American Legion presents honorable Patriot Award to Syracuse University

The American Legion recognized Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) with its prestigious Patriot Award. The award was presented Nov. 17 during a livestreamed ceremony held on the campus in Syracuse, N.Y., at the new National Veterans Resource Center at the Daniel & Gayle D’Aniello Building.

“The American Legion was founded by World War I veterans concerned about the well-being of their comrades as they returned home and transitioned back into civilian society,” said Past National Commander Fang Wong of New York during the ceremony. “Military servicemembers often ask, ‘what’s next?’ as they try to find meaningful employment, obtain quality health care or attend college after their time in the service ends. It’s fitting that we recognize the IVMF with The American Legion Patriot Award. More than 142,000 transitioning servicemembers and their families have benefited from IVMF’s outstanding programs. They understand that America has an obligation to serve veterans as well as veterans have served this country.

"We congratulate IVMF, Dr. Haynie and Syracuse University for this prestigious award.”

The American Legion presents the national honor to organizations or people who “have demonstrated a profound and exceptional commitment to military personnel and their families.” Dr. Mike Haynie, IVMF founder and vice chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation at Syracuse University, said IVMF is "truly honored and humbled by this recognition" and hopes the award will be "a springboard" to an enduring relationship "between the Legion and the IVMF, working together to empower those who have served across every dimension of their post-service life."

Haynie continued in his remarks that "today's veterans service organizations look to follow the leadership example of The American Legion with its focus on grassroots advocacy, position to influence and inform the issues that are most important and most pressing to the veterans community. Syracuse University in many ways has a history that parallels that of The American Legion. We are an institution that throughout its history has been transformed by a commitment to serve veterans and military-connected families."

After World War II, then-Syracuse University Chancellor William Pearson Tolley "kicked open the doors of this institution to returning war veterans ... kicked open the doors wider than most any other institution in the nation," Haynie said. "In the years following World War II we welcomed 10,000 returning veterans to our campus. Mr. Tolley recognized welcoming veterans to our campus would make us better. He recognized that their experience at Syracuse University along with their military experience would together accelerate their potential as both individuals and as citizens. And the result would change the face of this institution. He recognized that we would welcome to our campus individuals with global experiences, broad diversity and a commitment to service. And they did.

"Fast forward to today and our institutional commitment in the words of current Chancellor Kent Syverud is to be the best place of higher education for our veterans, our servicemembers and their families. It is our mission every day, our passion, and it's on display in the work of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families."

The presentation of the Patriot Award to IVMF was originally scheduled to occur during The American Legion’s national convention this past August in Louisville, Ky., which was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. American Legion National Commander James "W." Bill Oxford could not attend the presentation ceremony on campus due to COVID-19 travel restrictions to New York. However, he sent personal remarks of "appreciation for the outstanding work and advocacy of the IVMF."

Previous winners of The American Legion Patriot Award include former Indiana governor and current Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Rep. Jeff Miller and the chaplain corps at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.