NDSU alumni named to national ROTC Hall of Fame
Published November 2016
Rear Admiral (Ret.) Fred Paavola and notable businessman Sylvan Melroe are members of an elite group of veterans named to the inaugural class of the U.S. Army ROTC Cadet Hall of Fame in 2016.
Paavola, Tucson, Arizona, graduated in 1970 from the NDSU School of Pharmacy. Reserve Officers’ Training Corps combined with pharmacy set him on another path. “With ROTC, you learn how to be a leader,” he said.
He served in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps from 1970 to 1980, with the rank of captain. From 1980 until 2000, Paavola served in the U.S. Public Health Service. He retired as a Rear Admiral and Assistant Surgeon General, holding the position of Chief Pharmacy Officer for the U.S. Public Health Service, leading more than 1,100 pharmacists.
Paavola found another avenue to serve following retirement. He spent the next 13 years as a National Disaster Medical System team commander in Tucson, Arizona, heading a deployable team of 50 health care professionals who set up mobile hospitals where they are needed during disasters.
He and his wife, Linda, also an NDSU graduate, are actively involved with the university, earning the Heritage Award for Alumni Service. Paavola served on the Alumni Association board and the National Pharmacy Advisory Board for the NDSU School of Pharmacy. In addition, the Paavolas provided a key gift for the Fallen Bison Memorial on the NDSU campus.
Sylvan Melroe, Fargo, North Dakota, graduated from NDSU in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education. In 1958, Melroe began his military career, serving as a U.S. Army Artillery Officer, second lieutenant. He completed his service in 1960 as a first lieutenant.
His original plan was to be a pilot, but a health issue from a lifetime of distance running caused him to change plans. In 1955, an Army leader asked him to join the Army. “Being in ROTC and serving as an officer seemed to be the best way to serve my country,” Melroe said.
His ROTC training served him well in business. “It taught me how to be a leader by giving commands and being in charge of the troops. It was the best thing I did in college,” he said.
After leaving the Army in 1960, he started working at the Melroe Company in Gwinner, North Dakota. Later that year, Melroe was named the first advertising manager of the company. At the same time, a small, skid-steer loader was being developed.
An advertising agency representative from Minneapolis named Lynn Bickett and Melroe came up with the now legendary brand name. “Lynn Bickett and I named it the Bobcat and decided to paint it white. The white color is the identifying mark of that machine,” he said.
In 1962, Melroe was named western regional manager, and trained sales managers and set up dealerships for the Bobcat skid-steer loader. In 1970, he became vice president of marketing for Clark Equipment, which bought the Melroe Company in 1969. His work in business took Melroe to all 50 states and more than 40 countries. Bobcat is now part of global equipment giant, Doosan Corp.
Melroe joined Steiger Tractor Co. in Fargo, North Dakota, in the 1970s, eventually becoming vice president of marketing from 1976 to 1980. The company generated more than $124 million in sales at that time.
Change came in 1984 when Melroe used his sales and business acumen to serve one year as the director of the Economic Development Commission for North Dakota. Since that time, he’s served as a business consultant, helping others form companies and launch products.
He has been a strong supporter of NDSU, serving on the Alumni Association board for 15 years, with two as president. Over the years, he’s also served on advisory boards for several academic units and the board of Team Makers for NDSU Athletics. In 2013, Melroe received the Heritage Award for Alumni Service for outstanding support of time and talent to NDSU.
ROTC Hall of Fame marks achievement for NDSU program
Having two veterans from NDSU named to the national ROTC Hall of Fame speaks volumes about the ROTC’s history at NDSU, according to Lt. Col.Ted M. Preister. He is professor of military science and leader of the Bison Batallion, NDSU Army ROTC.
“Rear Admiral Paavola achieved one of the highest profile positions as Assistant Surgeon General,” said Preister, “as well as having one of the broadest national impacts.”
Preister also noted the business achievements of Melroe. “The name recognition of Bobcat, combined with his impeccable character and continued service to NDSU and other communities, demonstrates the best of what we hope graduates of ROTC will embody.”
Only two nominations for the ROTC Hall of Fame were authorized from any program. “It is a testament to the character of the institution that both nominees from the university were selected,” Preister said.
The North Dakota Legislature in 1890 directed NDSU, then known as the North Dakota Agricultural College, to include military instruction in the curriculum. In 1916, Congress passed a bill formalizing the ROTC program and that same year, the program at NDSU was officially recognized. The first regular instruction officer was delayed in getting to NDSU by involvement in World War I until 1920.
During ROTC Hall of Fame ceremonies held in June at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, keynote speaker Gen. (retired) Carter Ham, former commander of the U.S. Africa Command, said, "Whether they serve for a few years or for many, ROTC graduates make a difference across our Army and across our nation.”