History of the Army ROTC Award Seminar

ROTC CadetThe first George C. Marshall ROTC Award Seminar took place in Lexington, Virginia in 1978.  Lexington and the Virginia Military Institute were chosen because VMI was General Marshall’s alma mater and the historic significance of Lexington and having cadets walk the ground that he walked was not lost on the planners. Cadets from 274 colleges and universities across America participated in twelve roundtable discussions which included such topics as Nuclear Proliferation; Terrorism and US. Foreign Policy in the Middle East, topics that seem no less important than they were 33 years ago.

Colin Powell, 1993The Seminar was the outcome of collaboration among Ambassador Fred L. Hadsel, then Director of the Marshall Foundation; General Maxwell D. Taylor, former Army Chief of Staff, Ambassador and Marshall Foundation Trustee; and General Bernard W. Rogers, then Army Chief of Staff and former aide to Taylor.

Although details have changed, the overall structure of the Seminar has remained the same. Cadets participate in roundtable discussions on major national security issues with a leader, usually with an academic, military, or diplomatic background. The other major aspect of the program is the opportunity for the cadets to hear from the leaders of the Army and Department of Defense, either about current national security policy or what the Army expects from them as junior officers and leaders of the future. Both the Army and the Defense Department have strongly supported this seminar. Noted speakers have included President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, General Colin Powell, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, United States Senator and former Navy Secretary James Webb, and many other high-ranking leaders in government or military service.

George W. BushEvery Chief of Staff since the program began has spoken to the cadets at least once and many of them annually during their tours of duty. The Secretary of the Army usually gives an address as does the Commanding General of TRADOC. When the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is an Army officer, he has attended at least one Seminar.

The cadets are selected from their respective detachments based on scholarship, leadership, physical fitness, community involvement and are designated George C. Marshall Award recipients for their respective year. They are college seniors and a majority holds senior leadership positions within their schools or Army ROTC detachment. Today we are seeing many of the Award winners coming with a great deal of prior service, some in combat theaters. As of the 2010 Seminar, close to 9,000 Army cadets have been named Marshall Award winners.

2002 CadetsCommunicating the leadership principles of General George Marshall–candor, commitment, courage, integrity and selflessness–are the reason for which the George C. Marshall Army ROTC Award exists. Cadets who attend the seminar come away with a better knowledge of Marshall the man and the guiding principles which made him one of the nation’s greatest leaders.