Sixteen members of Princeton’s Class of 2022 became commissioned officers in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps on May 24 during a ceremony led by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, a Class of 1980 graduate who himself was commissioned through Princeton’s ROTC program more than 40 years ago.
The ROTC Commissioning was held in the Faculty Room of Nassau Hall a few hours after Princeton’s Commencement. Princeton’s ROTC Class of 2022 represents the largest commissioning class in recent years.
Fifteen students were commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army and one was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. The group represented a variety of concentrations, including English, history, mechanical and aerospace engineering, chemistry, and computer science, as well as activities such as varsity athletics, the Princeton University Glee Club, peer advising and Engineers Without Borders.
At the ceremony, President Christopher L. Eisgruber invoked the legacy of U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens — for whom Eisgruber clerked from 1989 to 1990 — stating that two of the defining commitments in Stevens’ life were his service in the U.S. Navy and his life in the law.
“I am confident that he viewed those commitments as profoundly linked to one another, conjoined by the oath of service to the Constitution that all of you will soon swear, and by what he saw as America’s grand collective quest to form a more perfect union, secure the blessings of liberty, and guarantee every person the equal protection of the laws,” Eisgruber said.
He continued: “The Constitution now, and indeed always, urgently needs our active support. As the poet James Russell Lowell observed not long after the Civil War, Americans sometimes have a mistaken tendency to regard the Constitution as ‘a machine that would go of itself.’ It is not.”
Princeton’s Army ROTC Tiger Battalion is the longest continuously running ROTC program in the United States, having been established in 1919.
Princeton re-established its Navy ROTC program in 2014 after a 43-year absence from campus, and also reinstated a transfer program in 2018 aimed at admitting more veterans, community college and low-income students. In fall 2021, the University’s faculty voted to expand that program.
In his remarks, Milley thanked Eisgruber for his leadership and support of ROTC at Princeton. Milley said he spent time with the soon-to-be officers prior to the ceremony, and he lauded them for their academic accomplishments.
“This is an incredibly talented group of people, exactly the kind of people we want to come into our Army, into our Marine Corps, into our service today,” Milley said.
Milley laid out the landscape of military threats into which the graduates are entering, calling out Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “a gross violation” of the principles of international relations put into place after World War II that could lead to further conflict if allowed to stand.
“It’s incumbent upon you and I, those of us in uniform, to protect this group out here,” he said, referring to the guests in attendance. “And we will do that no matter what the cost to ourselves. You are entering not a job, you’re entering a calling.”
Milley also reminded the new officers that the oath they were swearing was the same taken by the president of the United States and others in government, and that the oath was to the Constitution, which he said is, “more than a document — it’s an idea.”
“You’re taking an oath to that idea, you’re not taking an oath to a person,” Milley said. “You’re never to take an oath to a president, a king, a queen. You’re not taking an oath to a dictator or wannabe dictator or tyrant. You’re taking an oath to an idea, the idea that is America. And you will do anything and everything — if necessary, sacrifice even your life — to preserve that idea, and pass it on unscathed to the next generation.”
After taking the oath of office, the newly commissioned officers received their ranking pins and performed the traditional Silver Dollar Salute.
The ceremony was attended by families and friends, University administrators and military representatives, including Gen. John Abizaid, who served as commander of U.S. Central Command from July 2003 to March 2007; Robert Maguire, former civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army for New Jersey; and Kristin French, a retired brigadier general and deputy director of logistics operations at the Defense Logistics Agency.
The afternoon was especially meaningful for the graduates’ parents, who pinned ranks onto their children’s uniforms. French pinned her daughter, Katherine Kyler French, together with Katherine’s father, Richard, a retired lieutenant colonel, and her brother, Ryan, a first lieutenant. George Hurley, selected to serve as an armor office in the active component, received his ranks from his father, John Hurley, Class of 1986, a retired captain who also is an alumnus of the Tiger Batallion, and his mother, Kamilla.
In concluding his address, Eisgruber said the University takes great pride in its ROTC graduates and all they have accomplished.
“We are proud of your learning,” he said. “We are proud of your courage. We are proud of your commitment to our Constitution, to the United States Armed Forces, and to the enduring ideals for which they stand.”