The expression "keeping it in the family" is the most accurate way to describe this familial phenomena that occurred at The Citadel's graduation earlier this month. Three Citadel siblings, all brothers, received three distinct diplomas from their father, an alumnus of the Class of 1982, bridging the generational gap of a longstanding family affair.
It wasn't staged, it wasn't planned and the emotions were most certainly not rehearsed. To say this event is merely a formality would be an egregious understatement. Judging by the Tye family history, all the events leading up to this moment in time were stepping stones solidified by a lineage that transcends over nearly half a century.
The youngest brother, 21-year-old William Tye, a fixture in the South Carolina Corps of Cadets, received his Bachelor of Science in business administration. He’s earned dean’s list multiple years and also made the president’s list. William joined the National Guard straight out of high school prior to his enrollment at The Citadel. Aside from his undergraduate studies, he has also been putting in the hours working night shifts as an EMT for Charleston County EMS.
"First off, the idea that all three of us graduated on the same day all from different programs is just amazing to me," William said. "Having been taught and coached by Kevin (brother) in high school and having Andrew (brother) be an instructor for three of the four years while I have been at The Citadel is something that I would never have seen coming."
"I could not have asked for a bigger honor than having my brothers being able to watch my commissioning with my father (Marc) and mother (Nancy) pinning on my rank, and then my father hand not only myself but Andrew and Kevin their diplomas on the same day only a few hours apart," William continued. "We have all worked so hard and the unplanned timing is something to be grateful and excited about."
The middle brother, 28-year-old Lt. Andrew Tye, received his Master of Science in computer and information science with a concentration in cybersecurity. After earning an undergraduate degree in computer science from The Citadel in 2011, last December, Andrew traveled to Cambridge, U.K. to present research at the World Congress on Internet Security. In addition to being a graduate student, Andrew works as a military science instructor at The Citadel for the U.S. Navy, piloting the NROTC Cyberwarfare Instruction Program. Also notable, Andrew served as a Surface Warfare Officer, when he was last commissioned he was deployed to South America to do counter narcotic trafficking. He also was shipped out to Spain for two years where he was engaged in Ballistic Missile Defense in the Black Sea with Russia, Syria and Iran.
"I think he (Marc) was really happy that, one, we graduated and two we graduated from here (The Citadel)," Andrew laughed. "He was honored to be there and to be there with all of us and to keep it going through the family and hopefully keep it going from here on out."
In high school Andrew was offered both an Air Force and a Navy scholarship, he ultimately finalized his decision by the the flip of a coin, literally heads or tails. It landed on Navy. He was selected for pilot aviation and admits he aspired to fly since the age of 12. The day he was commissioned to fly he suffered an eye injury and lost his wings due to the disqualifying visual impairment.
"I wouldn't change any of it, I love my job, I love where it's taken me, it's made me who I am and how I handle things and look at the world," Andrew said.
The eldest brother, 31-year-old Kevin Tye, earned his Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering as an evening undergraduate student. He’s received dean’s list multiple years as well as earned Gold Stars for his outstanding academic achievements. Kevin also received an undergraduate degree in teaching from Clemson. Oddly enough, before receiving his Citadel degree, Kevin was William and Andrew's high school teacher in the same town where the family grew up.
Last but surely not least, Marc Tye, the patriarch of the family who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. He was part of the Regimental Band and Pipes as well as the Summerall Guards, one of the elite military drill troupes. Marc has worked for Santee Cooper for the last 30 years where he started out as an entry-level engineer in their power plant and has just recently been promoted to COO. Marc also currently sits on the Advisory Board for Electrical Engineers at The Citadel. His brother too was a former cadet at The Citadel back in the 70s.
"A lot of the principles he taught us he doesn't even realize it, such as integrity and standing by your word," Andrew continued. "The one thing that people can't take from you is what you say. When push comes to shove you stand by your word, your honor is one thing that people can't take from you, money will come and go but your word has to stay with you."
Andrew asserts his father's words of wisdom in his everyday life and even projects these life lessons that have been passed down to him onto his students when he's teaching in the classroom.
"He always tries to stress that mistakes are going to happen, everyone's human, as a whole you've got to let people learn and make mistakes in order to grow," Andrew said.
On a related note, the Tye family will once again be "tying the knot" this summer as Andrew will be getting married in June, followed by William in July. Kevin is happily married with a 1-year-old daughter.
"It's been awesome just the way the timing has worked out so we can all be here for one last hurrah with all of us together as a family," Andrew said. "We've all talked about it where this could very well be the last time we are all together for any amount of time, so just having the opportunity to all graduate at the same time is pretty awesome."
The South Carolina Corps of Cadets Class of 2018 had 56 legacy students who invited special presenters, for more information visit citadel.edu.