NORTHFIELD — It was an overcast day, but if those who know Norwich University’s 24th president are to be believed, the future is bright for the private military school.
The country’s oldest military school and birthplace of the ROTC held an inauguration Wednesday for Col. Mark Anarumo. Anarumo was announced as the school’s new president in January 2020 and took over in June of that year. He replaced Rear Admiral Rich Schneider after 28 years of service.
The school waited to hold Anarumo’s inauguration until this year’s homecoming so that everyone could properly welcome him to the community.
But Anarumo already has impressed those at the school and in the community for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Maj. Gen. Martha Rainville, retired, a Norwich trustee, said when students were confined to their dormitories last year, Anarumo joined them to better understand their challenges.
“That’s what true leaders do,” Rainville said.
She said he made sure mental health services and outreach at the school were enhanced for students both on campus and at home.
“A true leader inspires and motivates others. He is that leader. He is the right president for Norwich University as we face future challenges together,” she said.
Elizabeth Kennedy, vice president of development and alumni relations at Norwich, said Anarumo moving into the dorms is what’s expected of a Norwich leader. Kennedy said what wasn’t expected was how Anarumo turned the moment into a national conversation about student mental health.
“What a moment of pride and inspiration for all of us,” she said. “And, I believe, a glimpse into what we can expect in the future from our university’s 24th president.”
Anarumo joined the U.S. Army at the age of 16 and went on to spend 26 years as a U.S. Air Force officer.
Gen. Darren W. McDew, retired, described Anarumo as a warrior, a scholar and an ambassador. McDew said he hired Anarumo to be his second wing commander. He said the organization Anarumo was hired into had low performance and low morale.
“(Anarumo) turned it all around very, very quickly. He would help lead us to an installation excellence award for the entire base. He established the standard and role-modeled what ‘right’ looked like. He sought respect over popularity, although he would gain both. He provided clarity of mission and vision. He brought people together and helped strengthen relationships with his peers. He connected with our partners in the community,” McDew said.
He said Anarumo has served multiple tours in every hot spot around the planet, including Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea and Turkey.
“He has been there,” McDew said, adding in his spare time Anarumo earned both a master’s degree and a doctorate degree.
Anarumo’s oldest son, Mark Anarumo Jr., is proudly following in his father’s footsteps, and is currently a second lieutenant in the Air Force. The younger Anarumo is stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada and submitted his remarks via video.
“I want to be exactly like my father,” he said. “All of his morals, everything he’s lived for throughout his life, everything he’s done to take care of others.”
The younger Anarumo said his father always makes sure everyone else is taken care of before himself. He said his father’s experiences have made it so he can relate to lots of different kinds of people so students should feel comfortable approaching him with any problems they may have.
The older Anarumo said Norwich’s founder, Alden Partridge, knew then what is still true today.
“Our nation and the world needs a citizenry that is moral and patriotic and useful. The world needs a lot more of what Norwich has to offer and my fullest devotion will be applied to bringing who we are to a wider audience so that the world may benefit,” he said.
Anarumo said he owes everything in his life to two entities: the military and higher education. He said Norwich represents the best of both and it was his destiny to be at the school at this moment in time to bring the lessons he’s learned to influence who those at the school are and where Norwich goes as an institution.
To that end, he announced over the next few weeks those at the school will work on a strategic plan to guide the school over the next 10 years.
“Through that process, we will explore, discuss and deliberate possibilities and choices together. We’re going to engage alumni, parents, friends and supporters of Norwich, in addition, of course, to our students, our faculty and staff,” he said.
Anarumo said they will work together to secure the resources needed to accomplish those goals.
He said those at the school must be discouraged with the status quo.
“We’ve been successful for a very long time. This should be celebrated, but we must not be satisfied. This is our time and we must seize it,” he said.