For years, The Citadel, the 175-year-old Charleston, SC military college, fought against admitting women. Now, Sarah Zorn is the institution's first female cadet commander.
“I think that women are fully embraced as cadets here,” Ms. Zorn said in an interview with The New York Times. “You hear a lot of times from fellow cadets, and even from alumni, that having women here has even improved the college.”
Reported The Times:
"On Friday afternoon, Ms. Zorn, in a dress uniform and a black shako, officially took over the post during the Citadel’s pomp-laden graduation parade, known as the Long Gray Line. As the college’s 2,400 undergraduates stood at attention, she received, with great formality, a gilt-handled sword from her predecessor, Dillon Graham."
It was in 1995 that the first female cadet, Shannon Faulkner, was admitted to the Citadel after a long and bitter battle. According to college officials, women now make up 10 percent of this year’s 516-member graduating class, and 9 percent of all undergraduates. Including this year’s class, The Citadel has graduated 475 women since 1999.
Officials say that on average, female cadets maintain a higher grade-point average and are more likely to graduate then males; 75 percent of women make it all the way through the school's grueling program -- so tough, in fact, that Faulkner dropped out after just one week.
But, Zorn has thrived. She arrived physically prepared, having participated in Junior R.O.T.C. in high school, and has posted impressive physical training scores. She can do more than 70 push-ups in two minutes, and has black belts in three karate disciplines on her way to becoming The Citadel's first female cadet commander.
“Cadet Zorn has fully embraced the cadet experience, excelling in academics, character, military and fitness,” said Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa, the 19th president of The Citadel. “The regimental commander and the cadet leadership team set the tone for the South Carolina Corps of Cadets, and Cadet Zorn has shown she’s the perfect choice for this leadership opportunity. All the cadets who have been selected for leadership opportunities within the Corps have impressive records of achievement, and I congratulate and thank them for what they’ve done.”
Zorn is a junior from Warrenville, South Carolina, majoring in Business Administration and attending The Citadel on an Army scholarship. She is currently a member of the regimental staff, serving as regimental sergeant major.
“My attention will be fully committed to leading the South Carolina Corps of Cadets according to our core values of honor, duty, and respect,” Zorn said. “It is my goal to empower our officers to become the best servant-leaders they can be.”
Geno F. Paluso II, a 1989 Citadel graduate and retired Navy captain whois now the Commandant of Cadets, acknowledges that the institution was slow to adapt and welcome females. But now it is eager to promote a different story: that women are welcome and in many cases thriving on campus.
“Paluso said he had received only one call from an alumnus objecting about Ms. Zorn’s selection.
“It was pretty easy." he told The New York Times. "I called the guy a Neanderthal. Then I educated him on how there’s no all-male military institutions, there’s no all-male corporations in America — I mean, come on. It’s 2018. She’s the best qualified cadet. So get over it.”
You go, Commander Zorn. You go.