The Girard College Battalion was officially organized on August 31, 1870 and was disbanded on November 21, 1969 by then acting president - Dr. Gayle Lawrence! Dr. Lawrence believed that a military presence in Girard College was a negative one for the overall image and perception of the school's purpose! Under his rule all Girard College Battalion Officers and Cadets were officially discharged on November 21, 1969.
The Battalion "Military" training was an important resource for Girard College to instill discipline, leadership, pride and self-confidence into the fabric of its students! Girard College graduates who experienced the Battalion training believed that the Battalion should have never been disbanded because it was a successful and effective part of the overall Girard College educational program!
The Girard College Battalion consisted of four miltary companies - Company A, Company B, Company C, & Company D. - each company containing approximately 125 to 140 Cadets that included the Military Officers, Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants and Flag Carriers. Every Friday afternoon the four companies competed with one one another - perfecting their military skills that included precison marching, rifle training and military discipline! The Companies practiced either in the Armory or the adjoining outdoor athletic field!. The ages of the Cadets ranged from 13 to 18 years of age,
The Girard Battalion was always accompanied by the Girard Drill Band! They appeared together at special events on the campus and wherever they were invited to perform by outside organizations. They paraded for the City of Philadelphia on "Flag Day" every year! The Battalion and Drill Band marched to center city to perform for the assembled spectators and when the parade ended - they had to march back to Girard College to complete the day's events. This was quite a long march as the the total distance traveled was well over four miles! The carrying of rifles and wearing miliatary uniforms tailored from heavy wool fabric taxed the endurance of the Cadets when summer temperatures normally were high!
These two groups appeared at professional baseball games in the famous Connie Mack's Stadium in Philadelphia, Pa. They performed before thousands of baseball fans that filled the stadium - their performance also was televised on Public television = to be seen by thousands of television viewers!
On Founder;s Day prominent high ranking United States Military personnel would visit Girard College to review the Battalion's four military companies who paraded before them on the soccer field behind Founder's Hall!
Most noted of the Military Officers who attended the Founder's Day celebration were: - General Ulysses Grant and General William Sherman - both visited Girard College on December 22, 1879 and both reviewed the Girard Battalion and spoke in the Chapel. - General Ulysses Grant later on became the President of the United States!
In 1927 - Douglas MacArthur - Major Supreme General of World War II visited Girard College! - General MacAthur will always be remembered for his World War II statement - "I SHALL RETURN!" - - soon after the US Army was forced to retreat from the conflict in the Philippines Islands!
In 1948, two days before Founder's Day - Harry S. Truman - President of the United States visited Girard College to mark the 100th Anniversary birthdate of Girard College. President Truman spoke in the Chapel acknowledging the accomplishments of Stephen Girard's Girard College and afterward reviewed the parading of the Girard Battalion behind Founder's Hall. Two days later General Henry H. Arnold visited Girard College on Founder's Day and also reviewed the Girard Battalion.
Below in the photograph section - you can find a complete list of participating United State's Military Officers that attended Founder's Day to review the Girard College Battalion! Exact dates of all guest visitors is unknown, however an "FD" indicates a Founder's Day visit. The list indicates the year date of each Officer's participation! Military Battalion reviews starting in 1879 and ended in 1969 when the Girard College Battalion was disbanded,
The parading Girard College Battalion, the performing Military Drill Band and the Alumni Parade were the highlights of every Founder's Day! It was a "special" day of pride and gratitude to honor the birth of our benefactor - Stephen Girard.
Every year thousands of grateful Alumni members, along with their families, would return to Girard College to honor Stephen Girard by participating in the famous, "traditional" Alumni parade! Returning Alumni members would assemble at the Armory to march up the Main Road as a proud "Class" group! Each class group presenting an entertaining entry into the parade. This festive group would march up the Main Road to the soccer field behind Founder Hall's. The assembled crowd of students, Alumni and family onlookers would observe the gala celebration honoring Stephen Girard.
After the proud Alumni parade was over - the Girard College Battalion and Marching Drill Band would perform in full dress for a Military review by visiting Officers of the United States Armed Forces"and for the thousands of onlookers!
The attending crowd on Founder's Day numbered in the thousands! All of us proudly enjoying the annual activities staged for Founder's Day ! It was always grand celebration - - a true expression of pride, loyalty and gratitude to Stephen Girard for his generosity and for his vision of the successful operations of his "Girard College"!
Girard College succeeded in being an exceptional educating school because Stephen Girard demanded it to be so. He spent a fortune to create the walled in Girard College 43 acre campus with magnificent buildings! Stephen Girard wanted to insure that the campus environment would be a safe one! Its beauty to inspire the students to achieve in their chosen field of education.
Never again will there be such a well planned educational Institution like Stephen Girard's "Girard College"! Stephen Girard's mandates for the operation his "Girard College" was well planned, unique and highly successful in every way! It took years of preparations and planning by Stephen Girard to forge it into the great school that it was to become.
The school's successes of its education programs, academically and vocationally were highly acclaimed throughout the world as the finest of its kind. Girard College's operating structure was used as a blueprint by many of the leading educational institutions around the world. Stephen Girard's Girard College was "one of a kind" and unfortunately - - impossible to be duplicated in today's modern world.
___________________________________________________________ PHOTOGRAPHS: Click on photograph to enlarge!