The Only Constant is Change – Heraclitus (but change happens slower at The Citadel – Dorie)

Heraclitus is credited with the phrase, “The only constant is Change.” As much as we would like our lives to stay predictable, change is how we grow.

After years of working for para church organizations and nonprofits I was convinced that  the phrase, “This is how we’ve always done it.” was an official doctrine. After listening to a number of Citadel alumni, old and new, I have learned change happens at The Citadel but very slowly and with MUCH debate.

In the 5 academic years since my sons Matriculation Day, I can say the changes from my perspective have been minimal. If you talk with the recent graduates though, they are already saying the new cadets don’t really have a knob year. I know the Class of 2015 who just finished Recognition Day would argue their knob year and Recognition Day was just as meaningful for them as it was for every class that went before them.

Wednesday of this week I received an unexpected email from a 1993 graduate of The Citadel. He had read my blog. Most of the email was about how the school had changed tremendously since he was a cadet in the early ’90’s. “It has changed much more from 1993 to 2012 than it changed in the 19 years from 1974 to 1993.” Of course I’ve heard plenty about the Old Corps over the years.

He added a sentence or two to me about my blog, “I understand you think you are helping with all of the hints and enhanced packing lists and such. But really, you’re taking away from the experience, Mrs. Griggs.”

He went on to say that when he was a Summerall Guard. “The only thing my parents knew was what I told them. No pictures, (other than old yearbooks) no timeline so they knew what was going on.”

I’ve thought about his email quite a bit the past few days. One of the first things that struck me was that in the time period he mentions we have ALL experienced tremendous change in our day-to-day existence. In the early ’90’s the majority of the country did not own cell phones. Computers and the ability to actually see the person you were talking to on a computer, still seemed like something only the futuristic cartoon family the Jetson’s could do.

The time period of 1990 to the present day is called the Information Age for a reason. The World Wide Web was invented in 1989 and was implemented globally in 1991. No wonder the 1993 graduate noticed such a huge change in his beloved alma mater.

To keep up with other academic institutions The Citadel had to change their policies. In 2007 when the Class of 2011 matriculated they could not carry cell phones first semester. Second semester only those knobs who had a good GPA were given the privilege of carrying them. By 2008, as a result of the April 2007 Virginia Tech tragedy, colleges and universities around the country changed their protocol for emergency notifications. Those changes included the requirement that all students must carry cell phones and be connected to an emergency alert system.

To remain competitive and relative in the educational market place The Citadel had to make necessary changes to the way education happened on the campus. Every cadet is expected to have their own computer, and a printer if they’d like. Books can be rented now through the bookstore. WiFi is available on the campus.

Do a quick search through Google images, The Citadel Family Association photo page or even The Citadel photo library, and you will find photos of just about any type of campus event. Tools like Wikipedia and YouTube are resources for even more information on the school and various organizations and events, including the Summerall Guards. The cadre now use Facebook and Google searches to learn about the incoming classes. The new students are tech savvy enough to hide most of their online profile before their knob year. Citadel parents are resourceful as well. I can tell by the hits on my blog what time of year is coming up on campus. Right now it looks like a lot of Citadel moms with rising seniors are trying to decide what dress to wear for the Ring Ceremony during Parents Weekend.

If a student arrives at The Citadel for Matriculation Day with their family not knowing it is a military school, as is rumored to happen every matriculation day, they just haven’t done their homework.

Just about everything that happens at The Citadel is documented on the school’s website. My son’s knob year the Facebook groups for parents didn’t exist yet. The Citadel Family Association volunteers provided support if you asked. Between emailing parents with basic questions on attire for various events to meals and hotels, I was able to get help from another parent. If I wanted to learn about a term my son used in an email, I could use the search window on the schools web site to get the answer. The school posts ALL the training PowerPoints to the web site. I discovered that one day while reading through the links on the Office of the Commandant page.

The information age has changed The Citadel, as it has changed every school. It has not changed the importance of annual events and rituals like those that take place during award parades, Parents Weekend, Corps Day Weekend and others.

Parents and incoming knobs can learn quite a bit about The Citadel by reading web sites and watching YouTube videos, but until the new knob has lived through the rigors of the 4th Class System, they do not become a full member of the Corps of Cadets.

I will never fully understand or know what it is like to be a cadet. My son told me very little. I do, however,have great respect for the graduates of The Citadel, not just because they wear the ring, but because I have experienced the graduates to be people of integrity.

