In his role as Cadet Wing Commander, Cadet Philip Norman, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering, initiated weekly motivational messages for cadets called “Fireside Chats.” 

During one message, he said, “Although books are written about great achievements, a man or woman’s character is not defined by one moment of brilliance, courage, or strength. Character is developed over a lifetime. It is built upon small daily trials, and supported by determination and perseverance. It is nurtured through self-reflection, and reinforced through proximity to those of similar intention and guiding values.”

In Norman’s case, success is measured by selfless leadership, earned respect, and, as Col. John Montgomery, commander of the Air Force ROTC at Virginia Tech, said, “a world-class character and impeccable deportment.”

Norman said his parents provided great support during his time as a resident advisor and company commander in the corps.

“I think I called my parents more times in my life in that semester to thank them for all they had done for me," he said. "I’d say, ‘I’ve never thought to thank you for what you’ve taught me, and the quality education you gave me.’ I can’t imagine going through life without their stability.”

He hosted weekly open-door meetings with cadets needing assistance and spent his Friday nights mentoring junior cadets.

In his little free time, Norman is an avid reader, with an affinity for U.S. history. He likes to read about individuals coming together for a national cause and also enjoys taking personality tests, as he learns how to interact with others focused on strengths instead of weaknesses.

This community-based approach to leadership perfectly describes the way in which Norman has led the Delta Company. He shared that, through this role, he learned to not approach people with a specific bias or lens, but to view others as multi-faceted people who are trying to do the right thing.

“Everyone, at the end of the day, wants to fall asleep thinking, ‘Today, I did something bigger than me,’” said Norman.

During winter break in 2013, he spent two weeks in Burma teaching English to students in a Buddhist monastery and an orphanage.

“From this experience, I learned that there are so many good people in this world. I saw for myself that great people, men and women of character, are everywhere trying to make the world a better place,” said Norman.

After graduating, Norman will be commissioned into the United States Air Force. He will be stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada, in May 2016.  

“Some in life gain respect from others based solely on the position or title they hold, while others truly earn the respect of their followers through devoted care of their physical, mental, and professional well-being,” said Col. Montgomery. “Philip is one of the latter: a charismatic leader who is genuinely committed to the success of those he leads in academic, professional, and moral development.”

“Virginia Tech has been home to me for the last five years,” said Norman. “It has been both nurturing as well as challenging, a safe place to relax and a competitive race, forcing me to grow and improve myself. I have made friends and memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life, and I’ll forever identify myself as a member of the Hokie Nation.”

Written by Holly Paulette.

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