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#91 Colby Military Writers Symposium

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, Norwich Firsts

The William E. Colby Military Writers’ Symposium was created as an opportunity to expose students, faculty, alumni, and the public to the works and views of nationally-known authors, historians, and journalists. It aspires to educate, enlighten, and inspire.

In 1996, President Emeritus Russell Todd ’50, then-staff member Ed Tracy, and alumnus and author Carlo D’Este ’59 conceived of an event that would bring influential writers to the campus of Norwich University. This vision resulted in a small but prestigious group of writers gathering on campus for a two-day series of lectures and panel discussions. Among them were former C.I.A. director and author William E. Colby, New York Times bestselling author W.E.B. Griffin, and D’Este, a military historian and biographer. Also in attendance was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Philip Caputo, who spoke glowingly about his Basic School classmate Walter N. Levy ’63; Caputo’s memoir, A Rumor of War, is co-dedicated to Levy, the first alumnus of Norwich University to be killed in action in Vietnam. The event was initially known as the Norwich University Military Writers’ Symposium.

William Colby died unexpectedly shortly after that first event, prompting the university to rename the experimental program the William E. Colby Military Writers’ Symposium in April 1997 in honor of the Norwich honorary degree recipient.

Since then the symposium, now known as “The Colby,” has grown to national prominence, and takes on hard issues central to the public’s understanding of the military and its role in American society.

The Colby is the only program of its kind at an American university. Through the event, Norwich University has hosted some of the most prominent military, intelligence and international affairs figures of our time. Colby Award winners and symposium participants have included H.R. McMaster, Tom Clancy, Winston Groom, Fred Chiaventone, Steven Coonts, Douglas MacGregor, W.E.B. Griffin, and Marcus Luttrel, to name just a few.

Now a signature event of the Norwich University Peace and War Center, the 2017 Colby Symposium will take place April 12-13.  Author David J. Barron will be presented with the Colby Award for his book Waging War: The Clash Between Presidents and Congress, 1776 to ISIS. The symposium will also feature events commemorating the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I, including a live-streamed panel discussion on the topic “Won the War, Lost the Peace: The Centennial Legacy of WWI.” More information, including live stream link and full symposium schedule and registration information, is available at

Adapted from introductory remarks by Carlo D’Este ’58 in the 2016 Colby Symposium program.