Some events on campus have changed very little over the years. If I didn’t tell you the year, you couldn’t tell by this photo. Ring Ceremony, 2010
This photo taken at graduation shows the time-honored tradition of tossing your cover in the air once the president dismisses the class. This photo could be taken in any year, but it is from May 2011.

The Citadel: Official and Unofficial Facebook Groups and Pages

UPDATED 06/17/2015

Various offices and groups on the campus of The Citadel have their own Facebook pages and/or groups. These pages and groups can provide a link for parents to keep up with what is happening on campus. The following list includes official school groups and pages, but also groups and pages started by cadets, parents and alumni.

If you know of others that should be added, please let me know.

Art at The Citadel

The Citadel Admissions

The Citadel Alumni Association

The Citadel Army ROTC

The Citadel Bookstore

The Citadel Brigadier Foundation, Inc.

The Citadel – Department of Cadet Activities

The Citadel 

The Citadel Football

The Citadel Foundation

The Citadel Graduate College

The Citadel Intramurals

The Citadel Lacrosse Program

The Citadel Republican Society

The Citadel School of Business Administration

The Citadel School of Engineering

The Citadel Sports

The Citadel Sports Network

The Citadel Student Government Association

The Citadel Young Alumni

Citadel Ice Hockey

Citadel Sailing

Citadel SHSS – School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Citadel Sports/Charleston Post and Courier

Citadel Strength & Conditioning

Naval ROTC Unit The Citadel

The Summerall Guard Foundation

Battalion Groups for Citadel Parents (unofficial NOT administered by the CFA)

Citadel 1st Battalion Parents Group

Citadel 2nd Battalion Parents Group

Citadel 3rd Battalion Parents Group

Citadel 4th Battalion Families (Open Group)

Citadel 4th Battalion Parents Group (Closed Group)

Citadel 5th Battalion Families

Area Groups (unofficial NOT administered by the CFA)

California Citadel Parents Group

Georgia Citadel Parents Group

MD VA DC Citadel Parents Group

NC Citadel Family Group

Citadel Fayetteville NC Group

South Carolina Citadel Parents

Texas Citadel Parents Group

NYNE PA NJ Citadel Families (NY, New England, PA, NJ)

Florida Citadel Parents Group

Company  Parent Groups (unofficial NOT administered by the CFA)

Alpha Co

Band Co

Bravo Co

Kilo Co

Lima Co (Parents and Cadets)

Other Parent Groups

Citadel Alumni Grad Dad Advice

Citadel Moms

Military Parents of The Citadel (for parents with cadets or graduates in the military)

The Citadel Parents of the Class of 2016

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2017

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2018

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2019

Where we dine when visiting The Citadel

The view from The Wreck.A year or so ago I posted this question on Facebook,”What is your favorite Charleston restaurant.” A wide variety of friends chimed in with their favorites.

Like everything else, if you ask 5 different people this question you will get 5 different answers.  To get the conversation started here I’ll list some of our favorite places to visit when we are in town.

Marina Variety Store Restaurant This restaurant is near the campus, right on Lockwood Blvd. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They have a terrific menu, and is right on the river at the Charleston Marina. Great food at a good price and it is a casual restaurant. We eat here for Sunday brunch before driving home. The Entrance to The Marina Variety Store where you can eat and do your laundry at the same time.

The Wreck Right on the river off of Shem creek. Extremely casual, with paper table clothes and plastic utensils. The food is off the boat fresh. Check their operating hours and get there right when they open.

Virginia’s On King – Not far from Marion Square, Very good Southern cooking.

Jestine”s Kitchen – a traditional spot for tourists to visit. The food is good, but expect a wait.

Charleston Crab House on James Island – Great location with none of the parking hassles of downtown Charleston. The food is consistently good. We went here with 30 people on Ring Weekend.

Vendue Rooftop – a great view, live entertainment.

Tommy Condon’s– A Irish pub with good food and atmosphere.

Sticky Fingers – A great place for barbecue and wings. Several locations.

Melvin’s – Not too far from campus terrific barbecue.

West Ashley Crab Shack – across the river from The Citadel campus. We’ve never had to wait for a table and have enjoyed all the meals we’ve eaten here. A good place to go for seafood without the parking hassle and crowds of in town.

