General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces to Europe in World War I, was Professor of Military Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln between September 1891 and June 1895. Upon his arrival in Lincoln, which was to become his family's home, Pershing found the morale of the Reserve Officers Training Corps at low ebb. To infuse life into the corps, Pershing built an elite drill team which eventually became known as the Society of Pershing Rifles.
The organization served its purpose well, and from 1900-1911 it carried prestige not only in military circles but in the social life of the University as well. Many of its young officer-graduates were on active duty in the Spanish-American War and in World War I. After Pershing was transferred to another post, interest in the Rifles waned and in 1917 it was disbanded. Interest returned in the 1920s, and in 1925 a chapter was installed at Ohio State University. Today Pershing Rifle Societies are found in over 100 universities. Pershing was elected to the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1964, and his bust placed in the Nebraska State Capitol in 1965.