In Their Own Words – Summer 2017

Reflections on the Hill,
by the late Roy D. Bair ’65.

On January 6 of this year, Roy Bair ’65, Norwich professor emeritus of biology, sent a letter to President Schneider. Five days later, Professor Bair passed away. Feeling that the letter speaks to the greater Norwich family, President Schneider asked us to share it in the Record. We are honored to publish this excerpt.

Roy D. Bair ’65

Roy D. Bair ’65

My introduction to Norwich came when a coach at my high school pulled me out of math class to talk to a recruiter from Norwich. I told the coach that I had never heard of Norwich, and he told me that it was a military school in Vermont. I wasn’t impressed—but what the heck, it got me out of math class. Well I ended up applying to NU, was accepted, and decided to attend. I really can’t remember why I made Norwich my choice. I think that’s the case for many 18-year-old kids when choosing a college. For me it was a lucky one.

That first day at Norwich was really something. I walked through the gate on Route 12 with my parents and a cadet told me to get my hands out of my pockets! After lunch, General Harmon addressed the new rooks and their parents, telling the parents that Norwich was going to make men out of their boys, that they would be well cared for, but not to expect to hear from them for a while because they were going to be very busy. My recollection is that he ended his remarks by telling the parents to “Pack up and get the hell out of here.”

I suffered at the hands of the cadre, for whom harassment was an art form, but survived until Thanksgiving break. I got home and announced that at the end of the year I was going to transfer out of that crazy place. My mother looked at me with more than a little disgust and said, “Quitter.” It was one of those life-changing moments that you don’t recognize as such until years later. You would have thought she was a Norwich alum.

I didn’t quit. I survived and thrived. After graduation I went to graduate school, where my Norwich-inspired attitude helped me survive. It does not take most people seven years to earn a PhD, but that’s how long it took me. To this day I have dreams that I have not finished my research. I know that my ability to face adversity and to not quit was, in large part, due to my experiences at Norwich.

Soon I was off to do my duty with the U.S. Army. As class commander of my officer’s basic course, my Norwich training was very useful. The colonel had me in his office more than once for some screw-up by “my” student officers, and one embarrassing time when I really screwed up. “Yes sir,” “No sir,” and “No excuse, sir” had been well-rehearsed at dear old NU.

I am ever grateful to Norwich for giving me the opportunity to teach some of her students. I really loved teaching. I had some very exceptional students—the ones whose tests you graded first to make sure you didn’t make any mistakes in your answer key. Then there were the ones who struggled but didn’t give up. Those are the students I hope to have helped the most. But for Norwich, I would not have heard the intensive care nurse say that she uses what I taught her every day, or the roofer turned medical technologist thank me for believing in him, or our MD to PhD superstar would not have sent me a copy of his thesis.
I can’t imagine what my life would have been without Norwich University. And as Norwich enters its third century, I am confident that there will be thousands more who will become indebted to Norwich, too. ✪


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