A Legacy of Leadership: Indra and Raj Nooyi

Category: Philanthropy & Donor Profiles
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The Class of 1951 Chair for the Study of Leadership in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership is a position filled by an eminent leadership practitioner or scholar who helps enhance the ability of both the department and the Academy to fulfill the mission of developing leaders of character.

Indra Nooyi was named the Class of 1951 Chair for the Study of Leadership in 2019 after retiring from PepsiCo, where she served with distinction for more than a decade and was named one of the “Best CEOs in the World” by the CEOWORLD magazine.

As Chair, Nooyi shared her significant experience and insights, educating and mentoring both cadets and faculty. During her three-year tenure, she led seminars with various cadet and faculty groups, facilitating discussion and thinking on topics such as transformational leadership, leading change, demonstrating moral courage, and building inclusive teams. “I will always cherish the time I spent at West Point. I enjoyed sharing my leadership journey and experiences with the cadets and faculty alike, but I, in turn, learned a lot from everyone there about how to live by the Academy’s motto of Duty, Honor, Country,” reflected Nooyi.

“Mrs. Nooyi runs to the sound of the guns, as we say in the service. If there is a need in society, she goes to help without anyone asking, she immediately is drawn there. She minimizes her own profile but maximizes her contribution. She is also a leader developer, building people to be their best selves,” said COL Everett Spain ’92, Head of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership.

Inspired by her time at West Point, Nooyi determined to expand her impact by helping to foster leadership development for future West Point cadets, focusing on cadet candidates at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (USMAPS). In 2022, she and her husband, Raj Nooyi, a global supply chain executive and recent interim CEO of Plan International, a global non-profit girls-rights organization, established an endowment to support the Vanguard Leadership Development Program at USMAPS to help prepare, motivate, and inspire cadet candidates who have demonstrated leadership potential.

The Vanguard Leadership Development Program aims to spark a desire in cadet candidates to become lifelong students of inclusive and inspirational leadership. The program offers developmental opportunities, distinguished guest speakers, and developmental trips during the ten-month USMAPS experience that go beyond the core offerings. The signature elements of the program are the Nooyi Family Distinguished Lecture Series, the Vanguard Leadership Project (VLP), and the Vanguard Character Award.

The Nooyi Family Distinguished Lecture Series plans to host two distinguished speakers per year. At least one of the two distinguished speakers will be selected to bring visibility to immigrant leaders, whose vision, hard work, values, and determination have strengthened and helped to advance this country.

The VLP centers on encouraging cadet candidates to engage in and assess fundamental leadership opportunities. It provides opportunities for cadet candidates to interact with distinguished leaders, such as Mrs. Nooyi and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ’75, and to learn important leadership lessons. VLP will support programming and travel that enable cadet candidates to learn from others and share their learned experiences. Cadet candidates will work together to incorporate lessons learned from their experiences and reflections on their growth and development into a presentation to be made to the Nooyi family at the end of the academic year.

The Vanguard Character Award will be given annually to four cadet candidates who have demonstrated outstanding character during their time at USMAPS. One of the awards will be the overall Vanguard Battalion Award and the remaining three will be given to one cadet candidate from each of the companies. This award recognizes the importance of diversity and reflects an appreciation for the fact that people of different backgrounds and experiences can achieve and contribute to the nation at the highest levels as leaders of character.

Raj and Indra Nooyi’s leadership and commitment to helping to grow and nurture our cadet candidates as leaders will have a profound impact that will resonate far into the future. Their support is critical to providing cadet candidates at USMAPS, West Point’s future cadets, with the best possible resources and opportunities to succeed at the Academy as future leaders of character for the nation.

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