The nation's oldest private military college unveiled a new name Tuesday for its center of cybersecurity learning, honoring the nation's longest-serving current U.S. senator.
Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, announced the naming of the Senator Patrick Leahy School of Cybersecurity and Advanced Computing.
"I thank you for this great honor," beamed Leahy, who attended the ceremony virtually from home as he recovers from two recent hip surgeries.
The Democrat will retire in January after nearly a half-century of service to Vermont in the U.S. Senate.
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The kind of influence over federal funds that comes with that seniority helped Leahy land more than $70 million in grants and contracts for Norwich over the years to develop the center.
"It's going to help America at a time we need it," Leahy told the audience on campus. "I fought for this money because I believed in Norwich. I knew it wouldn't be wasted. I knew Norwich would make the investment worthwhile."
The Senator Patrick Leahy School of Cybersecurity and Advanced Computing will focus on experiential learning and critical thinking, Norwich president Mark Anarumo said. It will prepare graduates not only for high-tech military offense or defense from cyber attacks, but also a range of applications for government, health care and the private sector.
Anarumo emphasized that cybersecurity is vital to the nation's security.
"If you're not dominant in cyber, you're as much at a disadvantage as if you didn't have air power in the 1940s and 50s — it is the critical domain for all future fight," Anarumo told NECN and NBC10 Boston.
The university has said there just aren't enough people to fill open security jobs in today's information economy.
"The financial element of cyber crime is in the trillions, and it's only going to go up," Anarumo warned.
Students at the newly-named school said they are confident they are in demand.
"I've always wanted to serve my country," said Washington Loeffler, a Norwich senior, explaining why he was drawn to study cybersecurity.
In May, Norwich announced $4 million in federal funds to expand research and learning into artificial intelligence, machine learning and the future of computing.
"With the funding Sen. Leahy has gotten, we get to experience all of that here on campus," said Nathan Romeo, a Norwich junior.
The namesake of the Senator Patrick Leahy School of Cybersecurity and Advanced Computing predicted Norwich grads will be on the virtual front lines of protecting infrastructure, business and keeping Americans safe.