In an emotional ceremony at the headquarters of the New York-based Posse Foundation in January 2016, the College welcomed a group of veterans of America’s Armed Forces as members of the fourth Vassar Veterans Posse. When these student-veterans arrived on campus in September, Vassar became the first college in the nation to have a Veterans Posse in all four classes.
The Vassar Veterans Posse program was the inspiration of the College’s then president, Catharine Hill. She recognized that very few veterans of America’s active wars were considering highly selective colleges and universities when looking at their options for higher education.
In 2012, President Hill called Deborah Bial, president of The Posse Foundation. Since 1989, the Posse Foundation had gained wide regard for recruiting and supporting public high school students of extraordinary academic and leadership potential from diverse urban backgrounds. The students would attend selective colleges in cohort groups of ten students per class, inspired by the experience of a student who said, “I never would have dropped out of college if I had my posse with me.” Hill made a novel suggestion to Bial: Why not use the Posse model to recruit veterans?
An initial agreement for a first-of-its-kind Posse Veterans program was reached only two weeks later. “Nothing in higher education has that kind of timeline,” remarked Hill. Added Bial, “That phone call felt like the first moments when Posse was just getting started.”
The first members of the Vassar Veterans Posse arrived on campus in the fall of 2013. Subsequently, Wesleyan University and Dartmouth College have created similar programs. In November 2013, the Posse Veterans program received a $1.2 million Global Impact Award from Google.
In 2016, Vassar was ranked first among “Best Colleges for Veterans” by U.S. News and World Report.
Several dozen military veterans in the Classes of 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 are now on campus as participants in the Vassar Veterans Posse program. The Vassar veterans represent all five branches of the Armed Forces — the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and the Coast Guard — with service in both the United States and Middle East. Based on Posse’s successful model, these scholar-veterans are brought together as first-year students in a small, mutually supportive group, or “posse.” Each student receives academic preparation before starting college, as well as continued faculty mentoring once enrolled. To guarantee a full scholarship for every veteran selected to attend the college, Vassar is providing its own financial aid to supplement the funds available to vets through the federal GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon program.
“My parents always saw education as my pathway to success,” says Eduardo De La Torre ’17, who volunteered for the Army after 9/11. “I promised my parents I would go back, but to be honest, a few years ago that didn’t seem like it would happen. … It was my compassion for the lives lost in New York City that willed me out of school, and it was Cappy’s compassion that brought me back.”
In May, two students who enrolled at Vassar as members of the Vassar Veterans Posse, Jack Eubanks and David Carrell, became the first to graduate from the College when, after three years of accelerated studies, they received their diplomas with the Class of 2016.
The Books They'll Carry: Operation Veteran Admission
The sleeve tattoo on Vassar senior David Carrell’s right arm tells the story of the last dozen years of his life. On his elbow, there’s a tank sprocket—for the vehicles he commanded during his four combat tours in Iraq as a staff sergeant in the army. Around it are inked the initials of the 17 soldiers from his company that were killed over there. (Carrell needs to add two more, for comrades who committed suicide after coming home.) A skull with two sabers crossed up behind it represents the cavalry unit he deployed with. And there are the combat stripes, eight in all, one for every six months he spent in Iraq.Read full story