Chancellor commends ROTC cadets for focus on ‘something bigger’ at Leadership SymposiumSep. 28, 2016, 4:02 PM
We live in a society where much emphasis is placed on individual achievement. But the students from Vanderbilt and other area universities who participate in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps—and will be commissioned officers in the United States military upon graduation—have their sights set on something greater, said Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos in his remarks to ROTC cadets and others gathered in Sarratt Cinema Sept. 27.
“You recognize that there’s another path,” Zeppos said at the Vanderbilt Army ROTC Leadership Symposium. “Signing up for something as timeless and important as military service is not about the ‘I.’ You are acknowledging that you want to be part of something bigger.”
Zeppos recalled how as a young lawyer, he left a lucrative private practice career to go to work for the U.S. Department of Justice. The chancellor said it was thrilling to be able to say, “My name is Nicholas Zeppos, and I represent the United States of America.” He is deeply gratified that Vanderbilt plays a role in helping today’s student-leaders do the same.
“It’s not about what you do here, it’s about what you do after. Our job is to get you ready to lead in every way possible,” Zeppos said. “You really are the foundation of the officer corps, and if you didn’t exist, the nation would be in peril.
“You are the backbone of an educated, enlightened citizenry. You are the best of the best,” he said.
Zeppos recognized two Vanderbilt alumni who recently were inducted into the U.S. Army Cadet Command Hall of Fame and the Vanderbilt Army ROTC Hall of Fame—Sandra Cochran, president and chief executive officer of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., and Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Jones, commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School at Joint Base San Antonio–Fort Sam Houston in Texas.
Cochran attended Vanderbilt on an Army ROTC scholarship, earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1980, and was commissioned in the U.S. Army upon graduation. She served in the Army until 1985, attaining the rank of captain. Jones graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt’s College of Arts and Science in 1974 and an M.D. from the School of Medicine in 1978.
Jones and Cochran reflected on what they’ve learned about leadership from their military service and business career, respectively. They also participated in a question-and-answer session with the ROTC cadets.
The Sept. 27 event served as a centennial celebration for the national ROTC program, which was founded on June 3, 1916—making it “nearly as old as Vanderbilt University,” Zeppos noted. Cake was served at a reception held in the Sarratt Student Center following the symposium.