William E. Colby

The William E. Colby Military Writers’ Symposium was designed to expose students, faculty, alumni and the public to the works and views of authors, historians, journalists and national figures. It aspires to educate, enlighten and inspire.

The program was originally conceived by former Norwich president MG Russell Todd, USA (Ret.) ’53 as a way to bring influential writers to the campus of Norwich University. In 1996, Norwich hosted a small but prestigious group of writers on campus for a two-day series of lectures and panel discussions. Among them was Ambassador and former C.I.A. Director William E. Colby; prolific military fiction writer W.E.B. Griffin; and military historian and biographer Carlo D’Este. The event was initially known as the Norwich University Military Writers’ Symposium.

William Colby died unexpectedly shortly after that first event, prompting the university to rename the experimental program the William E. Colby Writers’ Symposium in April 1997 to honor the Norwich honorary degree recipient.

At the second symposium’s formal dedication ceremony, a who’s who in military writing was on hand to participate in one of the most stimulating programs in the symposium’s history. Present were Tom Clancy, Steven Coonts, Harold Coyle, Winston Groom, Fred Chiaventone and GEN Gordon R. Sullivan, USA (Ret.) Also attending that year was Colby’s son, Paul, who was and continues to be a stalwart supporter and devoted friend of Norwich.

Since then the symposium, now known as “The Colby,” has grown to the national prominence it enjoys today. It has hosted more than 100 military writers, historians and biographers. As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Colby Symposium, we do so in the knowledge that the world has changed significantly since its inception—and so has our program. We have never avoided hard issues central to the public’s understanding.

The Colby is the only program of its kind in existence at an American university. It has given Norwich University students the opportunity to meet some of the most prominent military, intelligence and international affairs writers and historians of our time.

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