The Commandant says farewell and top cadet, faculty awards presented during the Commencement of the Class of 2021

Recipients recognized for outstanding academic and professional achievements

The Citadel honored four of its most outstanding cadets and two distinguished faculty members during the South Carolina Corps of Cadets morning and afternoon Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 8.

The awards, which are given out annually, recognize the two cadets with the highest grade-point averages, the most courteous member of the graduating class, a cadet and a faculty member who achieved academic excellence, and a faculty member for his or her love of teaching.

This year’s commencement was also unique in that the outgoing Commandant of Cadets, CAPT. Eugene Paluso, USN (Ret.), ’89, served as the 2021 commencement speaker for both morning and afternoon ceremonies. This was one of his last official act as commandant.

Don’t assume you are the smartest, toughest, or best person around. If you do, or find yourself thinking that, then I will tell you that you are in the wrong room.

Surround yourself with teammates smarter than you, get to know them, learn and grow from them constantly, just like you did here from the people you are surrounded by now. 

Never assume, never make stuff up, and never be prideful or arrogant. Always ask questions, even if you think you know the answers. Engage, interact and listen. 

Remember, there is always someone smarter, bigger and tougher than you in every room you enter. Be humble and learn everything you can from each and every one of them.

A segment from Capt. Geno Paluso’s Commencement Address

Watch the entire speech here:

The two academic leaders of the Corps

The David Shingler Spell First and Second Honor Graduates are the two cadets whose grade-point averages are the highest in each graduating class, based on the total college record of that class. Recipients of the awards receive a plaque and a stipend for educational expenses at the graduate level.

This year, Cadet Roman John Kokowsky, a Spanish and French double major from Las Vegas, Nevada, earned the prestigious position of First Honor Graduate. Kokowsky is a Navy ROTC scholarship cadet and a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. For the past year, he guided the freshmen of Alpha Company as their Platoon Leader. After graduation, Kokowsky will attend the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command at the Naval Weapons Station in Goose Creek, South Carolina.

Roman John Kokowsky, David Shingler Spell First Honor Graduate

The Second Honor Graduate for the Class of 2021 is Cadet Nicholas Paul Fricchione. Fricchione is a History major from San Antonio, Texas who accepted a commission into the United States Army. Additionally, he is an Honors Program graduate and a member of Phi Kappa Phi. For the last year, Fricchione as served the Corps of Cadets as Commander for November Company. After graduation, Fricchione will attend the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course in Fort Benning, Georgia.

Nicholas Paul Fricchione, David Shingler Spell Second Honor Graduate

Cadet Col. Nicholas Piacentini earns John O. Willson Ring

The Class of 2021 voted to award the John O. Willson Ring to Cadet Col. Nicholas Piacentini, regimental commander for the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. Piacentini is a Political Science major from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.

The John O. Willson Ring has been awarded annually since 1911 to a senior elected by their peers as the finest, purest and most courteous member of the class.

Nicholas Piacentini, recipient of the John O. Willson Ring

Because of his outstanding leadership abilities, Piacentini was selected to serve as regimental commander of the Corps of Cadets. Academically, Piacentini is an Honors Program student who earned Gold Stars recognition for all eight semesters.

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards presented to two dedicated scholars

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards were presented to Cadet Donnetta Re’shon Battle and David Allen, Ph.D. The awards are presented annually through the New York Southern Society to a student and faculty member in recognition of high thought and noble endeavor.

Cadet Donnetta Battle, a senior Psychology major from Band Company, has been a tireless advocate for vulnerable populations in Charleston. Battle is distinguished as one of the most generous cadet contributors since The Citadel began to document service learning and civic engagement, contributing more than 600 hours of service. While serving in some of Charleston’s most challenged schools, Cadet Battle has made it her mission to see that every student is affirmed, understands that all things are possible if they persevere and has every opportunity to succeed. Because of her dedication to serving others, Donnetta became one of the first official Peer Leaders in the program.

Donnetta Battle receiving the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

For almost forty years, David Allen, Ph.D., has tirelessly donated his service to The Citadel, its students and the profession at large in precisely the spirit of “mutual love and helpfulness” that defines the award. As a former department head and internal Director of Graduate Studies, Allen personally advised nearly every student in the English, Fine Arts, and Communications Department since 1983. At the founding of The Citadel’s Honors Program in 1987, Allen took charge of first-semester English for incoming Honors cadets, using this position not only to instruct his students but also ensuring they received the best guidance possible.

David Allen, Ph.D., receiving the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

Grimsley Award for excellence presented to Mechanical Engineering professor

Patrick Bass, Ph.D., a professor of Mechanical Engineering at The Citadel, received the James A. Grimsley Jr. Award for Undergraduate Teaching Excellence.

Patrick Bass, Ph.D., recipient of the James A. Grimsley Jr. Award for Undergraduate Teaching Excellence

This award, established thirty-five years ago, recognizes the outstanding performance by a member of the faculty in service to undergraduate students. The winner is chosen by the senior class from nominations by students and faculty members.

Bass delivers excellence in teaching through care and concern for students and by being a master teacher in his specialization, which is aerodynamics and controls. What is remarkable is that students cite him for his enthusiasm, genuine care of his students and his excitement to help them while simultaneously having to work hard for their grade.