UMUC’s Most Distinguished Alumnus, Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., Dies

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Gen. John W. Vessey Jr. (’63), known as a soldier’s soldier and who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Reagan administration during a 46-year military career, passed away at his home in North Oaks, Minnisota, on August 18. Gen. Vessey was featured in the spring 2015 issue of University of Maryland University College’s Achiever magazine as a “History Maker,” arguably UMUC’s most accomplished alumnus. In a letter to the UMUC community (see below), President Javier Miyares honored Gen. Vessey’s inspirational life as an enlisted man who misrepresented his age in order to fight in World War II and rose to become the military’s highest ranking military officer.

Dear Colleagues,

It is with a profound sense of loss that I write to inform you that Gen. John W. Vessey Jr. (U.S. Army, Ret.)—a 1963 graduate of UMUC, the first chair of our Board of Visitors, and the 10th chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff—passed away last night at his home in North Oaks, Minnesota. He was 94.

Gen. Vessey’s career and service to our country are legendary. He purposely misrepresented his age in order to enlist in the Minnesota National Guard at 16 years old and received a battlefield commission in World War II. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in military science from UMUC—then still a branch of what is now University of Maryland, College Park—as a 41-year-old lieutenant colonel, and graduated as a colonel in 1970 from Army Helicopter School, its oldest student by 15 years.

In 1976, he achieved the rank of general, and in 1982 became the country’s highest ranking military officer when President Ronald Reagan appointed him chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff—the rarest of honors for one who began his career as an enlisted man. When he retired in 1985, after 46 years of service, he ranked as the longest serving member of the U.S. Army.

Gen. Vessey continued his legacy of service well into retirement, returning to Vietnam repeatedly as a special envoy of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, to investigate the fates of American servicemembers who were listed as missing in action or prisoners of war. His negotiations with Hanoi in 1988 led to Pentagon teams being granted permission to search in country, retrieving the remains of some 900 military personnel over the space of two decades.

A lifelong advocate of education, Gen. Vessey said that he tried to pattern his own life after a lecture—entitled “The Five Evidences of an Education,” by the American philosopher, diplomat, and educator Nicholas Murray Butler—that he 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.

Today, the General John W. Vessey Jr. Scholarship Fund awards scholarships to degree-seeking students of UMUC’s Undergraduate School, with preference given to Purple Heart recipients, active duty military personnel and members of their immediate families, military personnel who are currently transitioning to civilian life, and students with demonstrated financial need.

Gen. Vessey will long be remembered as UMUC’s most distinguished alumnus, and rightfully so. His life of service and commitment to the men and women who wear the uniform of our country stand as a reminder of the importance of our mission, of the power of education to change lives, and as an inspiration to women and men everywhere who aspire to lead with integrity, courage, and grace. He will be deeply missed.

Sincerely,

Javier Miyares, President

University of Maryland University College

Winners Announced for 3rd Biennial Maryland Regional Juried Art Exhibition

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University of Maryland University College (UMUC) Arts Program has announced the winners of its third Biennial Maryland Regional Juried Art Exhibition (BMRE), which opens to the public September 18, runs to December 31, and features works by new and emerging artists from throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia.Continue Reading

Alumnus Gives Voice to America

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From a very early age, said Andre Mendes, he was certain about two things: He was fascinated with the United States and he wanted his life to have an impact.  So it’s no small irony that the lad who spent his formative years in his native Portugal consuming Reader’s Digest and Hollywood-driven TV would grow up to lead the information and technology efforts for the U.S. Government’s independent global media agency that shares international events and everything American with people around the world who lack access to free-flowing news and information.Continue Reading

Groberg Addresses Democratic Convention in Philadelphia

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UMUC student and Medal of Honor recipient Florent Groberg was a speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week.

Groberg said: “I am here tonight not as a Democrat or a Republican. I’m here as a proud immigrant to this country, a proud veteran of the United States Army and proud recipient of our country’s highest military honor.”

In his speech, he also recounted the incident in which he tackled a suicide bomber and was severely injured while on a tour of duty in Afghanistan. His heroism was recognized with the Medal of Honor, bestowed on him by President Barack Obama at the White House in December 2015. Groberg was the subject of a cover story in the latest issue of Achiever magazine.

Groberg spoke on Thursday, July 28, the same day that Hillary Clinton made history by becoming the first woman to be a major-party nominee for president of the United States.

Watch Groberg’s speech HERE.

 

Alumni Make Their Mark at Achievement Celebration

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More than 400 University of Maryland University College (UMUC) Alumni gathered in-person and online at Adelphi, Maryland, in June for the 26th Alumni Reception and Awards, to demonstrate the many ways alumni worldwide make their mark through their personal and professional achievements.  Six outstanding alumni volunteers among them were honored for their exceptional service to UMUC.Continue Reading

Chumbow Advocates for Fellow Human Trafficking Survivors

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When Evelyn Chumbow answered her phone one day last August, the voice on the other end of the line said, “This is the White House calling.” Obviously, a proverbial joke. “I [thought], ‘This is a lie.’ I said, ‘OK. How did you get my number?’” But when Chumbow Googled the caller’s name, she realized, “Oh wow. This is the White House.”Continue Reading