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To the Editor

Blazing A Trail

In answer to your question about which Hokie female has most influenced me, and in fact has influenced so many others, I humbly submit the name of Deborah “Debbie” Jane Noss Ayers.

During fall 1973, Debbie was the first female squadron commander in the history of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets. In spring 1975, she became the first woman commissioned as a serving line officer from any senior military college in the United States, to include all the service academies.

During the 1972-73 school year, Air Force ROTC was opened to women. While some military colleges pushed back, Virginia Tech took a leading role and announced that, starting in the fall, membership in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets would be open to women.

Debbie, one of the first upperclass females to join the corps, was selected to serve as the first commanding officer of the all-female L Squadron.

Debbie, along with ROTC Capt. Sonya Shipman and the commandant’s staff, helped develop the first women’s uniforms. Additionally, corps customs and traditions needed to be adapted or developed for the women. As one might imagine, this was not an easy year, and the nearly 50 years of women in the corps owe much to this wonderful group of pathfinders.

Debbie participated in the spring 1974 Corps of Cadets commissioning ceremony. She was recognized as the outstanding senior from what is now the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Debbie served on active duty for five years as a squadron executive officer then as the commander of the 416th Bombardment Wing Headquarters Squadron at Griffiss Air Force Base in New York.

Debbie and I were married in 1974. We served together on active duty and have shared a variety of adventures. Debbie has been a small business owner, supported numerous faith-based activities, and, together, we have raised a wonderful family. Debbie is a leader, and her thoughtful and caring approach produces outstanding results. She credits her supportive parents, four wonderful siblings, her growing family, and the Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

Frank Ayers ’74, Daytona Beach, Florida

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