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2008 Distinguished Graduate Award

Mr. James V. Kimsey '62

As a soldier, public servant, business leader and philanthropist, James V. Kimsey has provided exceptional service to our nation and the world throughout his remarkable career of accomplishment and distinguished leadership.

Jim Kimsey grew up in South Arlington, Virginia, and spent a year at Georgetown University before entering the United States Military Academy with the Class of 1962. Upon graduation and commissioning as an infantry officer, 2nd Lieutenant Kimsey joined the 82nd Airborne Division, where as a company commander, he was first on the ground during the US intervention in the Dominican Republic.  In 1965, Jim commanded a District Advisory Team at Duc Pho in the northern part of South Vietnam.  While in country, he tenaciouslyand successfully argued withvarious US and international organizations to establish an orphanage at Duc Pho, an entity that he has supported for more than thirtyyears.  After a year stateside, Captain Kimsey returned to Vietnam in 1968 with HQ, Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) and the Joint Special Operations Center, where he was promoted to Major. As a soldier, Jim demonstrated characteristics drawn from the basic tenants of leadership at West Point:  taking care of soldiers; mission focus; and core values of integrity and respect.  His combat decorations and induction into the Ranger Hall of Fame reflect powerfully on those tenets. He maintains an active interest in America’s national security through his membership on the Joint Special Operations Forces Institute Advisory Board and the Pentagon’s Defense Business Board.

Upon his return to the United States after military service, Jim embarked on a successful business career culminating in one of the most profound commercial success stories of the last thirty years.  His visionary leadership and entrepreneurial spirit was on full display when in 1985, he transformed what began as Quantum Computer Services into the widely recognized America Online, Inc. (AOL), the nation's leading independent provider of interactive online services to consumers, and the largest company ever started in the Washington Capital Area. Perhaps most importantly, Jim's business career reflects the principle of personal and professional honor in his every endeavor.  His many awards for leadership and business excellence attest to that core value. 

The phenomenal success of AOL provided JimKimsey withthe resources to make a difference in the world. In 1996, Jim became AOL Chairman Emeritus and turned his energies to new challenges in business, philanthropy, and personal diplomacy through the creation of the Kimsey Foundation.  The Kimsey Foundation provides grants that benefit the community in areas from the arts to education; its overarching mission is to level the playing field for Washington, DC's disadvantaged youth through education and technology.  Jim has served on boards such as Washington Scholarship Fund, taking time often to visitvarious schools, hold meetings with the students and encourage their desire to become better students and better citizens. He demonstrates pride in his Army service and West Point with his support for JROTC, ROTC, and Army recruiting in the District of Columbia. Jim is also deeply engaged in international affairs.  Jim has accompanied former President Clinton to Vietnam, and in his position as Chairman of the Board of Refugees International, he has visited Bosnia, Timbuktu, and Cambodia to assess refugee repatriation, land mine removal and the other human rights concerns.  

In 2001, Jim was named Chairman of the International Commission of Missing Persons (ICMP) in Bosnia by Secretary of State Colin Powell. The ICMP is an organization dedicated to identifying the more than 40,000 missing from the conflicts in the regions of the former Yugoslavia, through DNA research. From this little-heralded, but important post, Jim not only helped thousands of grieving families, but also contributed significantly to healing the wounds of the nations in that troubled part of the world.  In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, he deployed the Commission’s DNA experts to assist in the identification of remains found at Ground Zero. After the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Jim traveled to Iraq to oversee ICMP efforts there and has visited several times since. 

Jim was recently appointed by President Bush to a second term as a member of the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees. 

Nationally, Jim supports many veterans' projects, including the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Fund, where he is chairman of its corporate council. Jimgave his timeand talent to helpenact legislation,passed by Congress in 2003, for the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Center.  Hisspeeches about duty, honor, and country at the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial are always enthusiastically received.  West Point has also been a great recipient of Jim Kimsey’s patronage. During the Bicentennial Campaign to support “margin of excellence” programs at the Academy, Jim’s Leadership Gift provided one of the key elements that allowed the Campaign to be so successful. In addition to supporting a new athletic center and training facilities at West Point, Jim assisted in the development of the internationally recognized Combating Terrorism Center.

It is rare that one person gets a chance to make a difference in the world in so many areas; Jim Kimsey is such a person. His management skills created one of the world's leading Internet firms.  He has brokered international agreements; served with distinction in prestigious diplomatic positions; improved educational opportunities for youth; been a spokesperson for veterans and their programs; and made West Point a better, stronger place for growing future leaders.

Accordingly, the West Point Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 2008 Distinguished Graduate Award to James V. Kimsey.