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2005 Distinguished Graduate Award


Major General Neal Creighton began his distinguished thirty-one year military career as a young Armor officer patrolling the East German border during the height of the Cold War, proved his combat leadership and physical courage as commander of the 3rd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, in seven battles during the Tet Offensive of 1968, and later commanded the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized). Upon retirement, his managerial expertise and commitment to excellence were proven in a number of impressive civilian and quasi-military pursuits, including city manager of Asheville, North Carolina, president of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, interim president of Westminster College, executive director of the World War I Liberty Memorial and Museum project, and campaign director for the National Museum of the United States Army.

Patrolling the border with East Germany during some of the most ominous years of the Cold War, as both a platoon leader and later as a troop commander, provided the most realistic of training for a young Armor officer. This was followed by language training at Middlebury College and the University of Madrid in preparation for three years as a member of the Department of Foreign Languages and further utilization with the Military Advisory Assistance Group, Dominican Republic, in 1963-64, and with Southern Command for two additional years. This was followed by his Vietnam tour as a squadron commander, during which he was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action and the Bronze Star for valor while the 11th Cavalry Regiment earned the Valorous Unit Award for its actions during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

Upon returning to the United States, he served with the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and in the office of the Undersecretary of the Army, making perhaps his greatest contribution in regards to the Panama Canal situation, confirming his interest in, and knowledge of, Latin American affairs that continued long after his retirement from the military. He returned to Germany in 1973 and assumed command of a brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division in 1974. After another tour in the Pentagon, he commanded the 1st Infantry Division (Forward) in Germany before eventually taking command of the entire division.

Upon retiring from the Army in 1984, he served for a year as the city manager of Asheville, initiating a major renewal of the downtown area before embarking upon a 14-year career with the McCormick Tribune Foundation. While heading the Foundation, he secured its financial future, constantly served as an interface between the military and civilian sectors, crusaded for the freedom of the press in Latin America, and contributed to the education of underprivileged youngsters in Chicago´s poorest areas. In addition to such diverse activities as visiting newspapermen in Communist Cuba, serving as an election observer in Panama and Nicaragua, and hosting commemorations of the 75th anniversary of World War I, the 50th anniversary of D Day, and the 50th reunion of the Tuskegee Airmen, he was instrumental in the development and adoption of the Declaration of Chapultepec—a Magna Carta of free speech and free press for Latin America—and in the encouragement of conferences between the military and the media that led to the adoption of the concept of "embedded reporters" during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Within Chicago´s housing projects and low income areas, he focused the activities of the McCormick Tribune Foundation on early childhood education. As a result of these programs, the area has the largest number of accredited early childhood education centers in the Nation. Additionally, he initiated a Chicago-area AMERICORPS program that gives West Point cadets the opportunity to teach and mentor summer school students.

Upon departing the McCormick Tribune Foundation, he accepted the position of interim president of Westminster College, an institution of higher learning in Fulton, Missouri, initiated a much-needed capital campaign, and assisted in the selection of a permanent successor. Soon, however, his expertise was required by the leaders of Kansas City, Missouri, to organize a $90 million project to restore the Nation´s largest World War I Memorial/Museum, the Liberty Memorial. Agreeing to accept the position of executive director for one year, he raised funds to renovate the memorial and expand the museum, established a governance mechanism, and again assisted in the selection of a qualified successor.

Elected to a three-year term on the board of directors of the Army Historical Foundation in the fall of 2002, he did not realize at the time that he would soon face his greatest challenge to date. In May of 2004, the Foundation contracted with the Department of the Army to act as the official fundraiser for the planned National Museum of the United States Army. A month later, Major General Creighton was asked to lead the $200 million campaign and is now serving in that capacity.

Accordingly, it is with great pride that the Association of Graduates presents the 2005 Distinguished Graduate Award to a soldier and statesman who daily sets new standards of selfless service, Neal Creighton, Class of 1953.
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