Camaraderie and Community: Veterans Day at Booth

What makes Chicago Booth such a special place to be a veteran?

You might guess it’s our unlimited Yellow Ribbon Scholarships that help veterans finance the transition from military to MBA. Or it could be Eric Gleacher’s 2016 donation of $10 Million earmarked to fund veterans’ scholarships.

These are both notable, but to me what makes Booth truly special is the incredible community and camaraderie found among the 82 veterans currently here, and within the hundreds of veterans in our alumni network. It’s a culture that makes you feel warm and welcomed while ensuring that your dreams receive all the support possible from those in a position to help.

This past weekend, my Veterans Day story started as 30 prospective-MBA veterans (many still on Active Duty) gathered with Booth veterans at Harper Center to ask questions ranging from “Should I stay in the Reserves while in school?” to “What are some tips for managing the military/MBA transition with a spouse and 3 kids?” In true Booth fashion, the top priority of the Armed Forces Group was to pay-it-forward to the next generation.

Afterwards, the entire University of Chicago veteran community came together for the annual Veterans Recognition luncheon. With veterans ranging from undergrads to faculty and staff, we traded stories about how our military experiences helped shape our abilities and ambitions. I talked about how navigating tough logistics missions for the Army inspired me to want to tackle complex operations problems as a consultant, and many of my veteran peers had similar reflections on their service.

Alex Panosian (Booth ’18, US Army) challenges the U Chicago community to achieve even greater integration through veterans programming.

But wait, there’s more! Saturday night, we came together for the annual dining out event, rallying over 150 veterans and guests to the Union League in downtown Chicago. We listened to the inspirational words of Todd Connor, whose story of service in the US Navy and Booth education set him on a course that led him to found and lead Bunker Labs @ 1871, the Chicago incubator that has helped dozens of veteran entrepreneurs start their businesses.

After Todd came the “grog” ceremony. What’s that you say? For the unfamiliar, this is a military tradition where veteran humorously “accuse” each other of embarrassing transgressions, and “guilty” parties drink from a jungle-juice style punch bowl of various alcohols, each with their own special ceremonial meaning (and unique unpleasantness).

Eric Gleacher (Booth ’67, US Marine) and Todd Connor (Booth ’07, US Navy) try to maintain good order and discipline at the annual dining out.

Being a veteran at Booth is to be a part of a community that gives untold amounts of their time to help you achieve your highest ambitions, shortly followed by making you drink from a boot because you posted too many pictures of your cat on Facebook. They will never fail to elevate you higher than you ever imagined, while at the same time keeping you well grounded.

That is the kind of community and camaraderie you’ll find here.

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