University to Name Conference Center Ballroom after the late Gen. Vessey, a “Soldier’s Soldier” who Rose from Enlisted Man to the Nation’s Highest Ranking Military Officer
CBS Radio to Provide Anchored Coverage of Ceremony Beginning at 10:03 a.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at ConnectingVets.comAdelphi, Md. (Nov. 7, 2017) University of Maryland University College will commemorate the life of Gen. John W. Vessey Jr. during a Veterans Day ceremony at the university on Friday, November 10. Vessey, a 1963 graduate of the university, rose from the ranks of enlisted men to become the 10th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As part of the ceremony, UMUC will dedicate a ballroom at its College Park Marriott Hotel and Conference Center and unveil a triptych highlighting Gen. Vessey’s life and accomplishments. CBS Radio will livestream the ceremony on its Connectingvets.com website beginning at 10:03 a.m. on Friday, November 10.
UMUC will also announce the creation of the Gen. John W. Vessey Jr. Military Student/Veteran of the Year Award. The inaugural recipient, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alicia Hunt, is currently serving in Afghanistan and will provide a video message at the ceremony.
Members of Gen. Vessey’s family will attend the ceremony, including his daughter, Sarah, who will speak on behalf of the family.
“I got an awful lot of help from UMUC and from the education that I got there,” said Vessey in a 2009 interview with UMUC. “It’s a huge benefit to the armed forces to have well-educated soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, and it’s a huge benefit to society, as well.”
Vessey began his military career earlier than most people. In fact, the Minneapolis native was so anxious to join the National Guard that he lied about his age and enlisted as a 16-year-old in May 1939. He earned a battlefield commission during World War II and as a 41-year-old lieutenant colonel, earned a bachelor’s degree in military science from UMUC in 1963.
In 1970, Vessey graduated from Army Helicopter School as a colonel—and its oldest student by a decade and a half. He achieved the rank of general in 1976 and in 1982 became the military’s highest ranking officer when President Ronald Reagan appointed him as the 10th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
When Vessey retired in 1985 with 46 years of service, he was the last four-star World War II combat veteran on active duty and the longest serving member of the Army.
He said that he had tried to pattern his own life after a lecture by Nicholas Murray Butler, “Five Evidences of an Education,” that Vessey first heard discussed in a UMUC classroom. The lecture praised the correct use of language, refined and gentle dealings with fellow human beings, the power and habit of reflection, the power to grow, and the power to act with efficiency and effectiveness.
With those principles guiding him, Vessey continued to give back to UMUC, serving in 1995 as the first chair of the university’s Board of Visitors and later establishing the General John W. Vessey Jr. Scholarship Fund, which continues to award scholarships to degree-seeking students of The Undergraduate School at UMUC.
Serving the military is firmly entrenched in UMUC’s DNA. The university was founded in 1947 to serve adults students, many of whom were veterans returning from World War II. In 1949, the university was among the first to send faculty overseas to teach U.S. troops stationed in Europe. In 1956, UMUC expanded its operation into Asia.
Today, about half of the university’s 86,000 students are active-duty servicemembers or their families, veterans, reservists, and members of the National Guard.