Crow’s Nest Article - Summer 2017

The Naval R.O.T.C. Scholarship Fund, Inc.

By Chris Lilich, NU Class of 1992 



    It has been a very busy and productive spring for the Naval R.O.T.C Scholarship Fund board! In March the board approved $60,000 in scholarship grants to 10 very deserving Northwestern and Loyola Midshipmen. Their stories continue to inspire. Each of this year’s recipients are balancing rigorous coursework, extra-curricular activities, and family responsibilities, while preparing themselves to lead Sailors and Marines on active duty. Your generous donations are critical; they help ensure our Midshipmen can balance these needs without taking on significant student debt.

    In April, John Ferrara (NU, ‘00 and our board Vice President) was on hand for Spring Review in Evanston to present grants to these Midshipmen. In June, the board came together on Northwestern’s campus for our annual meeting. A highlight of the board meeting was meeting with the CDR Eric Vosler (Unit Executive Officer) and the Northwestern Unit’s new Commanding Officer, CAPT (Select) Chris Adams. CAPT (Select) Adams shared a comprehensive update of Unit activity, and noted the Unit continues to attract highly qualified students to the program. Personally, I’m not sure I would make the cut if I had to meet today’s admission standards! The Unit also continues to enjoy strong support from the NU administration, with Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro attending the Commissioning ceremony in June.

    While the primary mission of the Scholarship Fund is to solicit donations and award grants to our Midshipmen, we also work hard to stay connected to our unit alumni. We recently had the pleasure of catching up with Dr. Shannon Kraft, a 1997 graduate of NU who served as an active duty Marine Officer for six years. Shannon also has the distinction of being a past recipient of a Scholarship Fund grant, and credits this grant for allowing her to continue studying at Northwestern. Here are excerpts from Shannon’s update:

Where do you current reside and what is your occupation?

    I am currently an Assistant Professor and staff Otolaryngologist with the University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, Kansas.  My practice focuses on disorders of voice, airway and swallow.  I am also the Residency Program Director, and am responsible for the surgical training of our resident Otolaryngologists.

What role did the scholarship fund play in helping you receive your commission from NU?

    The scholarship was instrumental in my decision to stay at Northwestern.  I was a walk-on College Programmer.  As much as I was enjoying my education at NU, the financial burden was not insignificant.  I was considering transferring to a school in my home state.  The scholarship helped to defray some of the costs, which made staying at NU an option for me.  The impact, however, was more than financial.  It was a validation that my contribution to the Unit was valued.  I was motivated to continue at NU.  I ultimately picked-up a scholarship my second year.

 What was your fondest memory of your time in Northwestern's NROTC unit?

    Wow.  It is hard to pin down a single, favorite memory.  I was briefly famous after the Tulane Drill Meet, because I somehow managed to get a rifle stuck in my French braid.  There I was on the parade deck, M1 dangling from my head, two DIs surrounding me trying to figure out how in the world to remove my rifle from my do.  Kept my bearing though.  This, of course, was relived at Mess Night, when I was fined and required to wear a football helmet the rest of the night.  There was the time Al Licup, Adam Taranto and I conducted an “amphibious assault” on the beach near the old observatory as a part of the Semper Fi initiation.  Lake Michigan never really warms up, does it?  When the first big snow of the year would come, the MOs (John James, Pete Pace, Eamon McCleery, Mike Kill, Matt Zeman, Mark Nicholson, et al) would meet on the PT field for Struggle Ball, which was basically Rugby with fewer rules.  Every year, we would paint the rock red and gold in honor of the Marine Corps Birthday.  On duty nights, Katie (Schwarze) Licup, Abby Hutchins, Mark Robinson and I would go in on an order of Danz Cookies and ice cream.  Miss those cookies!  Ultimately, no matter the situation or circumstance, what I remember most fondly is the people who were there with me.

How did your time at NROTC Northwestern prepare you for active duty?

    The Unit leadership did an outstanding job preparing me for the transition to life as a Marine Officer.  I showed up to Quantico confident that I was physically fit and mentally sharp.  I suspect most NROTC graduates would say the same about their unit.  What made training at the Northwestern NROTC a singular experience was the environment.  The academic rigor of a Northwestern education prepared me to think critically and tackle complex problems.  The superior training of the Northwestern NROTC gave me the skills to stand before a platoon of men and women from all walks of life, motivate them to a common purpose and accomplish the mission at hand.

How did your time at NROTC Northwestern prepare you for life after the Navy?

    The same skills and experiences that prepared me for life as a Marine Officer have proven invaluable in my life as a surgeon.  The ability to maintain composure and think critically under pressure.  Leading a team in the operating suite.  Assuming responsibility for the welfare of my patients.  It all goes back to those fundamentals of leadership I first learned while at Northwestern.

    I hope you enjoyed Shannon’s story as much as I did, and a special thanks to her for sharing it.  It’s a great reminder of how special the NROTC program at Northwestern is, and how it helped prepare all of us for success in service and beyond. It’s also a reminder of the importance of your contributions to the Scholarship Fund, 100% of which go towards grants for our Midshipmen. Over the years the fund has awarded grants totaling $585,000 to 79 Midshipmen because of your generous donations. Our goal is simple – to provide financial assistance for deserving midshipmen to help them go into service debt free. Your ongoing support is appreciated and needed.

    While we don’t use these updates to solicit donations, be on the lookout for our semi-annual solicitation letter later this Fall. We also accept tax-deductible donations anytime sent to the Scholarship Fund at 14197 Classique Way, San Diego, CA 92129.

    As always, we continue to be thankful for all of you – for your past support and future consideration.

Navy Jack