Recognition

The Citadel names a woman as its top cadet for the first time in 175 years

Sarah Zorn. (The Citadel)

For the first time in its 175-year history, famed South Carolina military college the Citadel has named a woman as regimental commander — a title conferred upon the student considered to be the academy’s top cadet. Sarah Zorn, a 21-year-old junior, was awarded the position — and a gilt-handled sword to complement it — by the previous regimental commander during the Citadel’s formal graduation parade, which is also known as the Long Gray Line. And while school officials such as Citadel Commandant of Cadets Geno F. Paluso II have hailed Zorn for not emphasizing the glass-ceiling shattering reality of the honor, female students at the school said that they took the recognition of Zorn’s excellence as a positive sign for all women at the academy.

“It says we can,” observed 18-year-old freshman Catherine Hill. “It says we can be with the guys — that we can do this.”

Zorn’s ascension is all the more remarkable considering the experience of the Citadel’s first-ever woman cadet, Shannon Faulkner, who endured a two-and-a-half-year legal battle with the school just to be allowed to attend and then faced death threats and other harassment from Citadel students and alumni alike. Speaking with The New York Times, Paluso acknowledged that for the first “10 years or so” since Faulkner opened the school to women, the Citadel had failed to accomodate or welcome women into their ranks. But the times have changed, he said — a sentiment that was decisively echoed by Zorn.

“I think that women are fully embraced as cadets here,” said Zorn. “You’re treated as an equal, and you are expected to perform as an equal.”

Watch video of Zorn being named regimental commander below.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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