While the Harvard ROTC regularly hosts visiting officers—three so far this year—Flowers’ visit was unique because of his high place within the military. General Flowers’ command encompasses about 37,000 military and civilian personnel operating in 94 countries on jobs ranging from civil works to maintaining military installations.
Prior to assuming his current post in October 2000, Flowers also held commands in Operation Desert Storm, Somalia, and Bosnia.
According to Gabriel A. Mendel ‘02, cadet battalion operations officer, yesterday’s visit offered “a chance for the Harvard cadets to show one of the leading officers in the Army where we go to school and what we do.”
Donning their dress uniforms for the event, the dozen cadets led Flowers on a tour of historical sites, including Cambridge Common, Harvard Yard, Memorial Hall and Memorial Church.
The tour ended at the Leonard Wood Memorial in Memorial Church, dedicated to Harvard Medical School graduate and Medal of Honor recipient Major General Leonard Wood (1860-1927), who is also the namesake of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where Flowers is stationed. Wood is most often remembered for commanding the legendary “Rough Riders” during the Spanish-American War.
Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68, and Associate Dean of the College David P. Illingworth ’71 also joined Flowers, the accompanying officers and cadets. Illingworth said his presence was meant to offer support to the student members of ROTC.
The visit concluded on the steps of Memorial Church, where the general addressed the cadet formation, giving them a “well done” for the day. Asked to describe his impressions of his first visit to Harvard, Flowers replied simply, “Awed.”
General Flowers’ visit came during a regular tour of the Northeast. Other activities yesterday included a meeting with MIT President Charles M. Vest and a talk on engineering and leadership given at the MIT Faculty Club.
While not directly related to the ongoing controversy over the ROTC’s role on campus, Flowers’ high profile visit gave the Army ROTC unit visibility during a period of thawing relations with the University administration.
Originally kicked off campus as a result of the Vietnam War, the ROTC suffered a further setback in 1993 when the Faculty Council voted to stop funding for the MIT-based unit because of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Currently, the Harvard ROTC unit is funded indirectly through an alumni trust, although the commissioning ceremony does take place on campus.
As of late, University President Lawrence H. Summers has been increasingly vocal in his support of the ROTC, and since Sept. 11, voices from many quarters have called for Harvard to officially recognize the ROTC unit.
Major Robert Curran, battalion executive officer, said the unit’s relationship with the University is “very healthy at this time. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Although he did not address the ongoing controversy, Flowers said the ROTC teaches cadets skills that will be important in both military and civilian life— describing the program as “a unique opportunity to get a great education in leadership.”