In a special assembly honoring Veterans Day, Winsor welcomed back a distinguished alumna to share a past, present and future look at women in the military.
Professor Elizabeth Samet '87 has devoted much of her professional life to educating soldiers. On November 8, 2018, in an assembly honoring Veterans Day and those who have served in the United States Armed Forces, she returned to Winsor to share her insights on women in the military throughout history.
For more than two decades, Professor Samet has taught English literature at the United States Military Academy, also known as West Point. A civilian with a B.A. from Harvard and Ph.D. from Yale, she recounts that her path isn't one that she would have imagined in her Winsor student days. As she has said, "the intellectual commitment I had made to the study of literature turned into an emotional commitment to the people I teach."
She is also the author of numerous books, essays, and articles on leadership and the military, including her 2007 book Soldier's Heart, which won a Los Angeles Times' Book Prize and was named one of the "100 Notable Books of the Year" by the New York Times.
Introducing her at assembly, Head of School Sarah Pelmas offered a poignant account of the magnitude of Professor Samet's contributions, both educational and emotional, that extend well beyond the classrooms in which she teaches.
"I heard about Soldier's Heart a few weeks ago from an unlikely source," Ms. Pelmas recounted. "I was standing on a bridge over the Charles River, helping to umpire the Head of the Charles, and the head umpire, who is a West Point graduate, told me that he loved Professor Samet's book. He described it as having done more to educate the world about West Point, the military, and the true nature of a soldier than anything else he knew. It is, indeed, a gorgeous book, impossible to put down, that helps the reader understand the commitment, the camaraderie, the worries, and the regular human emotions of the students who choose to serve their country this way."
Addressing the packed theater, Professor Samet shared her extensive knowledge of the military and the evolution of women's roles and contributions, particularly within the context of the complex social and legal codes. As a woman and an academic working with soldiers every day, she was able to offer a unique perspective on the complexities involved in institutional change, and the pioneers that persist in the face of obstacles.
In a talk accessible to students of all ages, she shared stories from ancient times to today, including the story of Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver who became the first women to earn the distinguished Ranger tab in 2015. Together, her examples highlighted how women continue to demonstrate that honor, courage, and valor are gender neutral.
In addition to Professor Samet's wisdom, the assembly also featured Class VIII student Antonia Januszewicz, who prepared and shared reflections in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the WWI Armistice.