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HIST 3770, Spring 2016: Nuclear West: History of the R.O.T.C. Sponsor Corps

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The R.O.T.C. Sponsors were the female counterparts for the officers in the military training school at Utah State University.

This exhibit will chronologically follow the rise and fall of the R.O.T.C. Sponsor Corps and examine some of the issues behind their formation, involvement, and decline. The exhibit will first show that the foundation for the R.O.T.C. sponsors can be traced back to the foundation of the college. Then, the exhibit will showcase their local, state, and national involvement which will show that for over two decades the R.O.T.C. Sponsor Corps experienced a growth that was linear with the R.O.T.C. military program. Finally, the corresponding text and documents will then examine the corps decline, and possible reasons behind the lack of available documents.

Colonel Timberlake Interview
Colonel Timberlake actively participating in the selection of members


Under the support and encouragement of Colonel Timberlake, their numbers reached up to seventy strong throughout the 1950s.  They had a positive influence in campus life, as well as the community.  This led to their local program being mobilized into a nation endeavor across college campuses. 

This did not mean however, that just anyone could join the cause. Membership in the Sponsor Corps was fairly exclusive, positions being reserved for the brightest and most outstanding young women. Only notable women in attendance at the college were admitted, and many of its members went on to become prominent graduates of the university. To highlight how exclusive the membership was, only 25 of 144 applicants were admitted to the group in 1949.  These members were also required to take on the cost of their own uniforms.[1]

[1] Shawn Harries, West Point of the West: A History of the R.O.T.C. Department, (Utah State University Department of Military Science: 2003) Utah State Special Collections and Archives, 14.2/7:63, no. 3, pg 53-55.

Sponsor Corps Practicing Precision Drills
In this 1951 Buzzer yearbook page, the Sponsor Corps practices its precision drills.

  Campus Involvement: USAC 



Colonel Timberlake was one of the main supporters of the sponsor corps, especially when in came to campus involvement. He arranged for them to be flown or bussed to the away games in order to provide support for the football team. The Sponsor Corps were an exciting and integral part of the "Brigade of Cadets" at Utah State Agricultural College which was "recognized as one of the top college military organizations in the country."  


The Sponsor Corps complemented the many of the social and military activities that took place within campus life.  They often performed their precision drills during campus sporting events, in Logan parades, and at military balls. [1] 

1] Shawn Harries, West Point of the West: A History of the R.O.T.C. Department, (Utah State University Department of Military Science: 2003) Utah State Special Collections and Archives, 14.2/7:63, no. 3, pg 60-61.

 Sponsors took it upon themselves to deliver the important invitations to officials who would be attending the military balls 

Campus Involvement: USAC (cont.)

The Sponsor Corps were closely connected with the Pershing Rifle fraternity that held its national headquarters at USAC.  Each year the fraternity would elect one of the sponsors as the Pershing Rifle Princess.  The Pershing Rifles put on a ball to celebrate their society as well as to announce and honor the PR Princess.


The Sponsor Corps played important roles in the planning and implementation of the popular military balls that held state-wide renown at USAC.  These events were often attended by state governors, other high ranking military officials, and USAC staff. Funds raised through the military balls went to supplement the funding the men's R.O.T.C. program.


The Corps gave substantial assistance in decorating the halls where these events took place.  At the balls, they displayed their own impressive drill and ceremony skills along with the other cadets in the R.O.T.C. program.[1]

[1] Shawn Harries, West Point of the West: A History of the R.O.T.C. Department, (Utah State University Department of Military Science: 2003) Utah State Special Collections and Archives, 14.2/7:63, no. 3, pg 61-62.

Article outlining the highly anticipated Miss Air Power program


State Involvement: Miss Utah Air Power


“Miss Air Power” was an event during a symposium of the Utah Wing of the Air Force Association. The purpose of the symposium was to bring about more awareness to air power. They hoped to bring to the public’s attention the need for more air-age education in schools and industry.[1]


Women from the Utah State College Sponsor Corps were consistently chosen to be “Miss Utah Air Power.”  There was a ball held at the end of the symposium where Miss Air Power was crowned. The judges looked at the girls’ accomplishments in college, high school, and on their physical appearance as well. Newspapers would give the girls height, weight, hair color, eyes, and her accomplishments throughout college. The winner would be spotlighted at the ball and in the local newspapers.

[1] USU Sponsor Corp Scrapbook, nd, “Utahns Await Air Power Observance This Weekend,” USU Special Collections and Archives, USU_P0350.


A Silent Majority


In the R.O.T.C. manuscript collection at USU, there is much more documentation available for the men of the R.O.T.C., but not for the Sponsors Corps. However, there are hundreds of pictures of the sponsor corps, which perhaps reflects the sexist mindset of the mid 1900s, that a woman’s worth lies mainly in her visual appeal. It is possible that this missing piece of the puzzle could be filled in through oral histories, but there is no denying that the lack of documentation of the R.O.T.C. Sponsor Corps mirrors the broader struggle of women to find their place in history.

A quote from Judith Zinsser, from her resaech about women during WWII, illustrates that struggle:

Simply, women were not viewed as an integral part of the historical record. The vast majority remained silent and invisible, their history subsumed under general descriptions of men’s lives. . . . Extraordinary figures like the queens of sixteenth-century Europe or the nineteenth-century reformers in the United States, active agents in their own right, fared no better. Though sometimes praised for having successfully assumed male roles, traditional, patronizing phrases and denigrating stereotypes abstracted and diminished even their exceptional personalities and experiences. [1]

This exhibit is a documentation of the USAC women's response to the life-changing events of war escalation, new air power, and a constant struggle to retain their place in histroy. 

[1] Judith, Zinsser, History and Feminism: A Glass Half Full, (New York: Twayne, 1993), pg 3.