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William A. Dinwiddie
First Commandant of Cadets
Iowa State Normal School
The Department of Military Science and Tactics functioned at the University of Northern Iowa, (then known as the Iowa State Normal School), from 1891 through 1903. William A Dinwiddie, a retired lieutenant in the U.S. Army, was appointed professor in 1891. Two companies of uniformed cadets were formed. All able-bodied male students were required to participate. Three hours of military drill were held each week, and an optional class in military science and tactics was also offered. Dinwiddie's death in 1901 led to the decline of the program, and it was disbanded in 1903 by action of President Theodore Roosevelt.
During World War II, the campus served as a training school for 1,000 WAVES and about 550 Army pilots. They lived in the residence halls and worked and drilled on campus. This "military influence" far outnumbered the 800 or so civilian students who continued their education during these war years.
In more recent times, a proposal made to initiate the unit at UNI as an extension from the host unit at the University of Iowa, was approved by University President Kamerick and the State Board of Regents in June 1981. Military Science instruction began in August of that year, with the Panther Detachment of the Hawkeye Battalion organized soon thereafter.
The University of Northern Iowa's Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps detachment was established in 1981 as an extension center of the University of Iowa. With an assigned cadre strength of two, the cadet corps began with 21 cadets. The first commissioning ceremony, held in May 1983, produced six U.S. Army second lieutenants. In 1987, the program was authorized host status, giving the UNI Panther Battalion equal status with the battalions at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.