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.”
The awards will be presented in a ceremony at West Point on May 19, 2015. See photos of the event here and a video of the event here. The 2015 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients are:
LTG (R) Max W. Noah ’53
Commander of engineering troop units at all levels, key postings to the Army Staff and at TRADOC in the areas of operations research and financial management, and Comptroller of the U.S. Army, Lieutenant General Noah (Retired) accomplished much in his 35 years of active duty. Highlights of his career include conserving natural resources on the upper Mississippi River, developing cost effective procedures to help modernize the Army’s major weapon systems, constructing airfields in Israel after the Camp David Accords and teaching cadets “juice” as an Assistant Professor in USMA’s Department of Electricity. And his service didn’t stop in retirement. He continued to impact the Nation’s defense by working for Burdeshaw Associates and later his own defense consulting firm, and he volunteered his time with numerous non-profit organizations, including the Army Historical Foundation, Georgia Military College and WPAOG’s Finance Committee.
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
Name an international challenge in the last two decades of the twentieth century—the Achille Lauro hijacking, US hostages in Lebanon, the nuclear arms control negotiations at Reykjavik, etc—and chances are that Lieutenant General John Moellering (Retired) was involved representing the Nation in some capacity. He also had an impact at home serving as Commandant at West Point, where he stressed that the concepts of duty and honor were intertwined, and insisted on cadets focusing on Army service, not just graduation. After retiring with 28 years of service, he led Lear Siegler Services as its CEO, growing the company four-fold in 12 years. Later, under his Chairmanship of USAA, the Association was singled out as the only financial services company to maintain an AAA financial rating and be named by JD Power as the number one customer service company in the US. He remains active today teaching and mentoring MBA students at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, and giving presentations to civic, professional and academic groups on topics ranging from business ethics to national security.
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
“Jodie Glore has done more for our Academy than any graduate I know,” says Lieutenant General Franklin L. Hagenbeck ’71 (Retired), USMA’s 57th Superintendent. What has Mr. Glore done? His march to success includes commanding a rifle company with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, growing several industrial companies over the course of two-plus decades and championing West Point in several volunteer capacities, especially while serving on WPAOG’s Board of Directors, most recently as its Chairman. With WPAOG, Mr. Glore established the Communications & Marketing Department, revitalized the Development Office and launched For Us All: The Campaign for West Point, the most successful fundraising campaign in Academy history. Brigadier General Tim Trainor ’83, USMA’s Dean of the Academic Board, says, “[Mr. Glore’s] positive impact on the Academy will endure for decades through the graduates, staff and faculty that benefited from his efforts.”
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.”