Air Force Veteran Stephen Woodard ’70 Returns to Campus With a New Perspective

Stephen Woodard ’70, who served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force, was a proud Air Force ROTC cadet as a student at Syracuse University from 1966-70. He earned a degree in English literature from the College of Arts and Sciences and met his wife, Carol Woodard ’70, a graduate of the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. It was a time that was the foundation of his personal and professional life.

Air Force veteran Stephen Woodard ’70 returned to campus in August and received his diploma from retired U.S. Army Col. Ron Novack, executive director of the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs. Woodard was unable to attend his graduation in 1970.

It wasn’t until his senior year that something changed; he didn’t feel welcome on campus anymore after he and other cadets returned from a summer ROTC training exercise and were told they could not wear uniforms on campus.

“This was during the Vietnam War, and there were numerous demonstrations on campus against the military,” says Woodard, who was born and raised in Syracuse. “Demonstrators would throw things on the door of the gym, which is where our offices were.”

Back then, it was tradition for ROTC cadets to have graduation and commission in the Archbold Stadium right on campus; however, during Woodard’s senior year, that all changed. The campus climate was tense due to feelings about the Vietnam War and so commissioning was held off campus at nearby Hancock Field.

“What was really sad was not one university official came to our commissioning, and that left a bitter taste in my mouth,” he adds. “Syracuse is my hometown university, and it was just a horrible feeling.”