The West Point Association of Graduates (WPAOG) has named the 2000 recipients of the Distinguished Graduate Award. This annual award has been bestowed upon those West Point graduates whose character, distinguished service, and stature draw wholesome comparison to the qualities for which West Point strives, in keeping with its motto: “Duty, Honor, Country.” The 2000 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients are:
President Fidel V. Ramos ’50
A distinguished soldier who began his military career as an infantry platoon leader in the Philippine Counter-Insurgency campaign, then fought in both Korea and Vietnam and rose to become Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces; an architect of peace whose dynamic leadership stabilized a troubled country; a nation builder whose every action exemplified the words of the West Point Motto: Duty, Honor, Country; and a President whose steadfast dedication to the principles of democracy and faith in the Philippine people dramatically reversed a stagnant economy, Fidel Valdez Ramos has served his country with distinction and integrity over an active career spanning five decades.
General Ramos graduated from West Point in 1950 and then attended graduate school at the University of Illinois, where he was awarded a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering in 1951. Returning to the Philippines, he served as an infantry platoon leader with the Second Battalion Combat Team, Philippine Army, during the counter-insurgency campaign. In 1952, he joined the 20th Battalion Combat Team as an infantry reconnaissance platoon leader with the Philippine Expeditionary Force in Korea. For the next ten years, he held positions of increasing responsibility in command and staff assignments in the Philippine Army, culminating in his appointment to command the First Special Forces Group (Airborne), a position he held for three years. In 1966 Fidel Ramos joined the First Philippine Civic Action Group in Vietnam as Chief of Staff. In 1968, he was named Presidential Assistant on Military Affairs, and in 1970 he assumed command of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army.
A year later, General Ramos was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff for Home Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines. In 1972, he was named Chief, Philippine Constabulary, Philippine Armed Forces, a position he held for fourteen years. Concurrently, in 1975 he was appointed to the position of Director-General of the Philippine Integrated National Police. In 1981, Fidel Ramos was selected to be Vice Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He remained in that assignment for five years, the last two as Acting Chief of Staff.
These bare facts of General Ramos’ senior military assignments do not address the many years of political turmoil and instability, government corruption, and personal danger that he faced during President Marcos’ presidency.
In recognition of his outstanding leadership and courage — attributes that impelled him to play a paramount role in returning democracy to the Philippines, he was named Military Hero of the Peaceful People Revolution. This brief but momentous chapter in his military career led to Fidel Ramos’ assignment as Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces and two years later, his appointment as Secretary of National Defense.
In June 1992, General Ramos was elected 12th President of the Republic of the Philippines. He inherited a nation in the midst of a deepening crisis. Prolonged political instability, exacerbated by mounting casualties from attacks by Moro secessionists, military rebels, and terrorists; a poor and shrinking economy; a failing infrastructure; and a population disillusioned by the unfulfilled promises and high hopes generated by the overthrow of President Marcos all contributed to a sense of despondency that gripped the country.
President Ramos saw all of these problems as challenges. He understood that with proper motivation, strong and optimistic leadership, and a willingness to listen to the Philippine people, great strides could be made.
During his six-year term of office, remarkable gains were made by the Philippines in revitalizing the economy, repairing the infrastructure, and establishing peace with dissident factions of the country.
Promoting the principles of People Empowerment and Global Competitiveness, President Ramos never lost sight of the need to preserve and protect the democratic process in politics.
Fidel Ramos turned his attention to transportation, which was totally inadequate to the Nation’s needs in 1992. Through his energetic efforts, land, sea, and air facilities were upgraded; new bridges and roads were built to facilitate movement of goods to market; inter-island ferries were established; and rail transportation was improved, including intercity light rail.
President Ramos challenged the national long distance monopoly in communications, opening the field to competitors, and providing for cellular and home telephone service unavailable to the average Philippine citizen in 1992.
In 1991, the growth rate of the Philippine economy was a flat one percent and contracting. During the six years of the Ramos administration, the growth rate of the Gross National Product was 5.5%, peaking at 6.9% in 1996.
President Ramos fully understood that political stability was the key to the success of his ambitious economic and social programs. As a priority task, he was determined to make a just and enduring peace with the parties at odds with the government. These included the military rebels and the Moro National Liberation Front. By 1996, a formal peace agreement had been reached with both parties.
President Ramos and Nur Misuari, the Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front, received the 1997 Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize, the first time this prize had been awarded to an Asian nation.
Fidel Ramos always kept close to his people. In 1997 alone, he made 70 provincial visits and held 18 regional cabinet meetings.
The Philippine recovery during 1992-1998 was dramatic. No small part of this effort was the comprehensive social program introduced by President Ramos. The Social Reform Agenda addressed long-standing problems of health, education, skills training, housing, aid for the handicapped, agrarian reform, and equal opportunity. The average family income grew more during President Ramos’ administration than in the previous twenty years.
Fidel Ramos pushed for the deregulation of key industries, liberalization of the economy, privatization of public entities, and the encouraging of foreign investment.
