Valley Forge Military Academy and College celebrated the graduation of 57 cadets on Friday, and for the first time in the 73-year history of the school, they included women.
They were the first women to graduate from the military's school's junior college, which was the last of its kind in the country to open its doors to women, in the fall of 2006.
Nine women entered the college's freshman class that fall, and, though all nine made it through their first year, two did not come back this academic year (one for financial reasons, and the other decided that "military education was not for her," according to Kathleen Anderson, vice president for academic affairs at Valley Forge).
Anderson, who also served as interim dean of the college since coming to Valley Forge in 2006, was happy to talk about the seven women who, as she said, "brought Valley Forge into the 21st century."
"The spirit and energy that they brought to this institution was palpable," Anderson said. At the ceremony Friday, Anderson heard Lauren Perry, the only one of the seven who was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army, talk about some of the growing pains the school went through when the women first came to campus in 2006.
Perry recounted that the women were the targets of some whistles and other not-so-mature comments by their male counterparts. A few stern responses from the women put an end to that, Anderson remembered Perry saying, perhaps illustrating the necessity for exposing Valley Forge's male students to the idea of working with and around women, since the world they are graduating into is coed.
"Having women there is a part of not only the military, but what corporate leadership is about today," Anderson said. "These women were extremely accomplished both in the classroom and out in the field. . . . [They] never stepped down from any of the challenges put before them."
The first seven female graduates in Valley Forge Military College history are:
Lauren Perry, from Port Jervis, N.Y., who will attend Ohio State University;
Tenika Edge, from Leavenworth, Kan., who will attend Columbus State University;
Rebecca Spencer, from Wilmington, who will attend the University of Delaware;
Kaylynn Leavitt, from Clinton, Utah, who will attend the University of Arizona;
Jennifer Swanson, from Bear, Del., who plans on attending the University of Delaware;