Fiat Duty, Honor, Service!

Each year on this day, we pay tribute to those who served, during war and in times of peace, as members of the United States Armed Services.

Alfred University has a long and storied connection to the U.S. military. Every male member of our student body went off to fight for the Union during the Civil War. During the last century, the University hosted an Army Specialized Training Program unit on campus, housed in the Brick residence hall. Students and local residents trained in preparation for combat, and many were called to serve during the two World Wars. Our University has had a Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC) program since 1952.

Throughout the years, countless members of the Alfred University community have answered the call to serve their country. Alumni J. Robert “Bob” Lunney ’50 and Robert L. “Steve” Stephens ’71 MS Ed are but two examples who through their service brought distinction and honor to our University.

Service in two wars bookended Bob Lunney’s time at Alfred. The son of a U.S. Navy veteran, Bob was 17 when he joined the Navy and served in the Pacific aboard a landing craft during World War II. After the war, Bob enrolled at Alfred University and in 1950 received a bachelor’s degree in history and political science.

That December, during the early stages of the Korean War, Bob was a naval reserve officer serving aboard the SS Meredith Victory, a Merchant Marine ship that was deployed by the Navy to help evacuate more than 100,000 United Nations Command troops from the North Korean port city of Hungnam. As news of the evacuation spread, nearly an equal number of civilians gathered in hopes of boarding one of the rescue ships. On December 23, a week after Bob’s 23rd birthday, more than 14,000 Korean civilians crammed onto the Meredith Victory, a vessel built to accommodate just 60 (including officers and crew). The ship, with no escort or means of self-defense, set sail and arrived in Geoje Island, South Korea, on December 26. Bob is the only surviving crew member or officer from what is still the largest rescue operation by a single ship in history.

Bob Lunney’s 2017 interview on Korea’s Arirang News

Bob earned a law degree from Cornell University and after five years as an assistant U.S. Attorney, worked in private practice. He was a partner in the firm of Lunney & Murtaugh from 1968 until his retirement in 2003. Throughout much of his professional career, Bob remained an active reservist in the Navy, retiring as a Rear Admiral. Now 92 years old, he lives in Bronxville, New York, with his wife, Joan.

Steve Stephens’ military career is equally noteworthy. While attending West Virginia State College (now West Virginia State University), where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1962, Steve became active in the Reserve Officers Training Corps, leading the largest group of ROTC cadets in the college’s history. His service continued at Alfred University, where he earned his master’s degree while serving as an ROTC instructor.

Steve’s ROTC service led to a decorated career of more than 30 years in the U.S. Army. He served in Vietnam, the Panama Canal Zone, Thailand, Bolivia, and in the Pentagon. Among his many awards were the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Army Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with “V” device and two oak leaf clusters, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Special Forces Tab, and the Master Parachutist Badge. When he retired as a Brigadier General in 1993, his last assignment in the Army was directing the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

Steve enjoyed a 10-year career at Clayton State University in Georgia, where he held positions of director of Academic Advisement for the Clayton State School of Business, visiting assistant professor, executive assistant to the president, and vice president of External Affairs before retiring in 2012. That same year, he received an honorary doctorate from Bluefield State University in his native West Virginia. He joined the Alfred University Board of Trustees in 2007 and was elected a Life Trustee in 2017. Steve, now 80 years old, lives in Jonesboro, Georgia, with his wife, Olivia.

On this Veterans Day, and every day, let us pause to reflect and offer our appreciation to those countless service men and women who, like Bob and Steve, gave so much of themselves to protect and defend the freedoms we enjoy.  

Fiat duty, honor, service!