Furman President Praises Citadel President on Eve of Big Game
By David E. Shi
Furman University President
and The Citadel are playing an important football game on Saturday. For
over a hundred years, the two schools have nurtured an intense athletic
rivalry. The intensity of the rivalry makes it hard for a Furman man to
praise a Citadel man. Yet I want to do just that.
Last April The
Citadel inaugurated its nineteenth president, Lt. General John Rosa.
The state's military college could not be in better hands. You see, I
know John Rosa. When he was a Citadel cadet playing quarterback for the
Bulldogs in the early 1970s, I was playing defense for the Furman
Paladins. He was a terrific athlete and field general. And he went on to
become one of the Air Forceâ€™s highest ranking and most widely
During his presidential inauguration address
at The Citadel last spring, John told the large crowd of students,
alumni, and friends that "the hottest fire forges the strongest steel."
He was referring to his alma mater's widely publicized struggles to
maintain proud traditions while accepting women into the Corps of
Cadets. Although the challenges of coeducation had been difficult and
not always wisely handled, Rosa said, the storied military school on the
banks of the Ashley River had emerged stronger from the heat of
controversy and adversity.
The quotation also serves as a
metaphor for John Rosa, who himself has been tested by fire. The only
son of a meticulous, disciplined Navy chief petty officer, Rosa grew up
near Jacksonville, Florida, and channeled much of his teenage energy
into sports. A standout baseball player, Rosa also quarterbacked his
overachieving high school football team to the playoffs his senior year.
gridiron exploits earned him a scholarship to The Citadel. Like all
freshmen (known as knobs at the military college), Rosa struggled
through the rigors of first-year life, including hazing, "hell week" and
assorted drills and requirements. On several occasions he and his
roommate thought seriously about withdrawing from school.
leaving campus for both Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, Rosa packed
his belongings and walked through the wrought iron gates, determined
never to return. But he did. And as the months passed, Rosa learned to
see the benefits of the demanding life in the Corp of Cadets.
his sophomore year, Rosa had earned a starting role as the Bulldogs
quarterback. In 1970, he led a young team to a 5-6 record. Expectations
for the football team were high for Rosa's junior year before he broke
his leg during the spring game. Although he returned to the team after a
long rehabilitation, he never regained his starting role. That same
year, I, too, suffered a season-ending injury.
in 1973, Rosa joined the U.S. Air Force. In a military career spanning
nearly three decades, he rose to the rank of Lt. General, commanded
military bases and units across the globe, logged 3,600 hours in the air
and completed two assignments at the Pentagon.
In 2003, Rose was
appointed superintendent of the Air Force Academy, which was then
reeling from allegations of religious intolerance and sexual assaults.
Amid the chaos of controversy, Rosa took charge and announced that he
would transform the academy's culture and rebuild its tarnished image.
editorial in The Denver Post applauded the new superintendent's
leadership: "Rosa's buck-stops-here attitude has been refreshing through
the unexpected turmoil over religious intolerance, especially given
society's current climate for scapegoating. If the culture at the
academy is going to change, it must start at the top."
tumultuous two years, Superintendent Rosa made sweeping changes at the
service academy, overhauling programs and launching an officer
development system that highlighted the importance of honor, character,
respect and tolerance.
With his mission accomplished, Rosa
retired from the Air Force in 2005 and soon thereafter was named The
Citadel's 19th president. After moving 24 times during a 34-year
marriage, Rosa and his wife Donna, a Charleston native, have put down
roots in the Holy City.
"Change," John Rosa said in his
inauguration speech, "has, and will, make us stronger." Those should be
words of assurance to the supporters of The Citadel. Every college must
harness the energies of change. The Military College of South Carolina
is in the hands of a hero who can do just that. My only hope is that
President Rosa will not change the tradition of Furman defeating the
Bulldogs athletic teams.