Life After the Citadel: Shannon Faulkner Reflects on Her Historic Battle with the Elite Military College

Shannon Faulkner talks to Juju Chang about her battle.

December 7, 2009, 7:36 PM

Dec. 8, 2009— -- The first female cadet at the Citadel, South Carolina's elite all-male military college, said she's proud of the women who have graduated the school, even though she herself resigned shortly into her tenure there.

Fifteen years after Shannon Faulkner entered the Citadel's ranks by winning a legal battle, she says she's proud that women have the choice to go to the school, in part because of her actions.

In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the school's male-only admissions policy unconstitutional, and the South Carolina woman was allowed to enroll. But she didn't stay very long.

Faulkner faced harassment and death threats. She had to be protected by federal marshals, and wore a panic alarm around her neck. Her dorm room was equipped with security cameras.

Faulkner told "Good Morning America" that she felt constantly alone.

She spent just one week at the Citadel. During that time, Faulkner battled extreme physical and mental stress, and passed much of the week in the infirmary, suffering severe dehydration. And then she left.

"It's hard for me to leave because this is something I have worked for so long," she said shortly afterward.

The male cadets on the campus celebrated Faulkner's departure.

Speaking of her reaction to the celebration, Faulkner said she was "embarrassed for the school. That's not the school that I wanted to be a part of."

Faulkner had fought a legal battle against the Citadel for two years before she was allowed to enroll.

The South Carolina woman had applied to the school, and the Citadel, simply by not asking for gender on their application, accepted their first female cadet.

"I was good enough for them," she said. "They looked at my academic record. They said I was an ideal candidate."

Faulkner is Happy Other Women Have a Choice

But the school quickly rescinded the acceptance when it discovered Faulkner's gender.

While Faulkner battled the school in court, she took day classes at the Citadel. And when she was finally accepted into the corp of cadets, she arrived accompanied by U.S. marshals.

Since her historic arrival -- and departure -- from the storied military academy, 205 women have graduated from the school.

"When I think about other women being at the Citadel now and the number that have graduated, that's my prize," she said. "It's not the gold ring. It's the fact that there are a couple hundred that either wear it now or will wear it. Yes, it's not for all women, but the fact that they have that choice, that's the prize."

Although she didn't make it through the Citadel, Faulkner realized another dream. She went on to another college – paid for by Citadel graduate and author Pat Conroy – and became an English teacher.

Faulkner is now a middle school teacher at Hughes Academy of Science and Technology in Greenville, S.C., and loves what she does.

"Seeing when a child truly gets a concept that you're trying to teach, they have that a-ha moment when they go 'oh, okay, I get it now,'" she said. "It's amazing to watch their faces light up when they really truly get it."

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