If determination and persistence in the face of long odds are hallmarks of a Citadel cadet, Shannon Faulkner believes she should have made the grade long ago.
"I want the Citadel education. I think I have proven that over the past 21/2 years in continuing this fight and taking everything I have taken, both good and bad," she said Friday night.That was just hours before she moved onto campus as the first female cadet at the 152-year-old state military college.
Faulkner, 20, applied to The Citadel in 1993 after asking that her gender be omitted from her transcripts.
The Citadel, thinking she was a man, accepted her. The school then did an about-face after discovering she was a woman, and she sued.
"I'm not a feminist. I'm an individualist," she said then.
Repeatedly, Faulkner has said she pressed on so that even if she could not become one of the school's military cadets before graduating, other women would have the chance.
Along the way, she thought several times that she had made it into the corps, only to see courts bar the gates at the last minute.
Her home in Powdersville and her car have been vandalized. There have been death threats. She has been criticized and ridiculed in editorial columns and on bumper stickers. Still, she persisted.
Since January 1994 she has taken classes on campus - but not the military training - under court order.
She kept her sights on the corps, and on her dream of being a teacher.
"For everyone who thinks I'm in this for the money, there's no possible way," she says.
Now a junior, Faulkner said she expects to be treated like other new cadets, called knobs because of their close-cropped hair.
She will not, however, be required to get her hair cut short.
Although The Citadel fought to the last round to keep her out, she says she also expects to find friends in the corps, as she has in her classes.
"I expect those friendships to continue," she said. "I don't expect them to be very public, but when a cadet comes up to me in a corridor and says `Hang in there, we're with you,' that means a lot to me."