Valley Forge Military Academy and College celebrated the graduation of 57 cadets on May 16, 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 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 after deciding that "military education was not for her," said Kathleen Anderson, vice president for academic affairs at Valley Forge).
The seven female graduates were:
Lauren Perry of Port Jervis, N.Y., who will attend Ohio State University.
Tenika Edge of Leavenworth, Kan., who will attend Columbus State University in Georgia.
Rebecca Spencer of Wilmington, who will attend the University of Delaware.
Kaylynn Leavitt of Clinton, Utah, who will attend the University of Arizona.
Jennifer Swanson of Bear, Del., who plans to attend the University of Delaware.
Minh and Thanh Truong, twins from Philadelphia, who will attend Temple University.
Anderson, who also served as interim dean of the college since coming to Valley Forge in 2006, said the seven women had "brought Valley Forge into the 21st century."
"The spirit and energy that they brought to this institution was palpable," Anderson said.
At the May 16 ceremony, Anderson heard 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 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."