By Martin Suydam ’65
During the 1961-62 school year a contest was announced to replace the Norwich University Corps of Cadets shoulder patch. The prize was $50. At that time $50 was a respectable prize award. Entries were to be submitted to the Office of the Commandant in color and full-size. The competition was open to all members of the Corps. I had designed many patches in Boy Scouts and had created many “works of graphic art” while in high school, so I felt I had a shot at winning. However, as a Rook (Norwich recruit), dominated by everyone senior in rank, I was sure I would have no chance. But, I had a passion for creating icons, before iconography became a science—and a patch is an icon.
To my amazement, I won.
The announcement and prize award were made at an evening formation in the spring of 1962 in front of the assembled cadet corps. With no advance warning, I remember hearing my name over the loud speaker and had to march up to receive the award with my heart pounding—I was a Rook after all and that kind of celebrity was something I never expected—nor wanted.
The design started as an exercise in “doodling” while in English class to keep awake. The professor was one who could drone on about some subject, often even putting himself to sleep during lectures I don’t remember today, and never remembered then.
The pencil sketches started with the shape of a more distinctive shield with colors of maroon and yellow to give it distinctive visibility replacing the existing drab, circular patch with overlapped NU letters, dark gold on maroon.
The centerpiece of the design was an eagle and I wanted to pack as much Norwich heritage symbology as possible into that iconic image. The model for the eagle design was a brass bookend on my cadet desk given to me by grandmother when I went to college.
The palm leaf in the right talon was to represent peace and the 5 arrows in the left talon representing wars (Mexican War, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, and Korea) fought by Norwich cadets and graduates to that time. I remember trying to come up with some connection to the twelve leaves on the palm, and believe it represented the significant and heroic accomplishments in peace by Norwich men. These contributions were memorialized in paintings that were on the Dining Hall walls at that time and recognized such accomplishments as General Dodge’s involvement in creating the Transcontinental Railroad.
The original design of the shield on the breast of the eagle had 21 alternating red and white vertical stripes to represent the number of states in the Union at the time Norwich was established. That design was later simplified to be just a shield with the founding date of 1819. The final submission was sketched on cardboard and colored using model airplane enamel paints.
Later I was asked to make a large painting of the patch on a 3’ x 4’ panel—all this was a lot of work for $50. The facts that the design has persisted for over half a century, has been worn by thousands of cadets over the years, and continues to be a recognized symbol for the college is worth more than any monetary reward.
During my junior year, as a member of Mountain & Cold Weather (M&CW) Company, I suggested to Sergeant Don Jennings a new patch should replace the existing and “boring” stitched-felt patch. I “painted” it using successive acetate overlays, so that various combinations of designs could be tested. I never heard back from anyone, but later discovered, as I was developing a similar program at Colorado School of Mines in 1970, that the patch had been created and is still worn today—guess I missed a second $50 award.
By Martin Suydam, NU Class of 1965