Santa Clara ROTC Alumni Memories

ROTC Memories: ROTC alums share their memories of the program.

This fall, we invited ROTC alums to submit their answers to the following questions. Click a question to see their responses.






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How did your time in ROTC shape your life today?

I am writing a lengthy book (autobiographical in type) in which I declare the Viet Nam War as the defining moment in American history and American culture. Not because of the immediate importance of the war-but because it became the excuse and a catalyst for the onset of the "Brave New World."

Joseph DiLeonardo '65

I believe I learned some leadership skills. They helped me in managing my law office, which got up to 40 people before I retired.

Curtis Cole '55

I learned self-discipline.

William Hartung '54

ROTC was certainly the single most defining moment of my life. It was without a doubt the most important experience I had at SCU. The leadership provided by the cadre was outstanding. The leadership skills, Army values, discipline, and problem-solving abilities instilled in me during this training prepared me well for my initial assignments in the Army. I still use many of those skills today. The camaraderie was the single most important value to me. I still am in touch with several former ROTC cadets and some who have now retired, as I have. The friends you make in this outfit (Army) last forever--it is a lifetime-altering experience.

Richard Ostermann '76

I grew up a lot while in the service, especially as an officer with responsibility for others, and in a combat zone no less. I met for the first time colored men of little education and I came to realize that this country and the world is full of people who have so much less than I do, and [I came] to better appreciate the United States and all that it has to offer. It also inspired me to travel as much as I could to experience this big round sphere we call Earth.

Dave Rigney '63

The leadership skills taught years ago are still adhered to: Lead from the front, lead by example, trust your key subordinates.

George Berrettoni '72

After my active duty I went to law school, then changed my commission to the Air Force, where I remained as an active reservist in the Judge Advocate General Corps. After 25 years in the reserves,I retired as a brigadier general.

Richard Wood, '54, J.D. '59

ROTC taught me leadership, devotion to duty, and selfless service. My instructors had served multiple tours in Vietnam. I learned how to motivate others despite fatigue, hunger, fear, and boredom. The Bronco Battalion was where I learned about camaraderie and the importance of accomplishing the assigned mission. Santa Clara ROTC prepared me for life and corporate America better than a Harvard MBA.

Tom Eichenberg '76

The experience and skills gained in leadership and dedication to a job served me well in my law enforcement career. Military training instilled in me a discipline that I still have today... one to get the job done, stay with a situation regardless of how stressful or hazardous it may be, and don't let events control you... you control them. Never stop trying.

David Coppom '70

It taught me to formulate a plan, listen to input from those with more experience, solidify the plan, and execute it. ROTC also helped me to live without a GPS because I can read a map.

Thomas Robinson '79

It was a very positive experience, it remains as having been a very formative experience following college.

Robert Peters '61

Certainly instilled discipline, a sense of urgency, and a commitment to complete a task ... and I still pay attention to my "gig" line!

Rick Enos '68

ROTC developed my leadership skills to the point where I can apply them in the military setting or civilian. No matter what job I have had as a physician, I have been asked to assume a leadership role as a result of my training. It taught me how to manage my fears and insecurities and taught me how to utilize resources available to me. It has taught me how to take on challenges and encourage the best out of others around me. It was an excellent adjunct to my college education.

Michael McNellis '82

It led to a very rewarding active-duty time. The discipline, camaraderie, responsibility, etc. could not be duplicated elsewhere. It stays with you.

Rich Scholz '54

Turns out I spent 20 years of service, including a tour teaching ROTC at the U of Nevada, and 13 years teaching high school ROTC in Reno.

Dan Fitzgerald '64

When I entered active duty, it was peacetime. But just before the end of my tour, a few soldiers were being sent to Viet Nam as advisors. Therefore, after I had been out for over a year, Congress authorized the GI Bill and I qualified for it. At that time, I was married with two daughters and working for an insurance company. I was frequently dealing with attorneys and believed that I could do the job as well as any of them. However, I could not have otherwise afforded law school without the GI Bill. Once money was not an issue, I completed the four-year night school program at Santa Clara while still working full-time. I have been retired five years after spending 16 years as a prosecutor and almost 21 years as superior court judge in Stanislaus County.

Al Girolami '61

ROTC and the Army taught me to take complicated issues and resolve them in simple terms. As compared to legal briefs, I was compelled to keep issues to one page. My civilian counterparts were always amazed.

Wain Stowe '60

Going through the program I learned a lot about the importance of discipline, organization, loyalty, and trust. ROTC helped hone my leadership skills, which have proved invaluable to me throughout my life.

David Ward '70

In addition to what I learned at SCU, ROTC helped reinforce my attitude of service to others.

Steve McLaughlin '94

ROTC prepared me to become an Active Duty Army Officer. ROTC provided discipline, focus, leadership training, and exposed me to the great esprit de corps found only in the military.

Mike O'Hara '76

In 2006 I retired with 31 years of federal service, 24 years with the CIA retiring as senior intelligence service officer; it all started with an oath of office as I joined the Santa Clara ROTC in 1971. I remain active on the East Coast supporting a large company in their business development efforts.

Chris Parker '75

Gentlemen: Taking ROTC and eventually receiving an officer's commission was simply one of the smartest decisions I made at Santa Clara. At the time, the draft was a menacing presence, so the ROTC route was an attractive option. My branch school was at Ft. Sill, Okla., the home of the Artillery. Interestingly, one of my first instructors was a Capt. John Gardella '57, a SCU graduate. Many lifelong friends were subsequently made during my Army days, so it all goes back to the Santa Clara drill field! Aloha,

Robert Corboy '62

It went by so fast that it is difficult to remember a whole lot. The primary thing I remember is that I had an early chance in life to learn and exercise what it means to be a leader. At the age of 21 a significant amount of responsibility was placed on my shoulders. Commanding officers were often a pain in the rear. You learned early how to deal productively and creatively in such situations. As a Club Officer I learned many things that I used later in my life, particularly regarding the entertainment arena when working as Director of Muscular Dystrophy working on the National Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. In a phrase the military trained one to be a "jack of all trades".

David T Van Etten '55

Winter 2012

See all articles from this issue


My fight, my faith

As secretary of defense in an age of budget austerity, Leon Panetta '60, J.D. '63 has to make sure the Pentagon doesn't break the bank and that the nation doesn't break faith with the men and women who serve.

Bronco Battalion

What does it mean for a Jesuit university to be home to the Reserve Officers' Training Corps? Seventy-five years after ROTC came to Santa Clara—and 150 years after officers were first trained on campus—a few answers are clear.

Mission Matters

Going global

A $2 million grant creates a year-long fellowship program—with students taking part in a global network of socially conscious businesses.

Bribes, bombs, and outright lies

Legendary lawyer Clarence Darrow comes to campus—and shows that ethical issues raised in the Trial of the Century remain as vexing today as they did when spittoons lined the courthouse floor.

Alumni Arts

Let me lay it on you

Hot Tuna is back with their first studio recording in 20 years.