Thursday morning Diane and I were up before 6 a.m. I was suffering a cold, so I slept in rather than exercised. Plus, I wanted to get ready for the day’s events. We went down to the Washington Room of the Thayer Hotel, where we met Claudia Phillips, who is Director of Events for the Association of Graduates. Claudia planned and executed all the events surrounding the Grant Statue commemoration. We compared notes. Our guests began to arrive. We of course had family in Alexa, Rob, and Wells; and Barb and Colonel Retired Gary Gresh. We had friends from West Point: my classmates Sloan and Margaret Gibson; Lisa and Brian Haig; Matt Collier, who worked with me at VA; and more. We had friends from Cincinnati: Frances and Craig Lindner, Anne and Dean Kereiakes, Malott and Nancy Nyhart, and more. Author Ron White also attended. Professor Elizabeth Samet, who annotated the recently published Grant’s memoirs; Colonel Ty Seidule, Head of the Military History Department; and Colonel Everett Spain, Head of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership all attended.
I had arranged with Everett to put on a short program about how West Point develops leaders of character. Everett did a great job. He talked about the USMA Mission to create leaders of character, and the interaction of individual leader development (academic, military, physical, character programs) and leadership development practices following and leading, and how that led to the development of leaders of character. Then Claudia and I went over our schedule for the day. We left the Thayer at 9:30 a.m. and took buses to the West Point Visitors Center and the West Point Museum. Marc and Kaki Gunnels from the Association of Graduates went with us. At the Visitors Center everyone enjoyed the movie about West Point and touring the exhibits. The Director of the Museum accompanied us on the tour.
From there Diane and I went with Kaki and Marc Gunnels to Taylor Hall, where Diane and I met with Lieutenant General Darryl Williams, the Superintendent of West Point. We met in his office. He expressed his appreciation for our efforts for West Point, and Diane and I enjoyed getting to know him. Together we walked to the Mess Hall, Washington Hall, where we met our group. We watched the Cadets form for lunch. When the Brigade Adjutant mounted the Poop Deck for announcements, Darryl asked me to accompany him. The Brigade Adjutant, my former position as a Cadet, announced us and why we were there. The Corps cheered for us before we descended. We had a great lunch and Darryl ate with us.
After lunch we walked onto The Plain and over to where the Grant statue was in place. A gold sheath covered the statue and a tent was erected over the seating area. We encountered other friends like Lieutenant General (Retired) Bill Lennox, who was Superintendent of West Point four times ago.
The program involved music from the West Point Band. We opened the ceremony with honors and “The Star Spangled Banner.” The Catholic Chaplain gave the benediction. Todd Brown, CEO of the Association of Graduates, spoke and introduced me. I spoke briefly, then Darryl spoke and gave a great talk. The MC then asked Diane and me to approach the statue, with Darryl and Ulysses Grant Deitz (great-great-grandson of U. S. Grant). Darryl and I pulled the shroud from the statue. A couple of members of the Cadet Equestrian Team rode by and saluted Darryl from their mounts (emphasizing Grant’s well-known horsemanship). Afterward we sang along with the Glee Club the “Alma Mater” and “The Army Song.” From that point the ceremony ended, and many pictures were taken.
The West Point Historian Sherman Fleek took our guests on a tour of The Plain, from Grant’s time to today, and then we walked over to the library, Jefferson Hall, and the Haig Room (donated by graduate Al Haig and his wife) where all West Point’s Grant memorabilia was displayed. When Al Haig and his family donated the Haig Room, they posted pictures from his life and career. So, my classmate and friend Brian Haig, second son of Al and wife, who attended with his wife Lisa, took the group on a tour of the Haig pictures. His discussion of the events surrounded each picture and his reaction as a child were fascinating. Of course, many of the events occurred while we were together at West Point.
Among the memorabilia were Grant’s 4-star General coat, his diploma, a drawing he had made of American Indians in art class (in those days Cadets learned to draw as part of their reporting on battlefield conditions, there were no cameras), the Confederate sash of Robert E. Lee, the swords of Phillip Sheridan and William Sherman, the handwritten note to Simon Buckner (a classmate and Confederate General) about the terms of surrender at Fort Donelson (where Grant’s nicknamed “Unconditional Surrender” for U. S. Grant came from).
