Alumni Profile

Joseph Dunford '77

USMC Four Star General, Commander of International Security Assistance Force and US Forces Afghanistan

I always planned to serve in the military but never intended to make it a career. My father was a Marine veteran who had a 40-year career with Boston Police. I heard of St. Mike's while a senior at Boston College High School. I had a great talk with an admissions recruiter and surprised my family by choosing to come to Saint Mike's along with my second-cousin, Dan Tarpey Jr. '77, whose father Dan Tarpey Sr. '52 drove us up to campus as first-years, sight-unseen. We got interested in the Marines the same weekend in 1973 when a Marine recruiting team was on campus.

A Catholic liberal arts education was a superb foundation for my career. Critical thinking and reading skills have been invaluable. It prepared me to properly frame complex issues and challenges. Years of Catholic education also influenced me to seek opportunities to serve others - a critical aspect of leadership.

I still remember a professor assigning us in one of my classes to go around to Vermont radio stations, reporting at town halls about democracy in action, which cemented my interest in political science. It was solid background for the advanced degrees in international relations that I pursued later in my Marine career at Georgetown and Tufts.

Over three decades I've served all over the world, including leading the 5th Marine Regiment into Iraq in the 2003 invasion, steadily rising through the ranks. The most challenging part of my career is the extended time apart it requires from my wife and three children - but fortunately, my family also believes in what I do and have willingly made the sacrifice.

My advice to today's students is to be open-minded when pondering life and future careers, but in the tradition of Saint Michael's, seek to make a contribution that's greater than yourself.

You can read more on General Dunford on cnn.com, which named him one of the Top 10 Greatest Leaders in the World.

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