North Georgia College & State University’s Corps of Cadets is one of the most recognizable institutions on the Dahlonega campus.
Cadets, dressed in full military attire, can be seen making their way from Patriot Hall to their classes, the drill field or to chow — a constant reminder of the integral part they play in the school’s heritage.
As that tradition continues to grow and the program begins to gain more attention, the importance to keep pushing forward grows exponentially.
That movement is aided with private donations to the corps, including $2.1 million this week courtesy of retired Army Col. Jack Peevy.
Peevy, a North Georgia graduate and a 30-year military veteran, committed the money to start a scholarship fund and for general support of the program, the school announced this week.
“This kind of gift is important to us because we are one of six senior military colleges, and if you equate it to running an all-volunteer army, which is pretty expensive, we’re running an all-volunteer corps, too,” said Jeff Boggan, the university’s development director. “We’re asking students to come here and be full-time students, but on top of that, to add these special requirements of the corps.”
Peevy committed $100,000 in August to start the Col. Jack Peevy Military Scholarship to assist cadets with associated expenses.
The money will be invested and any earnings will go toward scholarships. Boggan estimates it will created four $1,000 scholarships that will pay out beginning in fall 2014.
“Anytime you’re recruiting students and you have money to help incentivize them, that’s good,” Boggan said. “And $1,000 doesn’t come anywhere close to paying for it, but it helps.”
The other $2 million has been set aside in Peevy’s will and will likely go for general support of the corps.
North Georgia is one of six federally designated senior military colleges in the United States. The other five are the Citadel, Norwich University, Texas A&M, Virginia Military Institute and Virginia Tech.
Currently the university is home to more than 750 cadets, comprising about 38 percent of the school’s resident population.
Its facilities, corps officials said, can accommodate up to 850 cadets.
“There is not another college in the state of Georgia that’s like this one, and there’s only six in the nation like it, so it’s very unique,” said Keith Antonia, director of cadet admissions.
And with the pending consolidation of North Georgia and Gainesville State College, eventually forming the University of North Georgia, the corps is likely to get more selective as it moves forward.
“In a nutshell, (the consolidation) is not going to affect the character of the Corps of Cadets or the Corps of Cadets at all,” Antonia said. “The only way it’s going to affect it is positively.”
Cadet Weston Lee, 1st sergeant of the corps’ largest company, Foxtrot, said he always dreamed of joining the military. North Georgia, for him, was an obvious choice.
This year, Lee, a junior, received a leadership scholarship, similar to the ones that will stem from Peevy’s gift, and said the money just makes it a little easier to turn his dreams into reality.
“I was extremely blessed to get it and it’s helped me out a lot,” Lee said. “It’s given me that extra boost and it’s helped my family out financially.
“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, so it was really awesome to be able to call home and tell my mom that I got this scholarship and to hear her breakdown in tears. So, it’s definitely a blessing.”
And more scholarships like his, Lee said, will only aid in the recruitment of better cadets in the future.
“I believe that anyone that knows that they can get any sort of funding to help reach their goals, it would be an immediate magnet for the corps,” Lee said.
Although the colleges’ consolidation has come with mixed emotions from alumni on both sides, including a concern of the corps’ future, Lee said he supports the merger.
“I’ve seen firsthand the consolidation and how it will affect everything,” he said, adding that he is a junior representative on the student government association.
“Really, I see it as beneficial. The more people we have coming through, the more chances we have to get better officers commissioned. I see it doing nothing detrimental to the corps whatsoever. ... I think it’s a really cool thing that we’re consolidating.”
Antonia said it’s the Army’s mission to commission up to 81 officers every year from North Georgia, and a corps of 850 cadets will likely be the appropriate number to do that annually.
Once the corps reaches that number, the quality of cadets likely will increase each year.
“At that point we can get even more selective than we have been,” Antonia said. “We have a great quality product graduating now. It’ll get even better in the future.”
After the consolidation takes place, he does not expect a huge influx of cadet applications. But, he said, he expects a few more once the University of North Georgia is the banner all campuses fly.
“I don’t expect a big flood, but we’ll get a few and every little bit helps,” he said.
That, along with the name change, is the only change the corps is anticipating.
“What you see here today is what you’re going to get next year,” said Antonia. “The only thing that’s changing is the name.”