BOONE, N.C. — Retired Col. Edna W. Cummings ’78 — the first African American female ROTC graduate from Appalachian State University — was inducted into the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame on March 11.
Cummings, who was honored for her “exceptional contributions to women in the Army,” has been instrumental in obtaining long overdue recognition of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion — the world’s first all-black female battalion that was sent from the U.S. to serve in parts of Europe during World War II.
A native of Fayetteville, Cummings had a distinguished 25-year military career, during which she was a leader and role model in positions first open to women, including the following:
- ROTC leadership instructor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
- Reserve forces advisor to the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
- Chief of emergency operations for the Office of the Chief of Army Reserve.
- Watch officer in the Pentagon’s Army Operations Center.
- Specialist in emergency preparedness and human capital management at the Pentagon and the First U.S. Army facility in Fort Gillem, Georgia.
She now operates Cummings and Cummings LLC, a consulting firm in the Washington, D.C., area that specializes in management and proposal services for federal and commercial clients.
Through her involvement with the Buffalo Soldier Educational and Historical Committee — a nonprofit organization that preserves and promotes the history of African American military units — Cummings helped raise funds for a monument honoring the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, dedicated in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in November 2018.
In early 2019, Cummings served as the producer of the documentary film “The Six Triple Eight,” which explores the battalion’s work in clearing the backlog of mail in Europe — over 17 million pieces — to help soldiers stay in touch with their loved ones back home. Cummings said she is now working with Congress to award the unit a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor in the U.S.
Cummings, who was part of a military family, said she chose Appalachian for its ROTC program.
“While living on military bases, I admired the professionalism and confidence that the members of the Women’s Army Corps seemed to have,” she said. “I wanted to become an Army officer and joined ROTC as a freshman. I feel the military gave me the opportunity to impact a few lives and contribute to the nation and my community.”
She said the sense of obligation and concern for community drives her continued participation at Appalachian, where she earned a B.S. in social sciences–education with an undergraduate teaching certificate.
Cummings served on the Appalachian State University Foundation Inc. Board of Directors from 2014–18. She also helped establish the Appalachian Warrior Fund to provide scholarships for honorably discharged and disabled veterans and their children and became active in Appalachian’s African American Alumni Network to provide scholarships to underrepresented students.
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About the Reich College of Education
Appalachian offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. The Reich College of Education enrolls approximately 2,400 students in its bachelor's, master's, education specialist and doctoral degree programs. With so many teacher education graduates working in the state, there is at least one RCOE graduate teaching in every county in North Carolina. Learn more at https://rcoe.appstate.edu.
About the Department of Military Science and Leadership
One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, Appalachian’s Department of Military Science and Leadership is home to the Mountaineer Battalion. Established in 1969, the program provides students with training to develop self-discipline, physical stamina and poise, as well as the organizational and motivational skills that contribute to success in any career. Students who complete the ROTC program earn credits for a minor in military science and leadership and are commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army, Army Reserves or Army National Guard upon graduation. Learn more at https://rotc.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.