From PMC Graduate to Widener ROTC Cadet, a Family Legacy Endures
Meghan Rampolla grew up hearing stories of Pennsylvania Military College.
Her maternal grandfather, Bob Hawley, a 1962 graduate, would regale her with tales of his time competing with the national champion Pershing Rifles drill team, living in Old Main, and Howell and Turrell halls, and of course, the camaraderie that existed – and still exists – amongst his fellow cadets.
“He was always talking about the school. He loves the school,” said Rampolla. “He said the people he met here are his ‘forever friends.’”
In 2019, Rampolla, then a high school sophomore, accompanied her grandfather on a trip back to campus (now Widener University), where he was honored with the John L. Geoghegan Alumni Citizenship Award, given in memory of his fellow PMC cadet. Rampolla also visited the PMC Museum and saw a photo of her grandfather, as well as the cadet uniforms he once wore.
On that visit, it all just clicked, she said.
Rampolla knew she wanted to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps. Though the school’s name and mission had changed since Hawley’s days, Rampolla saw Widener and its ROTC program as continuing the proud legacy he started.
“I knew I could see myself here,” she said. “I wanted to form the same kind of connections my grandfather had.”
She certainly has. Rampolla will graduate Widener in 2025 with a nursing degree and will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Her goal is to serve active duty as an Army nurse.
And what was her grandfather’s reaction when she told him of her college plans?
“I was quite elated and very proud,” Hawley recalls. “You have to let the young folks make their own decisions. You provide a little information and let the cord go. But I was really overcome.”
Hawley has even supplemented his red and yellow PMC clothing with some blue and gold Widener gear now that his granddaughter is a student. The Widener scarf handed out at this year’s Homecoming is proudly on display in his family room.
The link between grandfather and granddaughter was on full view at Homecoming, as Rampolla assisted Hawley on the football field for the annual PMC broom drill.
“I look up to him in every single way,” she said.
After graduating PMC, Hawley became a microbiologist and served as Chief of the Bacteriology Section at an Army hospital in Japan, diagnosing microorganisms in the wounds of Vietnam War service members. He went on to earn his doctorate and taught and conducted research at several medical institutions, including Georgetown University Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, Holy Cross Hospital, the National Institutes of Health, the University of Maryland, and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick.
Today, he serves as an independent consultant.
Rampolla says Widener and ROTC has certainly lived up to her expectations, and to her grandfather’s stories.
“I love the schedule, the discipline, the structure, waking up early,” said Rampolla, whose day begins with pre-dawn physical training, followed by classes, military labs, and nursing clinicals.
This has been everything I hoped it would be. I love Widener." — Meghan Rampolla '25
Whenever Hawley returns to campus, he likes to show his granddaughter the places that are familiar to him, as well as the new buildings and other changes made since his cadet days.
For him, it’s about more than just reminiscing or commenting on the passage of time; it’s about passing on the legacy and foundation of PMC to the next generation.
“It’s very important to let incoming students know how Widener grew and came to be. That’s true for almost anything,” he said.
Rampolla has certainly taken that message to heart.
“It’s important to know our roots, our legacy,” she said. “I think I’m making my grandfather proud.”