On March 20, 1843, twenty young men from South Carolina assembled on Marion Square in Charleston to begin the educational experiment called The Citadel. In 2018, over 2300 cadets from all over the world, of varied race and gender, gathered to celebrate 175 years of tradition and excellence. This book explores that journey.
The school’s survival into the 21st century overcame long odds. Prior to the Civil War, state-supported military colleges like The Citadel proliferated, particularly in the South, as a way to prepare young men for careers in education, law, medicine and engineering. Yet one by one, those military colleges either closed or found themselves absorbed into larger civilian environments. Today, only two state-supported military colleges remain; The Citadel is one.
The college closed after the Civil War and remained closed until 1882, when a single vote in the South Carolina Senate revived it. In 1965, General Mark Clark retired after 11 years as The Citadel’s president. The following year, the college admitted its first African-American cadet, Charles Foster. More controversy arrived in the demand by women for admission. Coeducation, admittedly unpopular when forced upon the school by the courts, tested the skill, patience and resolve of administrations charged with the assimilation of women.
The years since General Clark’s retirement have seen a steady increase in admission standards, faculty development, academic proficiency and leadership training. U.S. News and World Report has acknowledged this march toward excellence by ranking The Citadel for seven years in a row as the top public college in the South offering up to a masters degree. The school’s rise in the last fifty years is a story worth telling, told here by one of its own.