This year marks an important milestone for The Citadel — 25 years of women graduating from the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. In 1999, when the first woman to wear the Band of Gold crossed the stage and received her diploma, it marked a turning point in the institution’s history for women who had dreams of graduating from the Military College of South Carolina.
From the first female athlete to the first female regimental commander, women at The Citadel have continuously shattered barriers while leaving a lasting mark of excellence on the institution. For more than 150 years, the South Carolina Corps of Cadets was an all-male institution. Then, the first female cadet to graduate from The Citadel, Nancy Mace, earned her degree in 1999. The next year, she was followed by Petra Lovetinska, from the Class of 2000, who was also the first foreign female cadet. Both trailblazers shined in their time at The Citadel and in their post-graduation lives.
In 1997, Mandy Garcia became the first female cadet-athlete, securing an athletic scholarship for cross country as well as track and field. Garcia would later become the first female Regimental Executive Officer, the second-highest ranking cadet in the Corps. The following year, 1998, marked the debut season for The Citadel’s women volleyball team. Fast forward 25 years, and the team achieved unprecedented success, having a remarkable 23-game winning streak during their regular season.
By 2002, a significant milestone was celebrated as the first African American women — including Toshika “Peaches” Hudson-Cannon, Dr. Renee Hypolite, Natosha Mitchell Johnson, Geneive “Hardney” Marshall, Lesjanusar “Sha” Peterson, Adrienne “AJ” Watson Crosby and Jamey McCloud — graduated from The Citadel. Just two years later, female enrollment surged to 6.1%, with the numbers steadily rising. As of fall 2023, The Citadel’s Corps of Cadets is comprised of 13% women.
In 2018, Sarah Zorn was named regimental commander, the highest-ranking cadet officer in command of the Corps of Cadets. Zorn’s achievement marked a pivotal moment, as she made history as the first woman to lead the South Carolina Corps of Cadets in the military college’s extensive history. In 2021, The Citadel saw its second female regimental commander, Kathryn Christmas, further solidifying the leadership role of female cadets.
A timeline of the history of women until 2018 at The Citadel can be viewed here.
Events commemorating 25 years of female cadet graduates
The Citadel has planned a series of events recognizing the tremendous female cadet graduates of the past 25 years, including panel discussions and a parade to honor all alumnae.
On Tuesday, Jan. 30, The Citadel begins its celebration with a panel discussion that will feature past cadets, moderated by Sally Selden, Ph.D., SPHR, provost of The Citadel. The discussion will include topics such as leadership, resilience and the journey of women at The Citadel. This event will be held in Capers Hall auditorium at 3 p.m. and is open to the public. A reception will follow in the Capers Hall atrium.
March is Women’s History Month, and The Citadel will extend an invitation to all female cadet graduates to come back to campus for special events. On Friday, March 1, a parade will honor and recognize their accomplishments. The parade will begin at 3:45 p.m. The tradition of parading troops can be traced back to the time of Alexander the Great, and the South Carolina Corps of Cadets’ Friday afternoon dress parades reflect those drill procedures and movements of the past. Modern day dress parades are conducted to inspect troops, render honors, preserve tradition and foster espirit de corps. The college will host additional events for alumnae and their families that weekend.
More events celebrating 25 years of female cadet graduates will be announced in the coming weeks.
Citadel alumnae have made an impact that extends far beyond campus — in their communities, professions and to other women looking up to them. The Citadel is proud to honor past female cadet graduates, as well as encourage more women to pursue an education at the Military College of South Carolina.