Honorary Degree Recipient
Doctor of Laws
School of Dentistry, May 16, 2008
General John William Vessey, Jr., retired United States Army four-star general, was born in Minneapolis in 1922 and graduated from Roosevelt High School. He retired in 1985 after a 46-year military career. He served in the Minnesota National Guard, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He earned a bachelor's of science degree in 1963 at the age of 41 from the University of Maryland and a master's degree from George Washington University in 1965. He was appointed by President Reagan as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from June 1982 to September 1985. Because of his significant leadership roles, he received numerous decorations, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army, the Navy, and Air Force Distinguished Service Medals, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, and the Purple Heart. After retirement, he became involved in the effort to account for military personnel listed as missing in action from the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H. W. Bush in 1993 for his commitment to this initiative. He is described as "someone who has had the opportunity to influence our country's foreign relations, possibly more than any other person in armed forces this past century," and who has been "instrumental in helping shape our international strategic policies during some of the most trying times in the past sixty years of our country." Since retirement, he has also acted as a diplomat and adviser to several Presidents and has served on several commissions and boards.
Biographies are as-of time of award presentation.