Hominy Grill – An award-winning restaurant. We ate brunch here the Friday of Ring Weekend. The restaurant is close to campus.

Ye Old Fashioned Ice Cream & Sandwich Cafe – We stop at the location just over the bridge from The Citadel once each visit. The ice cream is great, but the sandwiches and salads are too.

Poe’s Tavern On Sullivan’s Island. A great pub with terrific burgers and sandwiches.

My friends favorites:

SNOB (Slightly North of Broad)

82 Queen


Poogan’s Porch

For a good listing of Charleston area restaurants visit the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau “Where to Dine” web site. A number of websites give reviews on area restaurant’s. Fodor’s is just one I check.

Please leave your tips in the comment section of this entry.

Finding a place to stay in Charleston

My son’s knob year I looked at to find an affordable hotel in the Charleston area for Matriculation Day and Parents Weekend. I had never been to Charleston and didn’t know the area. We were budget conscious, but at the same time we didn’t want to stay in a bad area of town. The first few visits we stayed at properties that were a little higher in price, but were also well-known chains.

The Cadre of Bravo Company lead push ups during the promotions ceremony Parents Weekend, 2009.

After talking with other parents on our visits I picked up a few tips. If I had this information earlier we could have saved a good bit of money.   Learning this one tip took me from the decent AAA discounts to the DEEP discounts I enjoyed for the final 3 years.

Sunset over the Ashley River as seen from the Best Western Downtown Charleston balcony.

So here is The Tip: when making hotel reservations, call the hotel directly and ask if they offer a special rate for Citadel families. The following hotels are all near campus and may offer discounted rates for Citadel families, but they fill up quickly and you need to call them directly and ask if they have rooms available at the discounted rate for Citadel families. Charleston Marriott, Best Western Charleston Downtown, Courtyard Charleston MarriottSpringHill Suites Charleston, LaQuinta Inn & Suites Charleston Riverview, Comfort Inn

A very industrious hotel general manager found our Facebook group for Georgia Parents several years ago and offered us a special rate at the Hawthorn Suites, a great property about 7 miles from campus that offers a 2 room suite with kitchen facilities, an indoor pool, and a full breakfast in the lobby each morning. They still offer discounts to all Citadel families if you call the hotel directly in advance and rooms are available.

Every hotel I’ve stayed in: the Embassy Suites in North Charleston, Best Western Charleston Downtown, SpringHill Suites Charleston, LaQuinta Inn & Suites Charleston Riverview, and the Courtyard Charleston Marriott, and the Hampton Inn & Suites Charleston/West Ashley,  have laundry facilities for your cadet to use while off campus visiting with you. Be sure to have plenty of quarters and your own detergent.

Charleston is known for its wonderful restaurants, historic inns and beautiful luxury hotels. For an overview of all that Charleston has to offer, you can visit the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CACVB) website.  The CACVB website is also a great place to visit if you are looking for help in booking function space for a graduation party, Ring Weekend celebration or other big event.

Recognition Day, April 2008. Embassy Suites-Historic Charleston in the background.

A few families with RV’s have found camp grounds in the area they like to frequent. A number of families like to rent homes or condos by the beach when they visit. is a good place to start to find a rental property.

If you have tips, or a favorite hotel or rental company you like to through, please leave a note in the comments section of this entry.

(unless of course you want to keep your special place a secret)

The Citadel: Preparing for Knob Year, Class of 2016

A member of the Class of 2015 reports on Matriculation Day 2011.

It’s hard to believe it is time for the next class of cadets to prepare for their Matriculation Day. Last year at this time I began to post advice for the Class of 2015. The nice thing about a military school is the same routines are in place each year with minor changes.  The advice in the post The Citadel: Unofficial Tips for Families of Knobs is still valid. A Letter to the Class of 2015 contains words of wisdom for incoming cadets of any future class and their parents too. Be sure to read these two entries and the links in them for information on reporting. Also review each link on the Citadel Parent Info page on this blog.

Visit the Matriculation Headquarters page. The required items to bring can be found in the Success Packet listed under Important Documents and Links.

To make it easier to find helpful information for new cadets and their parents I updated my blog with a Citadel Parents Info section.  The information listed is a result of 4 years of volunteering with the Georgia Citadel Parents Group and The Citadel Family Association. I’ve updated the information and added links as I learned new information or when the schools main website updates their information.

