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Who is Stockdale?

April 6, 2018

From Wikipedia

With the cold weather not seeming to leave Monmouth anytime soon, you might just run into the caff to get food and warmth. But have you ever given any thought to why we call it the Stockdale Center? The building itself was built during a period of campus expansion in the 60’s and was simply the Student Union- where meals were served, and students could socialize in various ways, long since disappeared (The OSI and Commuter lounge used to be a bowling alley, and then an arcade). But on May 19th, 1989, the college invited decorated war veteran James B. Stockdale to campus to honor him with the rededication of the Student Union in his name. Now for the reader who has not paused to notice the plaque on the North wall of the entranceway to the Stockdale Center, you may be wondering “who is he, and why is he important?” Well, to quote the Vice Admiral himself during his televised Vice Presidential debate, “who am I? And why am I here?”

Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale was born only miles away from Monmouth, in Abington Illinois in 1923. He attended Monmouth College for a short time before transfering to the Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1946. After a mix of further academic education and flight training, Stockdale was stationed onboard an aircraft carrier near Vietnam in August of 1964, where he participated in the Gulf of Tonkin incident. On September 9th, he was shot down over Vietnam and subsequently taken as a Prisoner of War to the infamous Hao Lo prison (also known as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’). Surviving there for eight years under brutal conditions and torture as the most senior naval POW, Stockdale coordinated resistance amongst the other prisoners to interrogation, and intentionally disfigured himself so his captors could not use him for propaganda purposes. At home, his wife, Sybil, helped to organize the National League of POW/MIA Families, which most of us know by the black POW/MIA flags flown around the country.

James Stockdale was released on February 12th, 1973, and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Ford. Afterwards, he enjoyed a successful career in the Navy, eventually becoming a Vice Admiral, and as previously mentioned, was the Vice Presidential candidate for Ross Perot in 1992. He passed away in 2005. Most recently, the college has honored the Stockdales with the prestigious Stockdale Fellows Scholarship Program (formerly Midwest Scholars). So the next time you check your mail or grab a sandwich, take a moment to read that plaque by the stairs. Every building on campus has a colorful story behind it, and they make our campus the special place it is.

Samuel Dummer
Contributing Writer

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