Meet Col. Michael Titus, the 55th Commandant of the Corps of Cadets

Col. Michael Titus.

Col. Michael Titus sat back in his chair, still getting used to his new office in Jackman Hall. He checked over his uniform and moved the items on his desk around to get comfortable. He looked out the window, which was partially obscured by the regalia of the United States, Vermont, and Norwich flags.

The Pennsylvania native looked through the notes on his desk as he readied himself. It was a dreary day at Norwich with a couple gray clouds but it was a perfect day for the 55th Commandant of Cadets.

“I grew up in a small town, it really shaped who I am today,” said Titus, a colonel in the Vermont State Militia, and the new Commandant of Cadets. “Not so different from Northfield or any small town in Central Vermont.”

The woods, mountains, and farms shaped the upbringing of Titus and made him the perfect fit for the United States Army.

“I spent almost 22 years on active duty in the Army,” Titus said. “I was commissioned through the early commissioning program at Valley Forge Military College.”

Titus received his associates degree and then finished his bachelor’s degree at a small state school in Pennsylvania called Kutztown University.

“I also served for five years in the National Guard Reserves while I was going through college,” Titus said. “For a total of almost 27 years of service to the military.”

During his time on active duty, Titus served in a variety of theaters and stations. He was stationed in Germany, Hawaii, and deployed to Iraq once and Afghanistan twice.

“My background is logistics, I was commissioned into the logistics corps,” Titus said. “I’ve held every major leadership position in logistics from platoon leader up to battalion commander.”

Titus has also had special assignments. After company command, he was selected to go to graduate school and received a Masters Degree in Communications from the University of Kentucky and subsequently taught at West Point for three years.

“After that assignment I was a speech writer for a three-star General, the Combined Arms Center commander,” Titus said.

Titus had two other special assignments. The first had him attending the school of Advanced Military Studies and receiving there a second masters degree, in military science. After that he worked into division and corps level planning with the Army.

“My last assignment on active duty before I retired from the Army was on the Joint Staff, the J4 director of logistics,” Titus said.

What brought Titus to Vermont at first was his family. His wife is a Barre native who has family members that are Norwich graduates.

“From the very first time I came up here to visit her family after we got married, there was a connection with Norwich,” Titus said. “From the first time I set foot on campus I fell in love with it.”

When Titus found out that a job was available at Norwich, he jumped at the opportunity to grow some roots in Vermont. He had already moved 13 times and didn’t want to keep the same lifestyle.

“As I interacted with faculty and staff here, through the interview process, I found that everyone was happy to be here,” Titus said. “They felt like they were making a difference.”

The organizational culture of Norwich was unique and special to Titus. It was something that could not have a price tag put on it.

Titus does not see himself as someone who needs to change a whole system regarding how the Norwich Corps of Cadets works. He does however have some unique philosophies on leadership.

“Russ Holden, the previous commandant, did an outstanding job on moving the Corps down the line towards the concept of honorable living and really building the foundation work for that type of philosophy,” Titus said. “I’m right on board with that philosophy as well and I really see my role as really just keeping the ship steering in the right direction.”

“That’s not to say I don’t have my own unique philosophy and approach,” Titus said. “I deeply believe in the concept of servant leadership, that we develop our best leaders if we develop leaders who care for their subordinates and know how to identify their subordinate’s weaknesses and train them to get better at those weaknesses.”

As a leader, Titus has led a monumental number of subordinates and his philosophy of servant leadership has produced many loyal and outstanding friends.

“Working with him was always entertaining and a learning experience,” said Bradford Whiting, an Army Captain and Norwich University alumnus, class of 2008. “You were excited to get things done, and even in moments where things didn’t go as planned, he could refocus the group and lead us towards the goal we had. He is a passionate teacher and ensured we all learned while accomplishing the mission.”

Whiting served with Titus in Germany. Titus arrived a few months after Whiting, and served as the support operations officer and later as the squadron executive officer. He was also Whiting’s supervisor during a one-year deployment to Afghanistan.

“He’s hard- working, dedicated, someone that won’t shy away from an opportunity to mentor someone and believes in the principles of leadership,” said Whiting. “He’s the exact type of leader I want; straight-forward but still understanding if something doesn’t go as planned.”

“Norwich needs leaders of high character, but also leaders that understand how to mentor and teach,” said Whiting. “A leader that isn’t always negative and will take the opportunity to assess the entire situation before reacting. He also knows Norwich is meant to be difficult and brings real military experience to the job.”

Whiting still talks pretty often with Titus and feels he will be well-received by the Corps, the administration and the alumni.

“In the end subordinates are the ones who do all the work, as a leader your job is to direct the subordinate in the right direction and move as many obstacles and barriers out of their way to help them do their job,” Titus said. “My job is the same.”

“I feel as though the committee and the University made the right choice,” said Tim Weinhold,, the corps of cadets’ regimental commander, a senior criminal justice major from Concord, N.H. “He considers everyone’s opinion while having a great command presence.”

The unique challenge at Norwich has always been the combined efforts of the commandants and the cadets to jointly run the school. A good commandant according to Weinhold needs to be able to do it all.

“(It’s) Someone who can manage leading both chains of command, while also being the center point of communication for just about every other office at Norwich,” said Weinhold. “He’s got a background in communication and really brings that to the table. He’s an effective communicator.

The Corps of Cadets really hasn’t seen the full effect of the new commandant yet, according to Weinhold.

“It hard to come in, first month, and really do anything, you’re just on the receive mode,” said Weinhold. “He’s really drinking from a firehose and just trying to understand his job and what he can do.”

This next semester and coming years will be the real test for Titus to see what kind of commandant he is.

“I think he’s made my job a lot easier, we meet almost everyday,” said Weinhold. “He’s always very receptive to things going on and helps me out when I need it.”

Dr. Frank Vanecek, the senior vice president for student affairs and technology, also interacts with Titus daily, and was one of the key players in hiring the new commandant.

“A good commandant is someone who is going to be here and wants to train the leaders and act with them on whatever time frame they need,” said Vanecek. “That’s what a good commandant does.”

The selection process is intense, and like any job there is the initial screening process of resumes. The first major step was the phone interview.

“The phone interview was about 30 minutes long,” said Titus. “After the phone interview I was asked to come to Norwich for an on-sight interview and it was an all day long affair, it started at eight in the morning and I didn’t leave till five at night.”

The gauntlet of talking to faculty, staff, and even some alumni and students was the real interview test at Norwich.

“It’s a real testament to how Norwich handles the hiring process,” said Titus. “They care about everyone’s input.”

Titus interviewed with President Richard Schneider, Vanecek, different faculty, commandants and even with Weinhold. From the academic side, to the commandant’s side, the interview process was all encompassing.

“If you can get through that interview process you can get through anything,” said Titus. “I am deeply honored and humbled to have been selected for this position. I realize the selection process was intense and there were tons of great applicants.”

What drives the commandant to get up every morning and come to Norwich can be asked of anyone who works at the school.

“The cadets, they get me up in the morning,” said Titus. “I feel like I have the best job in the world and the reason for that is because I get to mentor and develop and train the future leaders of this country.”

Only time will tell what is to become of Titus in the history he makes as the 55th commandant of cadets.

“I owe it to the University and to the cadets to come in here every day and do the best, the absolute best job I can do, for them,” said Titus.

“I feel like I have the best job in the world and the reason for that is because I get to mentor and develop and train the future leaders of this country.”

Speak Your Mind

*