Photographs of Patricia Miller, c.1959

Dublin Core



One of my former advisees, Patricia (Hodges) Miller, class of 1959, wanted more than anything else to be a member of the Cadet Corps. Her father, a career officer in the U.S. Army, had participated in the VPI Corps of Cadets as an undergraduate For nearly all of the 12 quarters Pat was a student here she pre-registered for the required military subjects, but each quarter she was told the Corps was not open to women. During the winter quarter of her senior year she told me she had applied for a commission in the Medical Specialists Corps and planned to be commissioned at graduation along with the graduating cadets. I was frantic when I considered what the alumni, student body, and especially the cadets, would say and do. Tradition was very strong in that period of our history. She said, "Don't worry. I've talked to the Surgeon General, and he would very much like to come to the exercises, deliver the address, and commission me along with the other graduates."


I think every student in Hillcrest Dormitory stayed over to see Pat commissioned in Miles Stadium that year, in one of the hottest June days ever remembered in Blacksburg. Out into the field marched the cadets: those who would be commissioned into the U.S. Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard. Pat came on to the field alone and last. All stood in the hot sun through the entire commissioning exercise. If I remember the order of commissioning correctly, first commissioned were those for the Army, then for the Air Force, then for the Navy, then the Marine Corps, followed by the Coast Guard. By this time, the women students from Hillcrest were furious. Why, they asked, did Pat have to be the last one? My answer was: "Those men must get a head start on her; even with that she will overtake them."


From "Against the Odds: Women at VPI,"
Founder's Day Speech by Laura Jane Harper, April 11, 1980.