ROTC cadet wins leadership medal

Courtesy of Duquesne University | Louisa Morris received a medal awarded by National Society United States Daughters of 1812 from retired ROTC instructor Chuka Ufomadu last week.

Hannah Peters | Staff Writer

Leader is not typically a word reserved for freshmen– but for Louisa Morris it is. Both a nursing student and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadet, Morris was recognized for exceptional leadership last week with a medal that is the first to take up space on her uniform.

Awarded by the National Society United States Daughters of 1812, this historic organization awards medals to female cadets who excel within ROTC. The winner is someone “who has demonstrated qualities of academic excellence, leadership, military discipline, dependability, patriotism and upright character in speech and habits, which exemplify the ideals upon which our nation was founded,” according to their website.

Broken down by region, three total medals are distributed in Pennsylvania. Within Duquesne’s region, 47 universities are considered and each school nominates one cadet.

Retired ROTC instructor and associate professor of military science at Duquesne, Chuka Ufomadu, recognized these traits within Morris and recommended her for the medal despite only knowing her for a short period of time.

“Morris is one of our most outstanding freshmen,” said Ufomado. “She’s constantly volunteering for the program, always ready to jump right in and help other cadets. She has always been present whenever we needed help despite having such a rigorous schedule.”

Apart from ROTC, Morris is also a nursing student. Despite a busy schedule, she has gone above and beyond. She landed a position as squad leader – a role not typically granted to freshmen.

She attributes much of her newfound success within ROTC to her dedicated efforts in high school when she held roles as president of the National Honor Society and captain of her varsity swim team.

“Being in leadership roles throughout high school really pushed me to want to continue being a leader throughout college. It just kind of came naturally to me,” said Morris.

These attributes were clearly apparent to the ROTC instructors, who unbeknownst to the cadets, began screening for potential nominees for the award just two weeks after classes began in the fall.

During this process, instructors recommend cadets to Christopher Boissonnault, director of the University’s Office for Military and Veteran Students, who helps craft a name to be submitted in December.

“We did this without them knowing because we didn’t want them to know that they were being awarded,” Boissonnault said. “She didn’t find out until like a week before because we had to to make sure she was going to be at the pizza party.”

Once a year the campus police will host a pizza party for the Duquesne Army ROTC as a way to facilitate community outreach. When it was revealed Morris would be receiving the award, the two events were combined.

At the event on Feb. 8, Morris was awarded the medal by Professor of Military Science, Lt. Col. Stephen Lucas who oversees 18 universities in the surrounding area.

“He’s the big dog. It’s very rare for someone of his rank to show up on a college campus,” Boissonnault said.

This is not the first time Duquesne has boasted an award winning student, as senior Abby Aiello received the same medal two years ago.

“I was excited and shocked. I definitely didn’t see it coming,” Morris said. “But I’m very grateful for it and I’m glad that there were people that were able to see that I deserved the award.”

Deserving this award is no small feat. To qualify, not only must cadets pass baseline measures for GPA and physical fitness tests, but exceed in these areas along with overall leadership.

“It’s not like they just say let’s just grab this name and you give it to them,” Boissonnault said. “It just screamed that she was the most qualified. She’s definitely very, very motivated. She’s a self-starter. She’s one of those people that’s just very good at what she does. She goes above and beyond. She really does.”

Morris said that an important part of her motivation within ROTC is the people that surround her, specifically her family.

“They have always supported me. Them having my back and being proud of me has always kept me motivated. That and also just my friends around me, they kind of know what goes into this, and even they can recognize the effort that I put into ROTC.”

With family living nearby, Morris credits their proximity as a main reason for her decision to attend Duquesne. Particularly special to Morris though, is her grandmother.

“Someone specifically that I like to make proud is my grandma,” Morris said. “I spend a lot of time with her.”

With family clearly having a significant impact on Morris and her life, there’s no doubt as to why Ufomadu praised her ability to be a part of a team.

“She’s been our go-to cadet,” said Ufomadu. “She really looks like the future of the program.”