggs and Anthony Caprio and to Norwich staff member Debbie Mazuroski for their time and contribution to the material in this article; and to former Chairman MG Charles Perenick (USA Ret.) who trusted COL Akam to undertake this effort.

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