With the help of my husband, photographer, Stanley Leary, I put together a slide show of Matriculation Day photos. The key for parents to remember about The Citadel is it is a leadership school. That means your high school graduate is treated as the adult they are. You raised them and now they must learn to handle their own affairs.  Before Matriculation Day it is fine to help them get ready for school by making sure they have the necessary items, but they must take the responsibility for getting ready physically and mentally for the challenge ahead.  That includes being able to meet the minimum physical training requirements prior to Matriculation Day. Military scholarship ROTC cadets should meet the highest requirements. The ROTC pages for each branch of the service will give you more details on the specifics of their training.  The staff and websites for The Citadel Army ROTC , Navy ROTC, and Air Force ROTC are very helpful if you have questions as your student prepares to report.

Citadel Family Association, “Blue Shirt” volunteers wait with parents of the Class of 2015.

The top advice after physical training is to break in the black leather Oxford shoes. The incoming cadet should wear them each day for a few months prior to reporting.

To get a head start on learning the various aspects of being a knob the new cadet recruit should review The Guidon. Parents should read through it to become familiar with the terms used on the campus as well as the various traditions. The Guidon is published each year. The 2011-2012 edition is available in pdf format on the schools web site. Once additional tip for new families, when you have a questions about the school, most of the questions can be answered by reading the web site.

Tips on what to purchase can be found in the Getting Ready for Matriculation Day advice section of this blog.  The school updates the Success packet each spring. Make sure you read the Success Packet thoroughly as it includes action items for your cadet and for you as well as the list of what your cadet Must Bring. The Matriculation Day Headquarters link is usually posted to the main page and also to the Admissions office page in the main website. The Citadel Family Association posts a Nice to Have List on their website. While most items on the list are a good idea to pack, be sure to ask your cadet what they want from the list. Remember you can help them get ready, but once they report you need to defer to your cadet. Each company and each battalion have their own traditions. Your cadet will learn what these traditions entail.

You can resource with other parents, but remember each cadet has their own experience.

Facebook groups for parents are listed by Battalion and by Company on the Helpful Web links page. Just remember the other parents are happy to help, but it is best to ask an individual about specific questions regarding your cadet rather than posting it to an open forum.  You can find parent volunteers by region of the country on the Area Rep section of The Citadel Family Association website.

Your cadet will find out his/her company on Matriculation Day when you arrive on campus. Once you know the company and battalion you can always contact the parent volunteer listed in the Co. Rep section of the website.

As I mentioned earlier whenever possible encourage your cadet to work out their own problems using the cadet chain of command. They can always seek the help of the Ombudsperson on campus who is a confidential resource for cadets, faculty, staff, and parents too.

The Bravo Company cadre lead the new knobs of the Class of 2015 to lunch on Matriculation Day 2011. (Note the crew length socks)

More Tips for The Citadel Class of 2016

Previous posts from Off the Base

As a little background, I thought it might be helpful to post links to the entries I’ve written for Off the Base, a blog by Bobbie O’Brien of WUSF.  Most of my entries for Off the Base have to do with being the mom of a cadet at The Citadel.  Future entries on this blog will be on a variety of topics.

The Making of a Military Mom

Mom Readies for Son’s Military College

The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents

How The Citadel “Ya-Yas” Came to Be

Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel

The Citadel Trained Me as Well as My Son

The Citadel: BVA’s and  Summerall Guards

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Care Packages for Cadets: The Citadel Heroes Project

The Citadel Bond Renews Parents’ Long Time Friendships

The Citadel: Unofficial Tips for Families of Incoming Knobs

The Citadel: Saying Good-Bye, But Always Connected

A Sister, a Mom, A Family Prepares for Military Life

Dorie, Nelson and Leslie. Ring Ceremony 2010

Survival Skills to Succeed as a Citadel Mom

A New Blue Star Mom Shows Supports for Fallen Soldier

Celebration, Tradition, Ritual: The Long Gray Li

Citadel Parent Crafts Her Own Graduation Ritual

Graduation Day: No Longer the Mother of a Cadet

A Letter to The Citadel Class of 2015

Citadel Mom Cycle Completed – A Blue Star Mom Emerges

A Military Mom Meets Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, IV

An Army Mom Transitions from The Citadel to Ft. Benning

A Seminary Student, Now an Army Mom Reflects on 9/11