In a May 19 commissioning ceremony, Fordham ROTC cadets began their careers as military officers, spurred onward by a message about the importance of not only training their troops to be fighting fit but also motivating them to do their best.

“As leaders, your number one job is to inspire your soldiers to be better than they thought they could be,” Major General Deborah L. Kotulich, director of the Army Recruiting and Retention Task Force, told the ROTC cadets in an address. “You’ll be responsible for building cohesive teams that are highly trained, disciplined, and fit, and ready to fight and win.”

“You’ll start,” she said, “by building and promoting climates of dignity and respect, where every soldier in your formation feels a sense of belonging and wants to be a member of your team.”

President Tetlow presents the President’s Sabre to cadet Diana Kim, a graduating Fordham senior.

Fordham’s NROTC and ROTC programs held back-to-back commissioning ceremonies at the University Church on the Rose Hill campus. The 20 cadets—five of them NROTC cadets—included students from Fordham as well as other New York-area universities.

Tania Tetlow, president of Fordham, addressed the cadets at each ceremony, and—at the ROTC ceremony—noted the parallels between the military and the Jesuit order, with which Fordham is affiliated.

“Both see talent everywhere, invest in that talent by giving opportunity, and bring together a fierce community bonded by service and by honor,” she said. “You embody our Jesuit mission in your service—to be men and women for others; to be leaders grounded in knowledge, critical thinking, and respect; to be full of courage and willing to sacrifice even your life for another. We are so proud of you.”

Commencement Season

The ceremonies took place the day before Fordham’s University-wide commencement ceremony, its fourth since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the education of first-year students who were this year’s graduating seniors.

“Dealing with and powering through COVID has been a tremendous training experience in resilience for each of you, whether you look at it that way or not,” Kotulich said at the ROTC ceremony.

She called on the cadets to set an inspiring example that helps the Army cope with a difficult landscape for recruitment. She also spoke of changes in the Army like greater supports for military families and more opportunities for women—noting that she was barred from Ranger School and the infantry early in her career because of her gender.

“I’m proud of our leaders recognizing that those exclusions didn’t make sense,” she said.

Gene Fein, Ph.D., assistant vice president for academic records and services, received the Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., Award for Excellence in Support to ROTC.

The ROTC ceremony followed the NROTC ceremony, during which John P. Coffey, general counsel of the Department of the Navy, told cadets of the “glorious history that precedes you” as the newest officers in the Navy and Marine Corps.

“Never forget that you have an obligation, at all times, to act with utmost integrity,” he said, advising them to “choose the hard road” when tempted to turn away from a difficult situation and take the easy way out. Also, he said, “know there will be times when you fall down.”

“Pick yourselves up, dust yourselves off, learn from experience,” he said. “No one’s perfect. We don’t live in a zero-defect military. The most important thing is how you learn from it.”


Chris Gosier is research news director for Fordham Now. He can be reached at (646) 312-8267 or [email protected].