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Roger L. Cornelius

Company C-1

16 Jun 1939 - 29 Mar 1966

Place of Death: New Orleans, LA

Interment: Lake Lawn Park Cemetery, New Orleans, LA


Class Memorial Pages\C-1 Roger Cornelius.pdf

Assembly/Taps Memorial Article:

ROGER LAMON CORNELIUS was born an identical twin in New Orleans, LA, the son of Roger Lamon and Katherine (Russell) Cornelius. He attended Roman Catholic schools and always was a good student. He became enriched in the Christian faith and served as an altar boy for several years. Roger's father bought a farm near New Orleans and gave his eight-year old sons the chance to learn how to milk cows, rake leaves, ride mules and horses, bail hay, and appreciate hard work. Roger's dad died unexpectedly when his sons were eleven, and responsibility took on real meaning for Roger at an early age. He rose to Star level in the Boy Scouts. He scored top marks in the eighth grade aptitude test and, to his mother's delight, thereby won a full four-year scholarship to nearby De La Salle High School.

In high school, Roger continued to excel. His Christian Brothers education was well-rounded, including physical conditioning and athletics. Roger set his sights on USMA as a sophomore. He developed the art of debate and, in his senior year, his four-man team won the state high school debate championship. Competing in 1957 against many high school seniors, all seeking the congressional appointment to USMA, Roger placed first in the aptitude test. At high school graduation ceremonies, he delivered the salutatorian address. He already subscribed to values important in the profession of arms. Among his remarks, Roger reminded his fellow graduating seniors of their Cavalier pledge "to preserve honor, to fulfill duty, to promote justice, and to bear loyalty to God."

Roger and his twin brother Russell entered USMA in 1957. After Beast Barracks, standing two inches shy of six feet in flanker Company C-l , Roger resisted intimidation by the taller upperclassmen, soon earning their respect with his efficient performance of Fourth Class duties, mastery of plebe knowledge, and academic prowess. He gained name recognition when he teamed up with his twin brother to reach the finals and defeat two third classmen in the USMA novice debate tournament. This, of course, subjected Roger to extra hazing, all of which he took in stride and, in actuality, found rather amusing. As an upperclassman, Roger's glib tongue was his ticket to several debate tournaments, one of which was in Pocatello, ID. Roger and his teammate, Tom Stone, returned with reports of having come across some really nice Idaho "tomatoes." Being a hive, Roger found opportunity to help classmates prepare for writs and survive the tough curriculum. Having taught Sunday school to children when he was in high school, he enjoyed the role of instructor. He gave his time to his classmates in academic need. Roger spoke eloquently, thought logically, and had a good grasp of mathematics.

Roger's interests went beyond academics. In intramurals, he found success in wrestling. That brought with it a respectable set of muscles. Roger also loved music. Building on years of piano lessons imposed upon him at an early age, he taught himself how to play the guitar. He particularly liked popular folk music. The Kingston Trio inspired Roger. On leave one summer, clad in a swimsuit by a pool in Louisiana, Roger was seen entertaining friends strumming his guitar, holding sheet music between his toes, and bellowing the strains of "Sloop John B." He possessed a keen sense of humor. He admired persons who were genuine and spoke their minds openly. He prided himself on being able to spot a "phony" from yards away. Roger read the newspaper and kept up with current events, and more so than most of his classmates, he sensed the growing popularity of socialism in America. He instinctively felt that a welfare state might lead to our downfall as a nation. Roger was proud to finally earn his stars and graduate as a Distinguished Cadet in the top 5% of his class. He selected the Corps of Engineers.

Roger's "devil may care" personality and career Army aspirations led him to Airborne and Ranger Schools. His first permanent assignment was with the 325th Engineers of the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, KY. Roger enjoyed his duty in the 10Ist especially the jumps. As cupid would have it, he became smitten with Ann Underwood, a young lady from nearby Hopkinsville. Their romance flourished; and they soon became engaged. Shortly thereafter, however, Roger's luck ran out. In early 1963, curious about unusual swelling in his neck, he consulted a doctor and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a malignancy that was treatable, but usually fatal. The love between Ann and Roger was strong, and their wedding took place as planned. Thereafter, he had several radiation treatments. Then came the medical discharge.

But Roger was not ready to give up. He and Ann returned to New Orleans, where he earned an MBA from Tulane University, and Ann taught school nearby. Roger wanted to prepare himself for survival in a civilian economy that was becoming increasingly complex. He found the discipline of accounting to be challenging and to his liking. Between periods of chemotherapy, the lymphoma went into remission, enabling Roger to be very active at school. He was liked and respected at Tulane and gave little reason for friends and faculty to suspect that he struggled with a serious medical problem.

Following graduation with honors at Tulane in 1965, Roger joined a New Orleans accounting firm. He did his share of the hard work involving travel, audit, and tax preparation. In his leisure time, Roger began to develop a pretty good game of golf. At home Roger liked to play with his dog Oscar, a lovable little dachshund. In the brief time they had remaining, Roger and Ann truly enjoyed their friends, associates, and their life together. Roger harbored no resentment, only the desire to do his duty ahd to keep on playing the card game of life with the hand dealt.

However, the disease eventually took its toll. With Ann at his bedside, Roger died in 1966. To most, his death came as a surprise. The admiration of the Tulane students and faculty who knew Roger was enshrined by a special award. It is considered to be the top honor conferred on a Tulane MBA candidate and is given each year at graduation. The award is explained on a plaque prominently affixed in the entrance hall of Tulane University's School of Business in New Orleans. It reads:
Established in 1967 by the Tulane School of Business in honor of Roger L. Cornelius, a 1961 West Point Graduate and a 1965 M.B.A. who died shortly after graduation. This award commemorates Mr. Cornelius' dedication to the highest standards of business scholarship and leadership. This award is presented to the graduating student in the master of business administration program who best exemplifies these qualities.

Roger was a young soldier who faced life and death gracefully and gallantly. Surely, he now walks in his special place of sunshine.

Twin brother/classmate