Among his many decorations and honors, General Ramos has been awarded the Philippine Military Merit Medal (with Spearhead), the Distinguished Service Star (with Silver and Bronze Anahaw leaf), the Military Commendation Medal (First Bronze Equilateral Triangle), the Philippine Legion of Honor (Degree of Commander with Third Bronze Anahaw Leaf), the Distinguished Conduct Star, and the United States Legion of Merit (Degree of Commander). He has received honorary degrees and awards too numerous to be listed.
Throughout a lifetime of military and public service, Fidel Ramos has demonstrated resolute courage, peerless leadership, and unswerving devotion to duty. Over the fifty years since he graduated from West Point, he has lived by the ideals expressed in the West Point Motto: Duty, Honor, Country.
Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 2000 Distinguished Graduate Award to Fidel Valdez Ramos, USMA Class of 1950.
John A. Hammack
Chairman and CEO
Dr. Buzz Aldrin ’51
A distinguished airman, scientist, astronaut, and patriot, Dr. Buzz Aldrin has left an indelible mark, not only on the history of his country, but also on that of the world. In a career spanning nearly five decades, the incomparable measure of his achievements has been demonstrated in countless ways. His exploits as an astronaut have earned him international renown, and his current activities continue to build and burnish his reputation. As a leader in the scientific community, he inspires his fellow citizens to look to the future, set their goals high, and strive for greatness in advancing our Nation’s exploration of the frontiers of space. He is a living exemplar of the principles expressed in the motto of the United States Military Academy: Duty, Honor, Country.
After graduating third in his Class of 1951, Dr. Aldrin earned his Air Force pilot’s wings and soon found himself flying Sabre Jets in the Korean War. In that conflict, he demonstrated his skill and bravery by completing 66 combat missions and downing two MIG-15s, and in recognition of his achievements he was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and three Air Medals.
During the decade after his return from Korea, Dr. Aldrin served as a gunnery instructor pilot at the Fighter Weapons School, attended the Squadron Officers’ School, was the aide to the Dean at the Air Force Academy, flew Super Sabres with the 22nd Fighter Squadron in Germany, and earned a doctorate in Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he wrote a doctoral thesis on orbital rendezvous that developed techniques which would prove crucial to the future success of the Gemini and Apollo programs.
In October 1963, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration selected Dr. Aldrin as one of its early astronauts. After completing a training program that was both physically and mentally demanding, he began receiving operational assignments, first as a member of the back-up crew for the two-man Gemini 9 mission in May of 1966 and then as the pilot of the Gemini 12 mission in November. It was during the latter mission that Dr. Aldrin conducted the first satisfactory demonstration of man’s ability to work outside a space vehicle. As a fellow astronaut put it, “He invented the art of working in space.”
This was, however, only one of numerous innovations, and he accomplished the next in short order as the back-up command module pilot for Apollo VIII, the first flight around the moon. During that mission Dr. Aldrin significantly improved operational techniques for star display in astronautical navigation.
Finally, in 1969 he was named the lunar module pilot for Apollo XI, which NASA had selected to make the first landing on the moon, and on the 20th of July, while the largest worldwide television audience in history looked on, Neil Armstrong and Dr. Aldrin made their heroic and historic moonwalks. This scientific triumph, one of the most memorable events of the 20th century and the fulfillment of President John Kennedy’s challenge and pledge to the American people, represented the epitome of the Nation’s scientific capabilities and established its preeminence in the exploration of space.
Upon his departure from NASA in 1970, Dr. Aldrin, who was by then a Colonel, became the Commandant of the Air Force Test Pilot School, and he retired from the Air Force in 1972. Since then, as the head of Starcraft Enterprises and Starcraft Boosters, Inc., Dr. Aldrin has remained at the forefront of efforts to ensure that America continues to have a leading role in manned space exploration. As part of his lifelong commitment to this goal, he has created a master plan for a series of missions using a concept he developed called “The Cycler,” which is a spacecraft system that remains in perpetual orbit between Earth and Mars. He has also proposed reusable interplanetary space vehicles, a cost-effective solar power station on the moon, and a permanent space station whose design was patented in 1993.
In addition to all of his other accomplishments, Dr. Aldrin has authored or co-authored three books related to space exploration, Return to Earth, an autobiography; Men From Earth, a recounting of the United States-Soviet race to the moon; and Encounter With Tiber, a science-fiction novel designed to stir the imagination of the young and encourage their pursuit of the space sciences. Beyond the three books, he has also written dozens of articles about space-related topics. He participates in many organizations worldwide, including the National Space Society, that aim to develop future space programs and space education. Finally, his interest in American youngsters is manifest in his endorsement of two educational computer software programs for children.
Dr. Aldrin’s highest American awards and decorations include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the Air Force Legion of Merit, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Eleven foreign countries have also accorded him high honors, and six colleges and universities have granted him honorary doctorates.
Dr. Aldrin has shaped his life in accordance with the ideals expressed in West Point’s motto. A man of indomitable spirit, he has faced an extraordinary array of obstacles and challenges during his career. But his courage and enthusiasm, his imagination and intellect have always prevailed. He has fought for his country in war and expanded its knowledge in peace. He has walked where only one other has walked, and his deeds, words, and works have served to inspire generations of his fellow citizens to strive for higher, greater achievements.
