Friday, September 24, 2010

JU and the NROTC: Thoughts from Dr. Robert Spiro

This week was a big week for those with allegiances to Jacksonville University. Beyond the announcement of this year’s homecoming theme, two building dedications occurred, signifying the continued improvement to the JU campus.
This morning, the Admiral Robert H. Spiro NROTC Training Center was officially dedicated. The center, which includes a new gazebo and obstacle course, was named for JU’s longest serving President, Dr. Robert H. Spiro.

Before his time at JU, Dr. Spiro had an illustrious career that took him all over the world. At 19, he voluntarily enlisted in the Navy, and over the next 20 years, traveled the globe serving his country both as an officer and in preparation for what would be his next career (which, not coincidentally, also is a great service): Becoming a teacher.


In 1964, after traveling from North Carolina to Okinawa; Boston to Scotland; Dr. Spiro was nominated to becom
e President of Jacksonville University. In his 15 year tenure, he accomplished a great number of things on campus (including hiring Dr. Quinton White, whose Marine Science Research Institute was the other building dedication today), but one of his proudest was bringing the Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. (NROTC) to JU’s campus.

He relayed his thoughts on this to the Dolphin Network:

In 1971, JU was suffering from enrollment issues. We faced this challenge head on by improving and increasing the number of buildings on campus and adding new curriculum. It was also in that year that we made the decision to open the first NROTC in the State of Florida. It seemed inconceivable to me that despite having the most maritime coastline in the contiguous 48 states (Alaska does have us beat), the state of Florida contained no NROTC programs.

At the time, I had just been honored with the rank of Rear Admiral, so I had made some new friends in the ranks of the Navy (including former Governor and future U.S. Senator of Rhode Island John Chaffee and future U.S. Senator of Virginia John Warner). I presented them with the idea of bringing an NROTC facility to Jacksonville, and it was met with surprise. In 1971, we were also in the midst of the Vietnam War, which had this country (especially its students) heavily divided. Many college campuses were consistently holding protests against the war, and we wanted to open a military office on campus?

It was a big risk, but I knew that the NROTC is about more than just the military. It is about service and providing opportunities to students. Now, nearly 30 years later, I look back on that decision and what it has meant. There are now four NROTC facilities in the state, and 63 across the country.

Today, as the building is officially dedicated, it represents more than just a building to me. It represents opportunities for students to participate in their campus, community and country. In short, in my 15 years as president of this great institution, bringing the NROTC to the school was amongst my proudest achievements, and to see it continue to this day makes me even prouder.

For more information on the Admiral Robert H. Spiro NROTC Training Center, CLICK HERE

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