By Erika Norton, WPAOG Senior Multimedia Journalist
The annual West Point Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Conference will now forever be tied to Herman Bulls ’78, his wife Iris and the Bulls family. At this year’s conference on August 30, it was announced that Bulls, Vice Chair of the WPAOG Board of Directors, endowed the conference in perpetuity, ensuring the conference he helped start continues to cultivate diverse and inclusive environments that foster further innovation at the Academy.
“Since 1996, Herman has faithfully served the AOG in various roles,” said WPAOG President & CEO Mark Bieger ’91 on behalf of the AOG Board of Directors. “Herman’s steadfast commitment to ensuring that graduates from diverse backgrounds remain connected to and engaged with West Point helped launch the very first Diversity & Inclusion Conference, and it is fitting that this conference will now forever be associated with Iris and Herman Bulls and their family.”
Bulls was inspired to start the D&I conference after starting a similar initiative while at Harvard Business School. He said that since there were so few Black graduates from HBS, he helped organize a conference, which included all Black graduates of HBS each year. Like West Point, some Black graduates did not have positive experiences during their time at school and weren’t enthusiastic about returning for class gatherings. Creating a conference with a diverse attendance proved to be a successful model.
Working with the first Black graduate to serve on the AOG Board, Minton Francis ’44, former Army Chief of Staff and AOG Chair at the time, General Shy Myer ’51, fellow AOG Board member, Curtis Harris ’78 and Bulls were able to start a conversation which resulted in the establishment of a Minority Outreach subcommittee of the board. The Diversity & Inclusion Conference was an outcome of these efforts and was organized and run by AOG until 2018 when the Academy became the organizing sponsor with support from AOG.
West Point has been an integral part of the Bulls family’s life. Bulls and his late wife Iris were married at West Point in 1980, and two of their three sons, Nathaniel and Jonathan, were born at West Point while he taught in the SOSH Department. Iris was an Admissions officer, where she was responsible for the admission of over 1,000 cadets during her career. Their two sons Herman, Jr. ’05 and Jonathan ’11 are graduates. Iris’ final resting place is in the West Point Cemetery.
Bulls said his family is proud to support this conference with an endowment in memory of Iris and to have the legacy of her contributions to the Nation memorialized.
“Our family is privileged to have the opportunity to support this very important initiative and we are happy that you are here to participate,” Bulls said. “Our hope is that the outcome of this conference and future gatherings will contribute to a more perfect union. That is a big goal and with your big ideas and participation, we can make it happen.”