(Toledo, OH) One Toledo area graduate will be changing from the uniform of an all-girls’ school to that of a military cadet in a few weeks.
Catherine Gibbs, who recently graduated from Notre Dame Academy, accepted a prestigious invitation to West Point.
In addition to a 4.4 GPA, status as a National Merit finalist, and recipient of scholarships from schools such as MIT and the University of Michigan, Gibbs is also the only female student in the Toledo area to be selected to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Only about 15 percent of the Academy’s 4,000 undergraduates are women.
Gibbs said that her decision to accept the candidacy at West Point was a simple one.
“It sounds clichéd, but I really chose the Academy in order to serve my country,” she said. “I believe it’s an opportunity to give back to the country that has given me so many opportunities.”
Gibbs, who plans to major in mathematics or engineering, said that she does not worry about the possibility of being assigned to a combat zone.
“I am prepared to go and do whatever I am asked to do,” she said. “If I am asked to serve in a war zone, I willingly accept that responsibility.”
Catherine’s parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Gibbs of Temperance, MI, stand behind their daughter’s decision.
“It was her choice, and Catherine worked on the lengthy application process for over a year,” said Elizabeth Gibbs. “Just when you thought every possible step had been completed, there would be another two forms.”
One of the most important steps was the endorsement of a Congressional member, and Gibbs was nominated by Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow. Mrs. Gibbs said that her daughter also received an invitation signed by Vice President Dick Cheney to join the Naval Academy.
“We are very proud of what she has accomplished, and I know she will be successful at West Point,” she said.
Like the other military academies, West Point has had some problems with hazing and sexual harassment of women cadets in the past. Gibbs said that these are issues she is not worried about.
Left: West Point Military Academy
“The Academy has very low tolerance for inappropriate behavior, and there is far too much to lose for people to risk their appointments by acting stupid,” she said. “West Point has worked hard to address sexual harassment and hazing, because they know that soldiers won’t follow someone they don’t respect.”
Gibbs attended a seminar at the Academy between her junior and senior years in high school, and was impressed with what she saw at West Point.
“The cadets who run the program are very respectful and work hard to make people feel welcome,” she said. “I look forward to the challenges I will face next year.”
Like anyone entering the military, Academy cadets must go through basic training. Gibbs will arrive in West Point June 26 for the 6-week training, and she discussed the challenges candidates face.
“You are pretty much cut off from the world at first, and you are only allowed to write home – no email, no cell phones, and just an occasional call home,” she said. “They tell us that about the only thing we will be allowed to bring are changes of underwear.”
A few acquaintances, said Gibbs, have expressed reservations about her decision.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about the military academies,” she said. “Most of my friends and immediate family have been supportive, but a few relatives had some doubts. All I can say to them is that this is the right choice for me, and that I believe in serving my country.”