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ROTC Welcomes Lt. Col. Donald J. McDannald as Battalion Commander

Widener University announces that Lt. Col. Donald J. McDannald has assumed command of the Freedom Battalion, the university’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He replaces Lt. Col. Jon Peterson who retires following 25 years of military service, the last three of which he spent at Widener.

Widener is the host institution for ROTC activity at the Abington and Brandywine campuses of Pennsylvania State University, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, Immaculata University, Neumann University, Villanova University and West Chester University of Pennsylvania. These partnerships help make Widener’s ROTC one of the largest in the region, with 110 active cadets during the 2010-11 academic year. 

“By teaching these cadets and preparing them to go in the Army, I’ll be able to impact the future of the Army – even if it’s just in a small way,” said McDannald. “The opportunity to have such an impact is what I’m looking forward to most in this new role.”

McDannald, originally from Iowa City, Iowa, enlisted in the Army in 1983 at age 17 as a cannon crewman. He then served as a member of the Iowa Army National Guard and Reserves while in ROTC and deployed during Operation Desert Storm. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Field Artillery after graduating from the University of Iowa as a distinguished military graduate in 1993. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and in 2002 went on to earn a master’s degree in management from Troy University.

McDannald’s professional military education includes the Field Artillery Basic Course, Armor Officer Captains Career Course and Command and General Staff College. Following his attendance at the Command and General Staff College, he was assigned to Fort Lewis, Wash., where he spent his last five years of service before coming to Widener.

McDannald’s distinguished military career includes serving as commander of Charlie Battery 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery 1st Cavalry Division; Artillery Branch Chief to the United States Army Infantry School; and Operations Officer for the 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment (Air Assault) 17th Fires Brigade. His awards and decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, five Meritorious Service Medals (with four Oak Leaf Clusters), the Joint Service Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), the Parachutist Badge and the Air Assault Badge.

McDannald and his wife, Jennifer, who is also an active duty lieutenant colonel, have made their new home on the East Coast in New London Township, Pa. They have five children.

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve some 6,700 students. Visit the university website,