Address by Maj. Gen. Kimberly A. Crider Honors Veterans, Evokes Institute’s Own Military Service

November 6, 2017

Wentworth in its role as military installation in the early 20th century.

With its own military history and contemporary support of veterans as a backdrop, Wentworth Institute of Technology will host a special campus luncheon on November 10 to honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Maj. Gen. Kimberly A. Crider, chief data officer for the U.S. Air Force, will be the featured speaker for the event—the 10th annual Wentworth gathering to honor veterans and acknowledge their service. Veterans’ Day this year falls on Saturday, November 11.

In anticipation of the luncheon, the Office of Communications asked Crider for her thoughts on a range of issues around Veterans’ Day and the importance of honoring servicemen and servicewomen. Excerpts from the interview with her are below.

Crider, who was commissioned through the ROTC program at Duke University in 1986, served eight years on active duty and has been in the USAF Reserves for more than 20 years. She has held positions in Air Force Space Command, Air Force Material Command, Air Education and Training Command, Pacific Air Forces Command, United States Air Forces Europe, Headquarters Air Force, Air and Space ISR Center, and the Defense Information Agency. She has received several major awards and decorations, including the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with five oak leaf clusters. Her rank is the highest permanent peace-time rank in the USAF.

The ‘Camp Wentworth’ era

The Veterans’ Day program and Crider’s Wentworth address evoke a time when the Institute’s Huntington Avenue campus quickly became a major military training outpost for the country’s ramp-up into World War I and, later, the Second World War.

A little more than a decade after Wentworth was founded in 1904, the Institute eagerly adopted that military role, which during World War I transformed campus into “Camp Wentworth” for the training of servicemen heading off to battlefields and war-support positions.

Beginning in the spring of 1917, the Institute became a residential military installation. Recruits pitched rows and rows of tents, and mustered on campus, just yards and a century removed from where Crider will speak to veterans at this year’s luncheon. In World War II, Wentworth answered the U.S. government’s call again, and became a commuter school for military trainees. Each day, according to historic accounts, naval recruits marched a mile to and from campus from their quarters at the Hotel Somerset on Commonwealth Avenue in Kenmore Square.

“The role the Institute played during World War I marked perhaps the finest hour of its first 100 years,” wrote Joseph P. Clifford in A Century of Honesty, Energy, Economy, System, 1904-2004. “Over the course of 18 months, Wentworth trained 4,077 men for war service, molded an entire corps of military engineers, and transformed its college grounds into a secure training encampment. In the process, the Institute came of age virtually overnight as an educational institution.”

The winter of ’42

Clifford’s work also chronicles the role that Wentworth assumed in the winter of 1942, less than three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the U.S. War Department asked the Institute to run the Naval Training School. “As the War in Europe escalated in the late 1930s,” wrote Clifford, “Wentworth had been chosen to administer a couple of less intense military training initiatives. From 1939 to 1941, Wentworth and the New England Aircraft School trained 2,500 mechanics for the Army Air Force. And from 1940-1942, Massachusetts War Industries sent about 5,000 students to the Institute for brief technical instruction.”

Wentworth went above and beyond providing critical educational support for the country’s 20th-century war efforts. Graduates of the Institute gave the ultimate sacrifice during both World Wars; 28 alumni were killed in World War I, and 48 in World War II—their service commemorated on plaques in Watson Hall, just outside the auditorium where the 2017 Veterans’ Day luncheon is being held.

Today, Wentworth is fleshing out its contemporary mission as a veterans’ friendly institution, a place where those who have served can find certificate and degree programs that are—not unlike efforts established on campus nearly a century ago—intended to help reintegrate veterans into productive civilian lives. In recent years, Wentworth has been ranked with the “best schools for veterans” in the northeast region, for being among institutions that effectively leverage federal initiatives to help veterans and active-duty service members pay for their degrees.

As of the fall of 2017, 99 student-veterans were enrolled at the Institute, said Gloria Monaghan, ROTC academic advisor, and Student Veterans Club advisor. Monaghan, who is also a member of the staff-faculty Veterans Committee, said there were approximately five students enrolled through ROTC.

“Wentworth remains a veteran-friendly university,” she said.

Monaghan said there is a dedicated space on campus for alumni-veterans to study, regroup, and work on their future, and there are discussions around establishing a campus chapter of the S.A.L.U.T.E academic honors society for veterans and people serving in the military.

The Student Veterans Club recently sponsored its second annual “22 Push-Up Challenge” to spotlight the number of veterans who commit suicide each year. The group and ROTC raised more than $200 to send flowers to the mothers of fallen soldiers. Student-veterans also participated in a suicide-awareness exercise sponsored by the Wellness Center.

Ten care packages for soldier-alumni of Wentworth were sent over the holidays in 2016-2017. Those included food items, socks, and toiletry items for active soldiers. The entire Wentworth Community responded to that effort, said Monaghan, and some faculty members, staff, and students also sent holiday cards to soldiers.

Crider on veterans and service

A few days before the luncheon, Crider briefly took time out of her busy schedule to talk about veterans and “service” in military and civilian contexts. 

On her time in the military. Crider was afforded leadership opportunities and was running important military programs at a very young age—in her 20s. Those experiences taught her that “service” comes in a variety of forms, from systems support and equipment acquisitions to implementation of programs. Early on in her career she recognized that military members and military leaders like her have enormous responsibilities. After transitioning from active duty to the Reserves, she began to see how people can be dedicated to the military but can also be immersed in the community and be equally committed to serving its needs.

For younger generations, the meaning of ‘service.’ She would tell them that military service comes in many different forms, including but certainly not limited to readiness and combat. And that Americans regardless of what they do are in spirit if not in deeds connected to serving their country. Mostly, she said, to members of the Armed Forces military service is a mindset. “It’s a part of who we are. We are all connected in that ideal, and we all see ourselves as servants to it.”

To the men and women in uniform everywhere. Crider said her message to those who have served will always be a deep heartfelt thank you. “Our veterans are absolutely committed. Many have sacrificed all; many have come back home with injuries or what we call invisible injuries. For all veterans, we can’t say ‘thank you’ enough.”

Support for veterans. “I would certainly encourage everyone to visit a veterans’ center. I have visited several myself, and the stories you hear are amazing. They will all tell you that they are so proud of their ability to have served our country. Spending time talking to veterans you also realize that their service wasn’t easy. In many ways, they just need to have someone to talk to and hear their stories. They need to talk about those experiences to feel that it’s O.K.” She urges people to contribute their time and donations to the many relief and support efforts like Wounded Warriors, and to any educational and athletics opportunities for veterans.

As a role model. “I would say to both women and to men, believe in yourself. Believe in your ability to make a difference. We all can make an immense contribution to our communities and organizations and to our families. I would really encourage the young men and women of Wentworth Institute to really reflect on what strengths they bring to the table—to the things that they inherently have—and to be empowered, and to put those forward and apply those. Whether you are male or female or whatever gender you ascribe to, it really comes down to who you are as a person. If I’ve learned anything in my life and in my experience, it’s that we all come with some incredible abilities and we can round those abilities out by taking advantage of every experience that’s put in front of us.”

All veterans and military-connected students, faculty, and staff are welcome to attend the November 10 luncheon, from noon to 1:30 p.m. The program will feature a bagpipe tribute. The event is free of charge and open to the COF community. Please register in advance at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/veterans-luncheon-celebrates-10-years-tickets-32188212811 For more information, contact quigleyb@wit.edu.  


--Dennis Nealon

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