Citadel sisters: a first times two – African American women students at The Citadel military college in Charleston, SC

CHARLESTON, S.C.

Unlike the late Charles D. Foster, who thirty-one
years ago bore the burden of integrating The Citadel military college
alone, the first two African American females to attend the school will
have something he didn’t have – each other.

Genieve M. Hardney of Staten Island, N.Y., and Libbie Henry of
Yemassee, S.C., are part of the Citadel’s second coeducational class –
the Class of 2001, which contains twenty women. Last year, only two of
the four female cadets who began the program, Nancy Mace and Petra
Lovetinska, completed their freshman – or “knob” – year.

The two African American women are in separate companies – Hardney
was assigned to Charlie Company and Henry, a late arrival, was assigned
to Romeo Company. Only the weeks and months ahead will determine
whether or not they have the stability and motivation to endure the
vigorous schedule of the Citadel’s fourth-class system. Both survived
the first day of hell week, unlike four other cadets who made early
exits.

“I hesitated after hearing about the hazing [incidents of last
year], but I realized at the same time that no matter where I go there
would be trouble,” Hardney said in her West Indian accent as she walked
around the campus with her parents on check-in day. “Hopefully, I can
handle myself, especially coming from New York.”

Last year’s, former cadets Kim Messer and Jeanie Mentalvos left the
military college at the end of the fall semester amid allegations of
hazing and questions about The Citadel’s sincerity about integrating
women into the corps.

Although Hardney, who celebrated her eighteenth birthday on August
27, said she is prepared to work hard, she added, “I’m excited, but
also scared.”

June Attlas, Hardney’s mother, helped her daughter pick The Citadel,
but admits she is concerned about the institution’s history – and the
attitude of the other cadets and the staff.

“I know she is going to study, she’s an honor student. She plays the
piano [and] she jogs a lot, so she should be in good physical shape.”
Attlas Said. “The only thing I’m really worried about is the attitudes.
My daughter is the type of person that if she has to do something,
she’ll work hard to get it done.”

“I told her a lot of things, but the main thing is to stay focused,”
said Harry Attlas, Hardney’s stepfather and a Vietnam War veteran. “I
hope she can make it through because she’ll set the example.”

Henry was not available for comments.

This year, 559 freshman cadets arrived for orientation. By press
time, that number had dropped to 528. Of the thirty-one to drop out,
two were females.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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