On January 7, 1972, the agreement was signed to merge Norwich University with Vermont College, then a two-year women’s college located in Montpelier. The result was Norwich’s dramatic transformation into a co-educational institution, with civilian students learning alongside the traditional Corps of Cadets.
As they entered the 1970s, Norwich University and Vermont College both faced declining student populations. Vermont College was being undercut by the emergence of community colleges, and Norwich was facing anti-military sentiment from the Vietnam era and a national trend toward coeducation. The merger was first proposed as a way to create efficiency, improve academic programs, and extend the existing cooperation between the schools.
Feelings on campus about the merger were mixed, to say the least. Guidon editorials and letters to the editor indicate that some of the concerns included the disruption of the military atmosphere on campus, Norwich taking on Vermont College’s financial debts, and the fact that students and alumni did not feel that they were consulted in the decision process.
Nonetheless, in October 1971, the Norwich board of trustees passed a merger resolution. Vermont College was to retain its name and operate as a civilian division of Norwich. The agreement was signed just after the first of the year in 1972, and plans began working immediately so that the merger could take effect on June 30th of that year.
The original plan to keep male cadets and female civilians living on separate campuses quickly evolved. Since Vermont College women were eligible to enroll in Norwich’s four-year degree programs, they began commuting between the campuses, and by the fall of 1973, they had successfully petitioned President Hart to allow them to reside in Gerard Hall. The following year, women seeking the same opportunities as their NU classmates were admitted to the Corps of Cadets.
Many resources are available in the Norwich University Archives if you are interested in learning more about the merger, including Board of Trustees records, Vermont College records, and the papers of Presidents Hamlett and Hart.