West Point Ready to Lead…And More

I recently visited West Point and met with Todd Browne, West Point Class of 1985 and President and CEO of the Association of Graduates (AOG) at Herbert Hall, the offices of the AOG.  I met with Todd in his office and we talked about a number of issues.  We then reviewed the composition of the Campaign Cabinet for our new fundraising campaign.  We have had about 25 graduates and 3 non-graduates agree to participate.  We had four graduates decline, mostly due to health or financial reasons.  Our first virtual meeting of the Cabinet is Friday, May 27.

West Point Ready

Todd and I joined a meeting with Kristin Sorenson, VP Development; Samantha Soper, Claudia Phillips, and Courtney Schacht to review the first draft of our Campaign Communications Plan.  We talked over our Campaign Roadmap, theme selection, visual branding, printed case statement, and the nucleus fund phase calendar (I was very impressed by the work the team had done).  They came up with the theme West Point Ready with subpoints of Ready to Lead, Ready to Compete, Ready to Achieve, all leading to Ready to Serve.  As Chair of the fundraising campaign, I thought it important to have the fundraising projects fit into these buckets.  For example, donating money to the football team would help get them “ready to compete.”

A Top Challenge for Graduates

After our meeting Todd and I had lunch together in his office.  One of the biggest issues we face is that our polarized political environment affects everything we do, and we encourage our graduates to stay above the fray and provide apolitical, non-partisan leadership.

I worked in my hotel room to prepare for the WPAOG Board of Directors meeting and the WPAOG Advisory Council meeting later in the week.

WPAOG Board of Directors Meeting

The following day I went to the Eisenhower Room of the Thayer Hotel, where I chaired the West Point Association of Graduates Board of Directors meeting.  We had an informal breakfast and then opened the meeting with an Executive Session.  We talked Human Resources, our Board instructions to the Nominating Committee, and our annual ethics report.  CEO Todd then did his report.  That was followed by our Audit Committee, Finance Committee, and Investment Committee reports.

Following the meeting we had lunch and then received our reports from the Alumni Support Committee, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and Development Committee.  During the meeting we took many major steps forward, the most important of which was to approve more money to keep our Michie Stadium Renovation project on track, and to agree to the process of proffering this project to the Secretary of the Army.  We closed the meeting with an Executive Session.

I went down to Patton’s Tavern in the hotel to meet with Michael MacDougall and his wife Bremond whose son is in the Class of 2023.  I’ve asked Michael to serve on our Campaign Cabinet and he has agreed.  Michael went to the University of Texas and joined P&G after graduation.  He worked at P&G in Cincinnati for three years where he was focused on the Puffs brand but ended up leaving P&G and going to Harvard Business School before joining Goldman Sachs.  They currently have homes in Highland Falls (outside West Point), New York City, and Austin, Texas.

Donor Appreciation Dinner

Todd Browne picked me up, with his wife Janet, and took me to Eisenhower Hall, where we had our annual Donor Appreciation Dinner.  It started with a reception.  My friend and Major Gifts Officer Marc Gunnels was there.  I enjoyed catching up with Marc.  I went around the reception to introduce myself to everyone.

At the dinner I was at Superintendent Darryl Williams table with VP of Development Kristin Sorenson, the McDougall’s and more.  I gave a short speech thanking everyone for their contributions to AOG and West Point.  The Supe gave an inspiring speech.  There was a Cadet String Ensemble that performed.  The dinner ended with members of the Glee Club, current and past, leading the singing of the “Alma Mater.”

West Point Projects Day

Roz Johnson (Class of 1992) and I started in Thayer Hall, one of my former classroom buildings and the former riding hall for the Corps (General Patton would have taken horseback riding lessons there when he was a Cadet; it was converted into a classroom building; we all joke you can still smell the manure).  We attended a presentation from the Department of Behavior Sciences & Leadership (the Department Diane and I work with for MCLC).  The faculty supervisor was Major J. J Morgan, who teaches a management class.  Diane and I first met J. J. when he was studying at Duke University.  He joined Jordan Thomas, now Major Jordan Thomas and Officer in Charge of MCLC, and attended the Duke versus Army West Point football game with a group of us who worked together at VA.  Tom Allen, who teaches at the Sanford School at Duke, hosted us.

