The pageantry of Graduation Week at West Point is unmatched. This year, it began on Tuesday with the annual alumni procession across the Plain to the statue of Sylvanus Thayer. COL (R) Richard ‘Doc’ Hesse ’45, the oldest graduate present, led the Long Gray Line across Diagonal Walk and placed a wreath at the statue’s base to honor “the father of the U.S. Military Academy.” Afterward, the graduates, including those from the Classes of 1945, 1950, 1955 and 1965, who returned to their alma mater for spring reunions, took their places on the Plain for the Alumni Review Parade.
Before the full Corps of Cadets marched by in their white-over-gray uniforms, six graduates were called to a place of honor and recognized by the West Point Association of Graduates (WPAOG) as Distinguished Graduates. 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.”
LTG (R) Larry R. Jordan ’68, Chairman of WPAOG, bestowed upon each honoree a medal, emblazoned with the words “Duty, Honor, Country,” to recognize how their lives of outstanding service to the nation embody the values for which West Point strives. Later, at the Alumni Luncheon in the Cadet Mess Hall, LTG Robert L. Caslen ’75, the 59th Superintendent of West Point, thanked these Distinguished Graduates for their “personal and enduring example of what it means to be a leader of character” and for the way each one of them has displayed “selfless service and given back to the Army, the nation and West Point.”
With Graduation just days away, the Distinguished Graduate Award ceremony provided the Class of 2015 a final opportunity to learn leadership lessons from some of the Academy’s most accomplished graduate leaders. Metz, who commanded at every level in the U.S. Army and successfully led Coalition Forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, reminds 2015 graduates to hold on to and cherish their character. “Many people have helped form it, but your character is yours—only you can lose it,” he said. Glore, Chairman of the West Point Association of Graduates from 2010-13, wants graduates to know that they’ll have high moments and low moments in their careers, but to do the best they can at all times. “In moments of doubt, know that you come from the best leadership institution in the world, and that West Point has taught you well,” Glore said. Noah, Vitty and Murdy all advise graduates to always follow their hearts and passions in life: “If that means staying with the Army, all the better,” said Noah; while Murdy said, “There are many ways you can serve and give back;” and Vitty reminds them “to maintain a relationship with West Point and try to remain committed to your class, too.” Finally, Moellering, who was the West Point Commandant from 1982-84 and later chaired USAA, and led Lear Siegler Services to new levels of success, notes that West Point has changed greatly from his cadet days, but is still producing great leaders. He said, “My advice with regard to leadership is that when you make a decision you don’t look back; be as confident in your leadership ability as I am in West Point’s ability to create the next generation of America’s leaders.”
LTG (R) Max W. Noah ’53
Mr. Roderic B. Vitty ’55
For six decades and counting, Mr. Rod Vitty has never missed an opportunity to serve as an ambassador for USMA and champion West Point’s impact on the Nation and its national pastime. His company, Vermont Heritage Press, has both published original works and republished classics that tell the West Point story through autobiography and historical research. He also established and personally funded The Doubleday Society, which presents an annual award to the Most Valuable Player on the Army Baseball Team. One of three cadets in Academy history to pitch a no-hitter himself, Mr. Vitty has a special connection with Army Baseball and is credited with spearheading the “Save Doubleday Field” effort, which raised funds to help construct Johnson Stadium at Doubleday Field. He also served as a West Point Regional Representative, the President of the West Point Society of Philadelphia and as an energetic and dedicated member of WPAOG’s Board of Trustees.
LTG (R) John H. Moellering ’59
Mr. William F. Murdy II ’64
Looking over Mr. William Murdy’s career, three topics immediately come to the fore: success in business, veterans support and leadership of West Point Society and WPAOG endeavors. After serving three tours in combat theaters, including two in Vietnam, Mr. Murdy had a highly successful 40-year civilian career as the CEO for six corporate entities, both public and private. He serves today as Chairman of the Hotel Thayer and the Thayer Leader Development Group, and remains on four large public company Boards. He also dedicated himself to advancing veterans affairs in unpaid capacities. Speaking for the board of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Major General and Ambassador Robert Kimmitt ’69 (Retired) said, “Bill has brought infectious enthusiasm and unparalleled business acumen to our efforts, which will succeed in large measure because of the contribution of his unique combination of skills.” He also brought these qualities as a leader to three West Point Societies and served on numerous WPAOG committees, including one for which he advanced the construction of the Herbert Alumni Center, West Point’s home for its graduates.
Mr. Jodie K. Glore ’69
LTG (R) Thomas F. Metz ’71
From a lieutenant with the 1/509, 8th Infantry Division to the commanding general with III Corps, Lieutenant General Thomas Metz (Retired), has commanded at every level in the U.S. Army. He also served as commander of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, successfully leading Coalition Forces against the insurgency, and helped lead the fight against IEDs as the second Director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). After retirement, he continued to have an impact as a seminar leader in the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Strategic Leader Development program for three Chiefs. In a handwritten endorsement, General Martin Dempsey ’74, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote, “Tom Metz is an officer every West Point graduate should emulate.”