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Eckerd College Graduate Alex Simpson '12 Receives ROTC Battalion's Highest Honor

posted on 05/29/2012

By Greg Johnson '15

Alex Simpson '12 of Lebanon, Tenn., is the first Eckerd graduate in several years to complete the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program while enrolled at Eckerd College. Alex is the recent recipient of the American Legion Superior Cadet Award, the battalion's highest honor. The award is presented to one Senior Cadet who has ranked at the top of his Commissioning class, ranks within the top 3% of Cadets nationally and is in the top 10% of his academic class.

Each year, Army ROTC graduates 4,200 men and women from 273 host programs at colleges and universities across the nation. Locally, the University of South Florida Suncoast Battalion serves as a host program to Eckerd, one of 1,100 partnership and affiliate schools.

Shortly before graduating from Eckerd College on May 20, Alex Simpson was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Congratulations! What does it take to win the prestigious American Legion Superior Cadet Award?
I had to meet several requirements: you have to be in the top 10% at your school, top in your battalion, top in your military science class, and you have to be ranked nationally in the top 3% of all cadets in the nation. I ranked number 1 out of 64 graduating seniors who are going to be lieutenants. The actual physical award is an Army Officer Saber with my name and American Legion engraved in it. Itís a big award and I'm very honored to receive it.

What did you study at Eckerd?
I double majored in international relations and global affairs and East Asian studies. I also minored in Chinese. I love what I have studied here - it has greatly helped to prepare me for my military service after graduation.

This is the first time in several years that an Eckerd student went through the entire ROTC program. How was your ROTC experience at Eckerd?
Eckerd has been extremely supportive. Dean of Students James J. Annarelli, Director of Campus Safety and Security Adam Colby, Associate Professor of Management Frank Hamilton (who's a retired colonel), have all been very supportive, along with the students and my friends. Professor of Political Science Bill Felice, my mentor, has also been really supportive. I definitely didn't make the journey on my own.

When I first applied, I didn't even know Eckerd had an ROTC program - when I found out they did have a program it was perfect because Eckerd was my first choice. I'm very honored and very excited to be the first one in a long time. We have two more who will be commissioned next year and maybe more down the road. I am only 20 years old, so I'm the youngest cadet in the battalion. I made it pretty far in a short period of time.

Did you start college early?
Yes, I skipped a grade in middle school, so I came in at age 17. My ROTC scholarship was for three years, so I had to compress my college career a little bit.

How has Bill Felice, your faculty mentor, supported you along the way?
Professor Felice knew that I only had three years to complete my degree. We sat down and worked out the schedule for a double major and a minor. He really helped me through that. I get in touch with him almost every week. I've taken maybe seven of his classes, which were all very academically stimulating. He has directed me in my purpose - not just in the Army - but also as a person.

What are you doing this summer before you begin your military service?
Shortly after graduation, I will be fulfilling my international relations international practicum with the 3-week "Spring into Summer" trip to The Hague, Netherlands. Once I get back in June, I immediately go to Hawaii where my unit will be stationed. Shortly after that, my unit is sending me on a joint military training exercise in Singapore with the Singapore Army.

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