The Citadel welcomes back first African American female graduates 20 years later

Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 9:23 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 4, 2022 at 11:46 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Citadel’s first female African American graduates were welcomed back on campus Friday afternoon. The seven women from the Class of 2002 were reunited after 20 years.

They were honored at the Corps of Cadets’ military dress parade on Friday. They said it was amazing to be honored and see cadets following in their footsteps.

Adrienne Crosby said it was awesome being back on campus with her family, showing them the place that taught her so much.

“It’s humbling, it’s happy times for my family to be able to see that there are more women here today,” Crosby said. “And that we were the trailblazers for these women who feel like they can come here and get through it as well.”

The seven women said Friday brought back a mix of emotions and flashbacks, and while they were proud to see more diversity, they say it was a reminder that more needs to be done.

“It’s great, but we need to see more,” Shay Peterson said.

“We need to see more,” Dr. Renee E. Hypolite said. “It’s great, but looking out into the crowd I was expecting to see more 20 years later. So that was a little disappointing.”

Hypolite says they need to ask themselves and the school why they aren’t seeing more representation.

“But being here today gives us a little bit of a fresh perspective that we do need to be a little bit more supportive so that we can see more faces here,” Hypolite said.

She adds that one way is to get more of their black alumni into their mentor program at The Citadel.

It’s a program many of these women like Toshika “Peaches” Hudson-Cannon are a part of now.

“I am a mentor to a mentee here on campus,” Hudson-Cannon said. “She’s a sophomore, and with my help she’s doing great. She’s thriving.”

It’s a program that Tony Dewitt, president of the African American Alumni Association, says they are working to improve as well.

“The more help we can get to have these men and women stay here, because they gave up a lot of time to come to The Citadel,” Dewitt said. “So, we want to make sure those students and parents keep those kids in school.”

Dewitt says it was exhilarating to see these women back on campus and see them talking to current cadets.

One of those cadets who got a chance to meet the women who paved the way for her was Senior cadet Samantha Walton.

“Special moment for me, especially, to see seven beautiful women that look like myself, and to know that there is a future out there for me, to have something as close as they have,” Walton said.

The seven women say what they learned at The Citadel helped pave the way for them to become business owners, teachers, lawyers, doctors, wives, and mothers making their mark on the world.

“Ms. Peterson, I did get in contact with her,” Walton said. “She actually had the current rank that I am in now. I’m the regimental public affairs officer and she told me that that was her rank. She also was an attorney, and so that’s kind of the path that I’m going towards, so it was really special.”

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