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Celebration Marks Commitments to University of Oklahoma’s ROTC Programs

Celebration Marks Commitments to University of Oklahoma’s ROTC Programs

October 27, 2021

The University of Oklahoma will celebrate the revitalization of its Reserve Officers’ Training Corps facilities and the impact of significant ROTC scholarships made possible by a $20 million gift in 2018 from Miriam and James Mulva. The ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29, at the historic OU Armory – a century-old structure that was renovated through the gift.

The event will include the unveiling of a plaque honoring the Mulvas, whose foundation provided the transformational gift. Miriam and James Mulva will be in attendance, along with many distinguished OU alumni and current and former ROTC members.

The Mulvas’ gift included $11 million for much-needed updates to the historic OU Armory – which was built in 1919 and serves as home to both OU’s Army ROTC and Naval/Marine ROTC – as well as renovations to the fourth floor of Cate Center 4, the headquarters of OU’s Air Force ROTC. Importantly, it also provided $9 million in scholarship endowments to fund opportunities for generations of OU students in all three ROTC branches.

“For over a century, the young men and women who have served in our university’s ROTC programs have exemplified our life-changing purpose, making a profound difference here at OU and for people and communities across the world,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “The extraordinary generosity of Miriam and Jim Mulva will safeguard the rich tradition of these programs and sustain them for future generations – a monumental tribute to all those in the OU family who have honorably and selflessly served our nation.”

James Mulva attended OU in the mid-1960s and was part of the Naval ROTC program before graduating from the University of Texas. After graduation, Mulva served four years as a U.S. naval officer before pursuing a career in the oil industry, rising to the rank of chief executive officer at Phillips Petroleum Co. when it merged with Conoco in 2002.

“As a family, we believe that it is important to give back to the schools and institutions that have been important to us,” Mulva said at the time of the donation. “We very much like supporting the young men and women who have decided to pursue military service.”

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the OU Armory has served as the space for a drill floor, offices, a classroom and a museum for historical memorabilia collected over decades. Now in its 104th year, much of the Armory remains the same: the exterior is largely unchanged, and the floors are still original. Through the Mulvas’ gift, the Armory is now equipped with central heat and air conditioning in the drill bay; updates to classrooms, cadet lounges, study area, gym and restrooms; new windows; upgraded technology; and other structural enhancements.

The fourth floor of Cate Center 4 became home to the OU Air Force ROTC program after Craddock Hall, a 70-year-old military barracks, was demolished in 2015. Cate Center was built in 1949 and was first occupied as a freshman women’s dormitory.

The endowed scholarships made possible by the Mulva Family Foundation, along with the funding provided by OU Army ROTC Alumni Association and other donors, will ensure that the program will remain strong for generations to come.

Dominic Fanella, Naval ROTC Midshipman 3rd Class and Mulva scholarship recipient, said the Mulva scholarship and the family atmosphere he discovered were influential in his decision to choose OU over competing universities.

“I knew that OU ROTC was one of the finest units in the nation, having one of the highest turnouts of Navy and Marine officers at OCS [officer candidate school],” Fanella said.

Fanella used a Goldilocks analogy to describe how OU’s ROTC program felt: “just right” in terms of size.

“It felt like home as soon as I arrived,” he said. “I was astounded by the caliber of people I was surrounded with at all times.”

Fanella is a sophomore at OU, majoring in Russian with a minor in geology, and hopes to become a Marine intelligence officer before eventually continuing his studies in geology. He will share highlights of his experience in OU ROTC as a speaker at the Armory ceremony.

Fanella said the possibility of receiving the Mulva scholarship motivated him to excel even before choosing OU.

“The Mulva scholarship, being competitive as it is, drove me to be outstanding in school in order to meet the aptitude requirements to qualify,” he said. “When it was awarded, it gave me peace of mind knowing that I’d be able to focus on school. As engaged and interested in the subject matter you may be, the lingering thought of having expenses that you can’t pay can really detract from your experience and performance. The scholarship has been fundamental to my ability to succeed here at OU.

Like the thousands of officer candidates who have participated in the more than 100-year history of ROTC at OU, Fanella said that the OU Armory is a place of deep-seated respect for him and his classmates.

“It is a blessing to be able to have a roof over our head, a place to gather and do our planning with enough space for everything that we need gear-wise and for our formations,” Fanella said. “But just as equally, it is the spiritual home of the NROTC heritage, and I believe that Army ROTC feels the same. Being surrounded by the relics of previous generations of ROTC and those alumni – great figures from our unit and the Navy and Marine Corps at large – having those symbols and icons on the walls makes it uniquely both a place of training and a place of reverence where we can think of ourselves as part of this historic and storied unit. It motivates us to strive to add ourselves to that heritage and prove ourselves worthy.”

Brothers Bob and Bill Ford – both of whom graduated from OU in the 1960s, were active in the Army ROTC program, and would go on to serve in the U.S. Army – echoed Fanella’s sentiments. When recalling his decision to serve his country, like Fanella, Bob Ford said he was repaying a debt to a past generation.

“I always felt like the World War II guys expected it from me, and I knew that if I served, I could look in the mirror the rest of my life and be proud,” he said.

The Ford brothers agree that the leadership training they received in the OU ROTC program was instrumental in their future success both in business and personal relationships.

“It’s not about you,” Bill Ford said. “It’s about how you are going to take care of the people who are your responsibility. In the ROTC, it’s unbelievable the training we received, and it was very, very meaningful. When you look back on how you accepted that and learned to treat people, it all started right there at the OU Army ROTC program.

“Mr. and Mrs. Mulva have stepped up in such a meaningful way to bring that building into the future and fund the scholarship program for the cadets coming in to know how important it is to continue that tradition.”

About the University of Oklahoma

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About the University of Oklahoma Foundation

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