SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The U.S. Army issued an order on Dec. 29, 1919, creating a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unit at Wofford. The granting of an ROTC unit came after college officials agreed to establish a course of military training on the campus and to meet other requirements as set by the Army. Wofford became one of the first denominational colleges to host an ROTC unit.
ROTC was not an entirely new concept at Wofford in 1919; during World War I the student body was organized into the Student Army Training Corps, essentially turning the campus into a military post. Students took both academic courses and military training, with Army officers responsible for military training and the faculty responsible for regular instruction. This continued until the end of World War I and likely created the model for the establishment of ROTC after the war.
At times in the 1920s and 1930s, the number of students participating in ROTC no doubt made the college look like an Army base. Within two years, 64 of 80 sophomores and 70 of 166 freshmen were in the first- or second-year basic course. ROTC grew nationally during this time, and by the 1950s, ROTC units throughout the country produced the majority of both reserve and regular Army officers. Lean economic times in the 1930s made participation in ROTC that much more important for students as it gave them scholarships, uniforms and stipends, no doubt making it possible for many of them to remain in college. The nation’s investment in ROTC paid off when World War II broke out and thousands of trained officers were ready and available to serve. Hundreds of Wofford alumni of all ranks served throughout the world during World War II, and that service continued through subsequent conflicts.
Today, ROTC maintains a strong presence on campus, and in February 2020, the library will open an exhibit that focuses on the centennial of ROTC at Wofford. The exhibit will feature photos as well as artifacts that show how ROTC has evolved and influenced life on the campus