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2010 Distinguished Graduate Award

HON Thomas White '67

Throughout his adult life, from commissioning on June 7, 1967, through 23 years of active-duty service, becoming the first general officer for the Class of 1967, followed by a successful business career and then subsequently as the 18th Secretary of the Army, Thomas E. White has personified the precepts of Duty, Honor, Country and selfless service to the nation.

Tom White commanded troops with great distinction at every level from armored cavalry platoon through regiment.  He served two tours as a junior officer in combat in Vietnam, first as a reconnaissance platoon leader in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and later in the 1st Aviation Brigade with the last US air cavalry troop remaining in Vietnam.  He quickly established a reputation as valorous in battle, courageous in command, attentive to his Soldiers, and unshakable in his resolve to accomplish every mission, regardless of its difficulty.  During his two combat tours, Tom was decorated several times for valor, receiving the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After his combat tours in Southeast Asia and graduate school, Tom took on duties as the main analyst in the office responsible for developing and acquiring the M1 Main Battle Tank.  Later, he returned to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Germany, during some of the coldest days of the Cold War.  There, he commanded a squadron and, several years later, the regiment itself, where he again set the standard for tactical command.  His final assignment brought him to The Pentagon as the executive assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell.  Throughout Tom’s time as an active duty officer, his example of excellence was very clear to all who served with him.  Because of his great talent, he was always selected for the most difficult and competitive jobs.  In each of those demanding positions, he performed magnificently, always gaining tremendous respect from his peers.

After his retirement from active duty in 1990, Tom embarked on a career in the civilian sector, rising quickly to senior level positions within Enron Corporation, principally in charge of its hard asset business and primarily focusing on power generation, gas pipeline transmission, and alternative energy sources throughout the world.  In 1993, he was appointed Chairman and CEO of the Enron subsidiary charged with developing its energy infrastructure portfolio, domestically and internationally.  In 1997, he was promoted to run Enron's new venture business, exploring state of the art alternative energy concepts (solar, wind, bio fuels, and other green technologies), which today serve as essential building blocks for US energy policy.  One of these "cutting edge" businesses (the wind segment) was developed from infancy, sold to General Electric, and is now the second largest wind turbine manufacturing business in the world.

Electing early retirement from Enron in April 2001, Tom then accepted an appointment as Secretary of the Army in the administration of President George W. Bush.  He served in that position until May 2003, leading the Army during one of the most difficult periods ever encountered by our nation.  It started with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and these were followed by the early days of the Global War on Terrorism and combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, all huge challenges for America.  The needs of the Army frequently were at odds with others demands, but Secretary White endeavored to do what was right for Soldiers, the Army and the nation.  Army Transformation, the Stryker family of vehicles, Future Combat System, and Army Family Well-Being all bear his handprints.  However, he is perhaps best remembered for his unwavering support of former Army Chief of Staff General(R) Eric Shinseki, and his unblinking testimony before Congress on the required force structure needed to sustain ongoing combat operations in Iraq, a position that proved correct.  Tom White’s example of placing the nation above his career serves for all as a model of the “harder right” articulated in the Cadet Prayer.

After serving as Secretary of the Army, Tom returned to Houston, Texas, where he and several other West Point graduates started DKRW Energy LLC.  During the past six years, this company has grown to be one of the leading alternative energy development companies in the country.  In his role within the company, Tom has proven to be an inspirational and creative leader, with exemplary business and financial skills.  His vision has earned him the highest respect of the Houston area business community.

Tom White’s lifelong career of distinguished public service as an Army Officer, business leader, and Secretary of the Army has made permanent and invaluable contributions to the welfare and security of the nation.  With an uncommon devotion and dedication to Soldiers, the Army, and the nation, Tom White exemplifies the finest qualities of an American Soldier and graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Accordingly, the West Point Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy takes great pride in presenting the 2010 Distinguished Graduate Award to Thomas E. White, Jr.