Clarkson University Reserve Officers’ Training Corps was established at Clarkson in 1936 during the tenure of College President James S. Thomas. In an address marking the occasion, Dr. Thomas emphasized that ROTC was being started for the benefit of the student, and with no thought of promoting the spirit of militarism. He also stressed that membership in ROTC would be entirely elective and could substitute for shop or physical training. He wanted the training to be tough and meaningful so that, if and when an emergency arose, the students trained at Clarkson would be able to take their rightful place of leadership in such an emergency.
The Clarkson College of Technology ROTC Unit was activated in May 1936, under the command of Captain T. L. Mulligan, Corps of Engineers. The enrollment for the first class numbered 60 cadets. The first year also saw the formation of the Pershing Rifles and the ROTC Rifle Team at the College.
The Clarkson Guard was formed in 1937 under the supervision of First Lieutenant W. Kreuger, Corps of Engineers. Enrollment figures for 1937 showed 96 freshmen enrolled, or about three quarters of the entire class. The figures by 1940 showed over 300 cadets in ROTC.
The beginning of World War II dipped into the Advanced Class and many were immediately called into active duty. Summer Camp at Fort Belvoir was canceled in 1942 and the cadet corps was down to 250 men.
The year 1943 saw the setting up of the Army specialized Training Program at Clarkson, with plans laid to handle 200 – 500 men. Colonel Crossen was named as the commanding officer of the detachment. May obstacles had to be overcome to handle this influx of students, not the least being the billeting problem. The Civic Center was converted into barracks, as were some of the present fraternity houses. The ROTC program during this year was cut to include the basic course only, with the graduating class of 1942 terminating the advanced courses at the college indefinitely.
General James A. Van Fleet, Commanding General, First Army, visited the college during 1946 to check on facilities to be sure enough were available to handle the steady influx of students after the war. The School of the Deaf of Northern New York, at nearby Malone was turned into an Extension of Clarkson, and by 1947, there were 1,757 students enrolled with 290 being ROTC cadets.
The ROTC program at Clarkson began as a Corps of Engineers Battalion with all cadets being branched accordingly. In 1950, Signal Corps training was added and in 1973, the Corps welcomed its first women members. Effective August 1950, Clarkson began affiliation with the Signal Corps and its first Signal Corps PMS, LTC Lawrence G. Shackleton was assigned. Today, cadets are branched into all branches of the Army.
A Cadet Formation circa 1958
In 1970, the New York State Board of Regents approved the creation of the Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley. This consortium pools the resources available at each of the member institutions for the benefit of all students. The four members of this consortium (Clarkson, St. Lawrence, SUNY-Potsdam, and SUNY-Canton) all fall, for ROTC purposes, under the Host program at Clarkson and enroll for their classes at Clarkson.
In 1986, Clarkson University’s Corps of Cadets was redesignated as the Golden Knight Battalion. The majority are studying engineering and are on scholarship. The Clarkson Cadet Corps has commissioned over 1,150 officers and presently is represented at each level of the Army Officer Corps, from Second Lieutenant to General.
Army ROTC has a total of 272 programs located at colleges and universities throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam with an enrollment of more than 25,000. It produces over 60 percent of the second lieutenants who join the active Army, the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve. More than 40 percent of current active duty Army General Officers were commissioned through the ROTC. Of even greater importance is that ROTC trained and educated officers bring a hybrid vigor to our officer corps by drawing on the strength and variety of our social fabric. Cadet Command accomplishes this by combining the character building aspects of a diverse, self-disciplined civilian education with tough, centralized leader development training. This process forges a broad-gauged officer who manifests the strength and diversity of the society from which he or she is drawn as well as the quality of strong officer leadership.
Cadet Command is also responsible for the Junior ROTC. Today, there are over 1600 JROTC units and over 274,000 cadets. Both totals are historic highs. JROTC has an enormously positive effect on our youth helping young people from across the socio-economic spectrum. Cadets graduate from high school at a higher rate, have higher GPAs, and have less incidents of indiscipline than their classmates. Although the JROTC is a citizenship program, not a recruiting tool, JROTC graduates enter the armed forces at a much higher rate than their peers. The Junior ROTC is a great program, benefiting the Army, the Nation, local communities, and above all, the JROTC cadets themselves.