Dr. Aldrin’s Howitzer entry remarked that “he should make a capable, dependable, and efficient officer in the U.S. Air Force.” This has turned out to be a vast understatement of the case. He is a truly great American, and accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 2000 Distinguished Graduate Award to Dr. Buzz Aldrin, USMA Class of 1951.
John A. Hmmack
Chairman and CEO
GEN Frederick M. Franks, Jr., USA (Ret.) ’59
Throughout a long and distinguished career of service to the nation, Lieutenant General Walter F. Ulmer Jr., has epitomized the ideals of “Duty, Honor, Country.” As a soldier, commander, visionary, and educator, he has always been known for his straightforward, effective practice of enlightened leadership. This theme in his professional life, coupled with his unwavering courage and integrity, made a far-reaching and enduring impact upon countless soldiers, the Military Academy, the United States Army, and the world of business.
Born in Bangor, Maine, Walter Ulmer graduated from West Point in the Class of 1952. Commissioned a second lieutenant of Armor, he was immediately immersed in the rigors of unit leadership, commanding companies in the 56th Amphibious Tank and Tractor Battalion in Korea, the 6th Tank Battalion, 24th Infantry Division in Japan, and the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. During these assignments, the development of practical advice for junior leaders became one of his life-long professional interests.
In 1958, he was assigned to the Department of Military Topography and Graphics at West Point, and, following that tour, he attended the Command and General Staff College. After graduation he deployed to Vietnam, serving with the U.S. Military Assistance Command and as senior advisor to a Vietnamese Infantry regiment. Upon his return to the United States, he held high-level staff positions and commanded the 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry, 82nd Airborne Division from 1967 to 1968.
General Ulmer then attended the Army War College and was subsequently selected for duty on its faculty. There, he directed a comprehensive and seminal study of leadership within the Army, profoundly influencing the way its techniques were inculcated throughout the Army of the 1970s.
In 1972, then-Colonel Ulmer returned to Vietnam, where he was Chief, Combat Assistance Team 70, during 62 days of intense combat in the Battle and Siege of An Loc. For its extraordinary heroism against a North Vietnamese force greatly outnumbering the Army Republic of Vietnam defenders, Combat Assistance Team 70 was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. The citation documents the team’s pivotal role in turning back the North Vietnamese Army’s massive surprise offensive of 1972. During the fighting, Ulmer and his team coolly coordinated vital operations while An Loc was pounded day and night by the war’s heaviest and most sustained artillery and tank assaults. The team’s actions helped to save Saigon for another three years, assuring the safe withdrawal of the remaining U.S. combat forces in Vietnam, and assisting in making possible the January 1973 peace agreement and release of American prisoners of war.
In 1973, General Ulmer completed a master’s degree in Regional Planning from Pennsylvania State University. Subsequently, he was commander of the 194th Armor Brigade and, then, Deputy Commander, U.S. Army Armor Center, Fort Knox.
In 1975, Brigadier General Ulmer returned to West Point as the 56th Commandant of Cadets. During especially challenging times at West Point, he emphasized the importance of command presence and increased the interaction between cadets and senior leaders at the Academy.
General Ulmer’s astute and inspiring leadership was equally effective during his command of the 3rd Armored Division in Germany and, later, during his service as Commanding General, III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas. Following promotion to Lieutenant General, he commanded III Corps from 1982 to 1985, receiving national attention as he implemented lessons learned during his three decades of leadership study and experience. General Ulmer’s straightforward approach to command and clear sense of purpose prepared the corps for a wide range of contingencies and positively influenced the command climate elsewhere in the Army.
In 1985, General Ulmer retired after thirty-three years of distinguished military service. His awards and decorations include the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal with “V” Device, and decorations awarded by the Republic of Korea, the Republic of Vietnam, and the Federal Republic of Germany.
General Ulmer has carried his life-long study of leadership into the world of business, successfully bridging the gap between the military and the academic and corporate worlds. For example, from 1985 to 1995 he served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Creative Leadership and presided over the dramatic expansion of that nonprofit organization. It grew into an internationally recognized center of excellence, rated by national business publications as the leader in executive development.
This year, the U.S. Army War College and Dickinson College announced their choice of General Ulmer to serve as the General of the Army Omar M. Bradley Chair of Strategic Leadership, a position jointly established by the two institutions. In recent years, General Ulmer has also remained engaged with West Point and its graduates. He has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Association of Graduates and repeatedly contributed his time and expertise to a variety of West Point Society activities.
Through a lifetime of service to West Point, the Army, and the nation, Walter Ulmer has immeasurably advanced the understanding of leadership; exemplified the ideal of courageous, selfless service; and burnished the image of West Point. It is with great pride that the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy presents the Distinguished Graduate Award for 2002 to Lieutenant General Walter F. Ulmer, Jr., USMA Class of 1952.
Thomas B. Dyer
Chairman and CEO