The theme of this year’s Association of Graduates Alumni Leaders Conference, held August 11-14 at West Point, was “Engaging Every Heart in Gray.” Communications is always an area of emphasis at these conferences, which are sponsored by the Class of 1967, but this year’s was particularly focused on reaching out to the full spectrum of graduates.
Generational differences and social media were addressed early in the conference, and these two subjects tended to be woven throughout the rest of the conference; Prof;Michael Meeks of San Francisco State University pointed to studies that show attitude differences between generations and how leadership and work ethic differ between generations.
While the basic premise of Dr. Meeks’ presentation was hardly new, it took on an added dimension when coupled with the ongoing social media revolution resulting from the use of personal computers and smart phone communications. LTC Brian Tribus ’92, West Point Director of Communications, made it clear that cadets take full advantage of this new technology.
I suspect that many of us who graduated before 1990, and even some after, find the social media revolution a bit foreign, if not uncomfortable. An insightful observation by Dr. Meeks, which has also been observed by our Commander in Chief, is that technology can interfere with our ability to focus on things that really matter, and “make us stupid.” Old grads, especially, seemed to like hearing this.
Our lunch speakers also addressed communications and social media. COL MaryAnn Cummings ’82, Commander, Defense Media Activity – Army, talked about engaging soldiers and their families through media on Thursday. Friday’s lunch speaker, LTC Pete Kilner ’90 shared his experiences in using social media to begin an online leadership forum for company commanders and platoon leaders while in-theater. This exchange of “best practices” in real time allowed the immediate application of shared knowledge and techniques in the field, saving lives.
The Commandant, BG Bill Rapp ‘84, discussed the state of military training for the Corps of Cadet and introduced a panel of officers from the Tactical Department. The Dean, COL(P) Tim Trainor ’83, discussed the upcoming academic year and introduced a panel of academic department heads. Both panels fielded questions from the conference attendees.
The Chairman of the AOG Board of Directors, Jodie Glore ’69, and AOG Executive Director Bob McClure ’76 were present throughout the conference. Chairman & Glore pointed out that this was the first Leader’s Conference at which the entire membership of the Board of Directors and all Class and Regional Society Advisors were present.
Fundraising for West Point and the AOG was not ignored. West Point Director of Academy Advancement, COL Todd Browne ’85 and AOG Vice President of Development, Kristin Sorenson, discussed the ongoing “For Us All” campaign that sets specific fundraising goals for West Point and the AOG.
It was interesting to learn that the AOG is the only organization authorized to raise funds for USMA, and in this regard its role is different than alumni organizations of the other service academies. AOG Executive Director, Bob McClure ’76, noted that steps had been taken to prevent the reduction of federal dollars as fundraising increased. AOG Chairman of the Board of Directors, Jodie Glore ’69, pointed out that the types of activities for which most donated funds are used are not part of the budget that is federally funded.
The most spirited discussion of the conference occurred while discussing admission. The Director of Admissions, COL Deborah McDonald, presented the Academy’s program for recruiting the best candidates for West Point. It was observed that the country is experiencing a crisis in regard to education for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), but COL McDonald assured us that this was not causing a problem in recruiting and getting qualified candidates.; A conference attendee asked that if standards were being lowered to meet recruiting goals, and COL McDonald said that they were not. However, she also noted that there was a sliding scale when it came to meeting diversity goals.
We then broke out into recruiting regions. MAJ Mark R. McClellan is the Commander for the Southwest Region in which Colorado is located.; With the draw down in the Military Academy Liaison Officer (MALO) program, more is being ask of grads and societies to provide volunteers in recruiting for USMA.; He can be reached at 845-938-5717 or Mark.McClellan@usma.edu
The Superintendent, LTG David Huntoon ’73, was the guest speaker at the Alumni Leaders Dinner Friday evening. While LTG Huntoon had only been in his position for three weeks, he shared his experience with New Cadets during the Cadet Basic Training March Back from Lake Frederick on 7 August. Many of you have already viewed the FOX News Channel’s interview with LTG Huntoon that appeared on 13 August. In case you did not, or would like to see it again, here’s the link: http://video.foxnews.com/v/4310317/exclusive-new-superintendent-of-west-point/?playlist_id=86856
The Acceptance Day Parade on Saturday was a highlight of the conference, as usual. But for me, personally, the Colorado Parents Club Picnic after the parade was especially enjoyable.& It was an opportunity to speak with many cadets and their parents.
Board member, Bob Walcott ’78, was at the picnic, as was his son, Alex, who is a Firstie. Past board members, WPSD life member, and past-president of the Colorado Parents Club, Jerry Miller’73 and his wife Claire attended as well. Now living in Highland Falls, they continue to support Colorado organizations. On behalf of the Society, my thanks go to Jerry and Claire for graciously providing their home as a place to stay, and once again making the Alumni Leaders Conference a most enjoyable experience.
If you are registered on the AOG web site, you can go to www.westpointaog.org/netcommunity/leadersconferencepresentations to view the slides for all conference presentations.