After taking buses back to the hotel, we met with our guests in the Patton Bar in The Thayer Hotel. We bought hors d’oeuvres and drinks for the group. About 5:30 p.m. we boarded buses for Herbert Hall, and the Herbert Alumni Center. There Association of Graduates CEO Todd Browne and his wife Janet hosted a dinner. In attendance were the Commandant of Cadets Brigadier General (Promotable) Steve Gilland and his wife Amy, and the Dean of the Academic Board, Cindy Jebb, and her husband, Joel. Todd spoke briefly to welcome everyone. We had members of the Grant Monument Association and the Ulysses S. Grant Association present, as they were all day. The Ulysses S. Grant Association and Library are at Mississippi State University. Todd presented a gift from the Association of Graduates, a maquette of the statue, to Diane and me, and Alexa and Rob.
Dr. Elizabeth Samet, who recently published an annotated version of Grant’s memoirs gave a fantastic speech, drawing a thread of continuity about values and leadership from Grant’s time as a Cadet through his life to what it means for us today. She received a spontaneous standing ovation. We took buses back to the hotel, where we met again in the Patton Bar. Eventually we said goodbye to our friends and turned in.
Diane and I were overwhelmed by the number of family members and friends that attended the events. It was an intersection of our lives—family from Alexa and Rob and Wells to Barb and Gary; classmates from West Point; the couple (Linda and Peter) that introduced us; friends from Cincinnati; friends from the VA (classmate Sloan and Margaret Gibson, Matt Collier); and more.
From the concept, to design, to the final installation of the Ulysses S. Grant Statue a tremendous amount of work was put forth by everyone involved. Below are some behind the scenes images and video of the preparation for the dedication and celebration ceremony.
The dedication and celebration ceremony for the Ulysses S. Grant Statue was held on Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. on The Plain at West Point. Guests were treated to the West Point Band, remarks from Mr. Todd Brown (’85) and LTG Darryl Williams (’83), and the presences of Ulysses Grant Dietz (great-great-grandson of US Grant) and Paul Slater (sculptor) for the statue unveiling.
Following the dedication and celebration ceremony and statue unveiling, guests were invited to join in the Alma Mater and Army Song, complimentary tours, and a reception dinner.
— U.S. Military Academy (@WestPoint_USMA) April 26, 2019
“Our presence today honors President Grant and the values of West Point – Duty, Honor, Country – which he so embodied and we cherish today and for eternity.
West Point has always been and will always be significant for me. That is why I choose to give back financially as well as with my time to support our Association of Graduates and the Academy.
I currently serve on the Board of Directors of the West Point Association of Graduates. WPAOG’s mission is to serve West Point and the Long Gray Line.
Many of you might not know that the Association constructs and delivers top-flight, gift-funded facilities and projects to the United States Military Academy. With the dedication of this statue, the number of major brick and mortar projects delivered by the Association now exceeds 50 – valued at over $250 million – improving the Academy’s programs and increasing its competitiveness.
I believe the role of members of the Long Gray Line is to give back; to support the cadets who come after us; to ensure this fine institution continues to thrive.
Diane and I have been fortunate enough to be in a position to support West Point over our lifetimes.
We were especially thrilled to be able to help bring to life this incredible tribute to President Grant’s legacy of leadership.
Throughout my life, I have heard the stories and lore surrounding the man. Most of my 33-year career at Procter & Gamble was spent just outside of Grant’s hometown in Georgetown, Ohio.
As my fascination grew over the years and historians have re-looked his impact on our country, I believe Grant’s legacy and relevance to our Nation’s story is receiving the appreciation it rightly deserves.
As a member of the Long Gray Line, It is fitting to honor President Grant here at West Point – as one of our own. As a soldier and leader deserving acclaim, today he stands proud among those who also spent a lifetime serving our nation: Washington, Eisenhower, and MacArthur.”
The Robert A and Diane J. McDonald Foundation has contributed matching dollars with Main Street Ventures for the The Wendy S. Lea Female Founder Grant that is awarded to first-time female founders and companies. Read the complete article.
Founded in 1947, The Horatio Alger Association honors the achievements of outstanding leaders who have accomplished remarkable successes in spite of adversity by bestowing upon them the Horatio Alger Award and inducting them as lifetime Members. The Association has named 14 individuals who have overcome adversity to achieve personal and professional success to is 2020 Member Class. Bob […]
Every guest room at the renown Thayer Hotel in West Point, NY is dedicated to a distinguished graduate of West Point. The decor of each room reflects the accomplishments and milestones of an individual who has made significant contributions to the nation and world. Below are the major milestones in the life of Robert McDonald: […]