General John Vessey, Jr., Retired
Retired General John W. Vessey, Jr. was the founding chair of University of Maryland University College's (UMUC) Board of Visitors in 1995. In addition to his vibrant role as a board member today, he is the honorary chair of the UMUC Leadership Circle, a group whose charge is to raise funds for the university's new military scholarship campaign.
Vessey's distinguished 46 years of military service began when he enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard in 1939 and officially concluded in 1985 with his second term as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was called to active duty with the U.S. Army in 1941, and fought in North Africa and Italy in World War II. Through the years, Vessey's military career has included innumerable achievements, such as his many roles during a long association with North Atlantic Treaty Forces and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Vessey was promoted to general in 1976 and has received many senior assignments. In 1978, he became the first commander-in-chief of the Republic of Korea-United States Combined Forces Command. Vessey returned to Washington in 1979 and became the U.S. Army vice chief of staff. President Reagan appointed him the 10th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1982.
In addition to his active military service, Vessey served in a number of special capacities. He was a member of the Commission on Integrated Long-term Strategy and the Moscow Assessment Review Panel, and in 1987, President Reagan appointed him the Presidential Emissary to Hanoi to negotiate with the Vietnamese government about resolving the fates of missing Americans and other matters. Presidents George H.W. Bush and William Clinton endorsed Vessey by continuing that appointment.
Vessey received the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Defense Distinguished Service Medals, in addition to many other military decorations. He was the recipient of the Purple Heart and medals from 19 friendly and allied nations. In 1992, President Bush awarded Vessey the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Though retired, Vessey's service to the public and private sectors is impressive. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves as chairman of its Center for Preventive Action. He serves on the boards of several industrial firms as well.
In addition to Vessey's military education, he earned a BS degree from UMUC in 1963 and an MS degree from George Washington University in 1965. He is the recipient of honorary doctoral degrees from UMUC, Concordia College, and many other universities. UMUC awarded Vessey the Distinguished Alumnus Award.