Sitting presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Joe Biden commend UMGC for its service to the U.S. military and expanding role in higher education
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article appears in the 2022 issue of Achiever Magazine
Over the years, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) has received 10 letters of commendation from nine sitting presidents—beginning with Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1959, and followed by John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and—most recently—Joe Biden.The sentiments contained in each reflect both the changing role of American higher education and UMGC’s evolution as a global institution.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1959, writing to the university’s first chancellor, Ray Ehrensberger, noted that “more than twenty thousand members of our Armed Forces are now enrolled in [UMGC’s] overseas education program,” and cited this as “further proof of Americans’ respect for higher learning and, in particular, the eagerness of the men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps to take advantage of their educational opportunities.”
John F. Kennedy, in a 1962 telegram, wrote that it was “vitally important that the men and women of our Armed Forces be thoroughly trained in the many special skills now demanded of them by modern warfare.” Continuing education for military personnel, he added, “is essential to the future of our country and to our goal of peace with freedom for all peoples.”
Lyndon Johnson, in 1966, alluded to America’s rising prominence on the global stage, noting that “Our military personnel . . . constitute some of our most effective ambassadors abroad and their academic work is in keeping with their mission.”
Richard Nixon, writing in 1972, noted that—as the country shifted to volunteer military service—the importance of education would increase, and it would rank high “both as a source of individual attainment and collective strength.”
Gerald Ford, in 1974, acknowledged the challenging circumstances UMGC was often called to overcome, writing, “I know that during some of these years your courses were taught amidst the tensions of cold war and under trying physical circumstances in makeshift facilities.” All who were part of this effort, he added, “deserve the nation’s gratitude for their outstanding work.”
Ronald Reagan, writing in 1982 and again in 1986, cited technological advances in weaponry and tactics as having “placed new skill requirements and responsibilities upon our military, increasing the need for higher-level education and training.” He added, “I salute the staff, faculty and student body . . . on past achievements and offer every best wish for similar success in the years to come.”
Bill Clinton, writing in 1996, congratulated UMGC on its 50th anniversary, alluding to its impact—and the importance of education—in civilian as well as military populations.
“For fifty years,” Clinton wrote, “the faculty and staff of [UMGC] have been offering an ideal learning opportunity for their students and preparing them for the responsibilities that lie ahead. Our nation relies on schools such as yours to supply the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in the twenty-first century.”
Some 20 years later, Barack Obama would again acknowledge UMGC’s contributions, referring to America’s schools as “gateways to opportunity and engines for our Nation’s progress.” He continued, “Since your school’s founding, faculty and staff have prepared students to meet the challenges of their time. And by cultivating passion for learning, schools like yours help ensure the doors of opportunity continue to open wide for all who are willing to dream big.”
Finally, in 2022, Joe Biden wrote to congratulate UMGC on its 75th anniversary and again pointed to the increasing importance of higher education to the country’s current and future success. “Education is the one field that makes all others possible, . . . ” Biden wrote. “Institutions like yours not only educate our students—they shape our future.”