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Leading From the Front

Ellis Johnson

Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Blue Mountain Battalion cadet ranks ninth in nation

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Ellis Johnson ’18 (physicsRussian) is more than an exceptional student, athlete and Blue Mountain Battalion ROTC cadet. He’s also one of the top-10 Army cadets in the nation.

Johnson was named to the U.S. Army’s annual Cadet Command order-of-merit list, which ranks all 5,536 graduating-senior cadets in the country according to grade point average, physical fitness, and performance during ROTC training and Advanced Camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The score also takes into account participation in college athletics.

Those who score within the top 20 percent are named Distinguished Military Graduates—an honor Johnson shares with classmate Hayley Murdough. Johnson additionally ranked ninth in the nation, the only student from a liberal-arts college to be named among the top 10.

His score represents not just academic and athletic excellence but also demonstration of strong leadership that's rooted in cultural competency and empathy, says Joseph Wyszynski, professor of military science and chair of the military science department. "Ellis always leads from the front, looks out for fellow cadets, and maintains high standards inside and outside of the classroom," Wyszynski says. "He is developing into a leader who will inspire and motivate U.S. service members." 

The honor arrives on the heels of a 2016 scholarship that allowed Johnson to study Russian in Narva, Estonia, for eight weeks during the summer after his sophomore year. Sponsored by the Defense Language and National Security Education Office and administered by the Institute of International Education, the Project Global Officer (Project GO) scholarship is a Department of Defense initiative aimed at improving the language skills, regional expertise and intercultural communication skills of future military officers.

Looking ahead, Johnson will represent the Blue Mountain Battalion at the George C. Marshall conference at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, next month, where he will learn about Army leadership opportunities from top Army leaders. He will attend flight school at Ft. Rucker, Alabama, after graduating next spring, and he is considering a career as an Army astronaut.

“Being a top-10 nationally ranked cadet … was the culmination of years at the gym and in the classroom," says Johnson, "and a reminder that I need to keep working to deserve that recognition."

Learn more about Johnson through his Student Snapshot profile, "Freedom to Innovate."

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Published January 3, 2018