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Norwich University, in addition to being the first private military college in the United States, which was founded by Captian Alden Partridge in 1819, has also the distinction of having been the first institution to offer work in Civil Engineering and Agriculture, supplementing its program of classical or liberal education.
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In 1825, the academy was moved to Middletown, Connecticut, where it operated until its return to Norwich in 1829. The buildings occupied at Middletown were subsequently purchased by the Methodist Church, which established Wesleyan University in them in 1831.
In 1834, the academy was chartered by the State of Vermont as Norwich University, beginning the series of acts by which the relationship of the University to the State was established.
On March 14, 1866 old South Barracks, the principal building of the University at Norwich, burned to the ground, dealing a serious blow to the institution. At this time, it was decided not to attempt to rebuild at Norwich but to seek a more central spot in Vermont.
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The present location at Northfield, at almost the exact geographic center of the State, was decided upon, and construction of the original Jackman Hall was begun the same year. This building was not completed until 1868 and, in the intervening period, classes were held in an already existing building in opened on the "Hill" where they have carried on to the present time.
Norwich has continued to grow and to expand its usefulness. New buildings have been added as the physical needs of the college have increased, and there are now forty major buildings valued at more than one
hundred and forty million dollars. Its grounds consist of about twelve hundred acres of land, including the athletic fields, the practice fields, and the east side of Paine Mountain adjacent to the campus.
Throughout its development, Norwich has held fast to the guiding principle of its founder: to provide a complete education, equipping its graduates for useful lives as individduals and as citizens. Several Norwich men who have attained prominence, including Grewille M. Dodge, builder of the Union Pacific Railroad, and Admiral George Dewey, popular hero of the Spanish American War, have campus buildings named in their honor. Many other alumni have attained positions of eminence and have rendered valuable service to their country as both civlians and military men.
Over 523 Norwich men took part on both sides of the Civil War. Eight Major Generals, 19 Brigadier Generals, 57 Colonels, 30 Lieutenant Colonels, and 33 majors represented the military college. More than 777 Norwich men took part in World War I with 342 commissioned officers. Sixty-two percent of these men held rank higher second lieutenant. Over 1600 alumni served in the armed forces in World War II, nearly 1300 of them holding commissions. Sixteen held the rank of general. In addition to these men in our own armed forces, sixteen of China's war generals received their training at Norwich. Norwich alumni have taken part in all of our country's wars since then. Most recently our many alumni were joined in the Persian Gulf by more than twenty cadet-reservists called to active duty.
In 1972, Norwich University acquired with Vermont College, a civilian school in nearby Montpelier. At the time of the merger, both schools became coeducational. In 1974 Norwich welcomed women into the Corps of Cadets, offering them the same training and responsibilities as the men. In 1993 the decsions was made by the Board of Trustees to move the undergraduate programs at Vermont College campus to the Northfield campus. Cadets and
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civilian students co-exist on campus sharing academic, athletic and dining facilities.
The civilian carrers of Norwich alumni cover a wide range of occupations and professions. A survey of a cross-section of alumni shows them successfully engaged in thiry-two different fields of endeavor, including engineering, teaching, government service, medicine, finance, law, manufacturing, and agriculture. The Norwich tradition has contributed something to each of its alumni, making graduates more effective in their chosen professions and more valuable to the national welfare.