West Point Russian Presentation

The presentation was by a group of three Cadets, who reviewed Airbnb’s strategy and made suggestions for improvement.  Later in the day we attended a similar presentation on Disney’s streaming service.  From Thayer Hall we went to Washington Hall to attend a presentation I was highly anticipating.  Three Cadets gave a presentation on how Russia used disinformation before they attacked Ukraine.  I was eager to attend this presentation since I am invested in Ukraine from my trip and given Elizabeth and Jason’s work there.  I was surprised when I walked into the room and the entire presentation was in Russian.  Fortunately, the Professor had a translation and it was an outstanding, insightful presentation.

We then went to the Ike Café at Eisenhower Hall.  This is where we have breakfast for MCLC.  Dean Brigadier General Shane Reeves spoke.  He went through the academic program, pointed out all of the Margin of Excellence programs, and thanked all of the donors present for their philanthropy.  I sat at the table and had lunch with Shane, Todd Browne, and Kristin Sorenson.  A Cadet named Alma Cooper sat with us.  She was very impressive.  She described her research with nano particles, will help lead Beast Barracks this summer, and will compete for a Rhodes Scholarship next year.  This year West Point had a record four Rhodes Scholarship recipients and three Marshall Scholarship recipients.  No other university came close to West Point in these areas.

Following Projects Day, I then attended the Development Committee meeting of the West Point Association of Graduates.  The meeting was held in the Eisenhower Room of the hotel.  I thought it was important to attend the meeting as Chair of the new Campaign and as Chair of the Board.  It was the first in-person meeting of the committee.

Reception Dinner

LucYoshimaru

We then went to the ballroom of the hotel for our reception and dinner.  Attendees included Directors, Advisory Council members, and more.  After dinner I joined Gennifer, David, and their son Cadet Luc Yoshimaru for a drink.  You may recall, I worked with Gennifer when I was at VA to create a partnership with Veterans between Brentwood School, where Gennifer is Assistant Headmaster, and the Los Angeles VA.  During that time I helped Luc enter West Point.  This past summer I marched back with him from Lake Frederick to West Point.  Gennifer and David brought Luc from the barracks to the Thayer Hotel and fed him a large steak, typical for a Cadet.  We talked.

WPAOG Advisory Council Meeting

Friday was the day of our West Point Association of Graduates Advisory Council meeting.  We are organized into a Board of Directors, but also have a larger, 54-member, Advisory Council group.  It broadens our support for West Point, provides Advisory Council members to serve on Committees (with Directors who lead the committees), and provides us a group of people to train and observe to potentially become future Directors.  I chair the Advisory Council just like I chair the Board.  So AOG picked me up at the hotel and drove me to Eisenhower Hall, where we hosted a breakfast for the Advisory Council.

We then went through an agenda during which we informed Council members about our activities at West Point and answered questions, equipping the group to represent us with their classes and constituencies.  We set up the Advisory Council to make sure classes and geographic regions are represented.  I gave a similar welcome to the group as I did at the Board meeting.  Todd gave his President and CEO priorities pitch.  Mick Hauser, West Point Class of 1984 talked about the project he is leading to improve Highland Falls.  It is critical to attracting candidates for faculty and even Cadets.  Kristin Sorenson talked about our new fundraising campaign.  Dawn Georgalas then got us all loaded on buses for a trip to Bartlett Hall, the academic building where I studied chemistry, physics, and engineering sciences.

West Point Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering

West Point Nuclear Engineering

We then spent the rest of the morning with the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering.  Colonel Hartke, Colonel Gerving, and Major Critchfield took us through their work on photonics.  Colonel Chapman, Dr. Fekete, and Lieutenant Colonel Koch covered their research on space and high altitude for the Space Command.  This included demonstrations of lasers that can at great distances burn through rockets or ordinances, neutering their impact.  We saw a laser burn through plastic and one through steel.  The Army will have active Stryker vehicles with effective lasers that can be deployed to the battlefield in the new fiscal year.

West Point Laser Burning Plastic

We also went through the West Point Astronomy program, including looking through a telescope at the sun to view sunspots.  We then loaded back in the buses for a return trip to the Ike Hall Café in Eisenhower Hall, where we had lunch.  Terrence Sinkfield, Class of 1999, talked about his work leading Alumni Support for the AOG.  I gave some closing remarks before I was driven back to the Thayer Hotel.

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