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2007 Distinguished Graduate Award

  MG Joseph P. Franklin '55

Throughout his life of service as a distinguished Army officer, scholar, diplomat, business leader, and Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the West Point Association of Graduates, Joseph P. Franklin has continuously and conspicuously dedicated himself to the principles of Duty, Honor, Country.

;After graduating from West Point in June 1955, General Franklin was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers and completed the Engineer Officer Basic Course, Airborne School, and Ranger School.  He then reported to the 78th Combat Engineer Battalion in Germany, where he served as a platoon leader and a company commander until 1959.  In 1959, he was selected to attend MIT, where he earned Master’s Degrees in both Civil and Nuclear Engineering.

Following graduate school, General Franklin was assigned to the Army’s Nuclear Power Field Office as part of the Army Nuclear Power Program.  In this assignment, his initial role was project manager for the design of the world’s first floating nuclear power plant.  His second task was to lead a team of specialists to dismantle a portable nuclear power plant located on the Greenland icecap, and to salvage and return its highly radioactive components to the United States.  General Franklin accomplished both of these unique and incredibly complex missions to perfection.

Following completion of the Engineer Officer’s Advanced Course, General Franklin was assigned as an instructor in the Department of Military Art and Engineering at the Military Academy.  He took charge of the Nuclear Engineering course, and wrote a new full year curriculum in nuclear engineering for First Class Cadets.  His accomplishment with this course remained essentially unchanged for 40 years, until 2005, when it was expanded to become a Major Course of Study.

After his assignment at West Point, General Franklin completed a year of study at the School of Naval Command and Staff at the Naval War College.  In 1969, he was selected to command the 299th Combat Engineer Battalion, conducting combat operations in Vietnam and Cambodia.  For his superb leadership of this battalion in combat, he was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal.

General Franklin’s follow-on assignment from Vietnam was to the Office of Plans and Policy, the J-5 of the Joint Staff. There he used his nuclear training and field experience to write the study that was the basis for recasting the United States’ nuclear weapons arsenal under the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT).  While in that assignment, General Franklin was selected for attendance at the Army War College in 1972.  Shortly before his graduation, he was reassigned to be the Army Staff Group Executive for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  For his outstanding performance in this important position, he was recognized with a second Legion of Merit and the Joint Service Commendation Medal.

In 1979, Joe Franklin became one of the first members of the Class of 1955 to be promoted to Brigadier General, and soon afterwards was selected to be the Commandant of Cadets at West Point.  It was a turbulent period in the Military Academy’s history.  A serious cheating scandal had brought intense scrutiny to the institution, and West Point was also preparing to graduate its first class with female cadets.  With recommendations from a Blue-Ribbon panel, General Franklin worked with the Cadet Chairman of the Honor Committee to develop the initiatives that shaped new policies strengthening the Honor Code and Honor System.  Another of his highly successful innovations was persuading the Army’s personnel center to assign one senior non-commissioned officer as the “Tac NCO” for each cadet battalion.

Following a tour of duty as Assistant Division Commander of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii in 1982-83, General Franklin’s special talents earned him another call from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take an important assignment as Chief of the Joint US Military Assistance and Advisory Group in Spain.

Spain was poised to become a member of the European Economic Community when he arrived. This new democracy had just entered NATO, and many critical diplomatic and military issues had to be addressed and resolved.  Using his great interpersonal skills, General Franklin was instrumental in ensuring that Spain would become an important partner for peace.  When his tour of duty ended, he was awarded Spain’s highest decoration for military service and the US Army Distinguished Service Medal.

Following his retirement from active duty in 1987, Joe Franklin entered the world of business in the private sector.  Initially remaining in Spain, he began his service in the corporate world by forming a Spanish corporation, Franklin Sociedad Anonima, which consulted for US corporations seeking business in Spain, as well as for Spanish companies seeking business in the United States.  In 1992, he was recruited to lead Frequency Electronics, Inc., located in New York.  Serving as Chairman and CEO, he led FEI through a complex series of legal and administrative transactions that positioned the company to become a highly profitable and valuable contributor to the US defense, space, and telecommunications industries.  He stepped down as CEO in 1999, but remains Chairman of the Board.

Building from the broad array of personal and professional skills he had honed through both his military service and his private business career, Joe Franklin made a conscious decision:  he would turn his attention, and his impressive talents, to giving back to West Point.  He began his contributions to the Association of Graduates in 1993 with service on the Alumni Support Committee.  He was subsequently elevated to the Board of Trustees, appointed Chairman of the Alumni Support Committee, and was finally elected Vice Chairman of the AOG, where he served for four years.  In this capacity, he was a driving force behind the Bicentennial Campaign for the Military Academy, helping structure, guide, and lead the AOG development team that made the Bicentennial Campaign an unprecedented success:  exceeding its $150 million goal by $75 million.  He was also instrumental in orchestrating the many changes necessary to bring governance of the AOG into the 21st century and into compliance with the new statutes associated with not-for-profit organizations.

Thoughtful, forthright and modest, Joe Franklin is the epitome of a professional.  He has repeatedly proven his dedication to the ideals of West Point in the 52 years since his graduation.  As a soldier, businessman, and leader of the Association of Graduates, he has made all graduates proud to call him a West Pointer.  In short, Joe has been, is, and will continue to be a leader’s leader.

 Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 2007 Distinguished Graduate Award to Joseph P. Franklin.