West Point Hosts 2024 McDonald Conference for Leaders of Character

Categories: Academics, Cadet News, Grad News, Philanthropy & Donor Profiles
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By Erika Norton, WPAOG Senior Multimedia Journalist

West Point is hosting undergraduate students from across the globe this week for the annual McDonald Conference for Leaders of Character (MCLC). The conference, made possible by the vision and resources of founding benefactors HON Bob McDonald ’75 and Diane McDonald, provides cadets and attendees from different backgrounds the opportunity to take part in team-based experiential and analytical exercises to bolster leadership skills, foster critical thinking and collaboration, and explore strategies to address global issues.

“Leadership is the most scarce resource in the world,” McDonald said. “Leadership is also the highest leverage activity in the world. And as my wife and I moved around the world, what we realized was the really difficult problems can’t be solved by any one individual in the country, but need to be solved by groups of leaders working together across boundaries of organizations and countries. So what we do here is we bring people together, and with the help of the Behavioral Sciences and Leadership Department, provide a leadership experience and create a cohort that then goes back out into the world.” 

West Point cadets attend the conference, along with students from all over the world, and a small team of cadets are charged with the logistics from OPORD (operation order) to execution to AAR (after action review). 

This year’s conference theme is “Leading Innovation with Character” and explores the individual and organizational challenges and opportunities of embracing innovation. 

Cadet Joesph Boiquaye ’25, a Mechanical Engineering major, is attending the conference this year and is hoping to gain more confidence when sharing his ideas. 

“Someone in a breakout session earlier today said ‘trust is the currency that you have as a leader,’” Boiquaye said. “I want to have that trust in others and in myself—to put myself out there.” 

Events at this year’s MCLC include a panel on innovating at an entry level and leading organizations that embrace technology and change. Keynote speakers include Professor Amy Edmondson, Novartis professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School, and Adena Friedman, chair and CEO of Nasdaq. 

“This conference is important because it brings together a diverse group of leaders, including accomplished senior fellows, and it puts them in a team-based environment to reflect on character and leadership,” said LTC Steve Fennessy ’07, the officer-in-charge of the conference. “I’m excited this year about the incredibly talented and experienced senior fellows and keynote speakers that we’re bringing in, and our chance to engage with them and learn from them.”

Since the first conference in 2012, the McDonald Conference for Leaders of Character has touched the lives of over 650 student leaders. 

McDonald is the current Chairman of the West Point of Graduates and Cabinet Chair of WPAOG’s West Point Ready Campaign. He is one of West Point’s top supporters and an inspiration for all members of the Long Gray Line. 

Over the last decade, McDonald has seen the lasting impact of the conference.

“In 2019, I was in Ukraine, and one of the students from this program presented to me a way to thank Ukrainian veterans, which was to put your hand on your heart,” McDonald said. “Who would think that that individual had come here from a university in Ukraine, gone through this program, gone back to Ukraine, and is now making a difference there on the ground.” 

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