Sunday, May 27, 2018
Opinion

Column: USF honors its military veteran graduates

TAMPA

Nearly five years ago, World War II veteran and University of South Florida founder Sam Gibbons visited the campus to meet with a group of young Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. It was one of those special moments when the breadth of history and its connection to the present day is in plain view with all the resonance such a moment rightly demands.

Gibbons — who as a young man had been part of the heroic D-day invasion forces that liberated Europe and who then went on to attend law school under the G.I. Bill — sat side by side with student veterans fresh from modern conflicts. While nearly seven decades separated them, these individuals shared a sense of purpose forged under dire and dangerous circumstances.

For me as an educator, seeing these two generations together in this moment was akin to peering into a crystal ball and being assured that as long as veterans have access to quality higher education, our future will be in very capable hands.

This weekend, our country celebrated the 70th anniversary of the original G.I. Bill, perhaps one of our nation's most transformative acts pertaining to higher education after President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation creating land-grant universities in 1862. The emergence of a newly educated workforce in post-World War II America transformed our nation from one where higher education and professional careers were reserved for the privileged to one where higher education became a true stepping stone to upward mobility.

Gibbons was among the roughly 8 million Americans who forged new paths through the G.I. Bill, and went on to become an iconic public leader for Florida and the nation. In the 1950s, he joined with two other World War II veterans in the founding of USF — Gov. LeRoy Collins and John Germany, who also attended law school under the G.I. Bill.

Today, USF is the academic home to nearly 1,200 student veterans attending college under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. This diverse group of men and women strengthen our campus in immeasurable ways and contribute to the learning environment for all of USF's 48,000 students. As they graduate — just this spring 125 veterans crossed our commencement stage — these veterans bringing incredible knowledge, maturity, professionalism and leadership skills to the Tampa Bay region's workforce and communities.

USF has made special efforts to ensure the success of student veterans because we regard this group of students as an incredible asset for our community. We know young people who enlist in the military very quickly mature and assume leadership positions, particularly when deployed to war zones. They bring a deep understanding of the world and well-honed problem-solving skills. They often have young families and are deeply invested in creating a safer more secure world for their children. Most important, they recognize the enduring value of education.

Having seen vulnerable populations cowered and manipulated by extremists, they understand that education is vital for individuals to secure not only economic power, but democracy itself. Education is an investment in global peace and security, and who better to stand for that value than the men and women who have been on the front lines of war.

USF has taken a national leadership role in implementing the new G.I. Bill and was the first university in the nation to enter into an agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide focused services to students attending under the post-9/11 G.I. Bill. We are immensely proud to be recognized each year by Military Times EDGE magazine as one of the nation's top veteran-friendly institutions, and we advocated for and now celebrate a new state law granting in-state tuition to all honorably discharged veterans.

Our university's roots were planted by veterans when USF was just a dusty outcropping of buildings on a former World War II airfield, and among our first students were veterans from later conflicts using their G.I. Bill benefits. Now a major global research university, we recognize it is impossible to detach our existence from those who fought on foreign soil and returned home to build a strong and prosperous nation.

We honor our history by creating a welcoming and empowering environment for our era's veterans, who have well within their grasp the ability to become American's next great generation.

Judy Genshaft is president of the University of South Florida and today is joining with a coalition of university presidents organized by the White House to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the G.I. Bill.

Comments
Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Itís human nature in following any tragedy to imagine: How could this have been prevented? On that score, the city of Tampa responded appropriately to the deaths this week of a mother and her toddler whom police say were hit by a teenage driver racin...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

One of the worst ideas in a long time in the field of urban planning received a blessing this month when the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a land-use change for a project that calls for filling three acres of water insi...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Send out an Amber Alert for Adam Putnam. The red-haired, affable fellow who has served capably as a state legislator, member of Congress and agriculture commissioner is missing. In his place is a far-right caricature who has branded himself as a prou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Floridians are paying a steep price for a system that makes it as difficult as possible for people who leave prison to reintegrate into civic life. Gov. Rick Scottís clemency process isnít just archaic and cruel ó it also wastes enormous public resou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyangís nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Koreaís Kim Jong ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18

Editorial: A positive first step in ensuring student access at USFSP

As a task force sorts out countless details involved in folding the University of South Florida St. Petersburg back into the major research university based in Tampa, ensuring access for good Pinellas students remains a concern. An enhanced cooperati...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

The rising tensions with Iran, the resurgence of violence in the Mideast and the uncertainty over a nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea combine to create an unsettling time this Memorial Day. These grave threats to peace are another reminder of...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/25/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18