Joint Chiefs Chair Dunford to speak at Commencement

March 9, 2017

U.S. Marine Corps General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., a 1977 graduate of Saint Michael’s College and the nation’s highest-ranking military officer since 2015 as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be the Commencement Speaker and will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters at his alma mater on Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 10 a.m. in the Ross Sports Center.

Saint Michael’s President Jack Neuhauser said General Dunford has maintained a proud and fond identification with Saint Michael’s since the general graduated as a political science major in 1977, the year he was commissioned as a Marine before rising rapidly in key leadership, planning and battlefield postings both domestically and abroad while building a solid reputation and broad popularity.

“General Dunford has graciously returned to campus for alumni events and participated in programs on world issues over the years, and has welcomed Saint Michael’s delegations to his office in the Pentagon when he was Marine commandant before his elevation to his present post,” Neuhauser said.

Also receiving honorary degrees from their alma mater during this Commencement ceremony will be: Loung Ung ’93, a bestselling author, activist, and co-writer of a Netflix Original Movie directed by Angelina Jolie based on Ung’s  memoir, First They Killed My Father, to be released in early 2017; Tracy Romano ‘86, an internationally prominent marine biologist who leads the research team at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut; and Brian Lacey ’72, president of Lacey Entertainment in New York and a veteran leader of the global entertainment business specializing in original programs for the U.S. and world marketplace, with major successes that have included Pokemon and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

General Dunford biography

General Dunford is the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, and the principal military adviser to the president, secretary of defense, and National Security Council.

Prior to becoming chairman on October 1, 2015, Dunford served as the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps. He previously served as the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps from 2010 to 2012, and was commander, International Security Assistance Force and United States Forces-Afghanistan from February 2013 to August 2014.

A native of Quincy, Massachusetts, Dunford served as an infantry officer at all levels, to include command of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and command of the 5th Marine Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Dunford also served as the assistant division commander of the 1st Marine Division, Marine Corps director of operations, and Marine Corps deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations. He commanded I Marine Expeditionary Force and served as the commander, Marine Forces U.S. Central Command.

His Joint assignments include duty as the executive assistant to the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, chief of the Global and Multilateral Affairs Division (J-5), and vice director for operations on the Joint Staff (J-3).

A graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger School, Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, and the U.S. Army War College, General Dunford also earned master’s degrees in Government from Georgetown University and in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Dunford earned the nickname “Fighting Joe” for leading the 5th Marine Regiment into Iraq in the 2003 invasion.

Saint Michael’s President Neuhauser commented that having General Dunford as the Commencement speaker will honor and celebrate the College’s rich and ongoing military heritage. “Saint Michael’s welcomed waves of returning World War II veterans on the GI Bill, educated generations for military leadership through our former longstanding Air Force ROTC program, and today we provide a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive campus for our veteran students through our Office of Military Community Services,” Neuhauser said. “General Dunford’s vast experience and incredible breadth of knowledge will surely inspire this year’s class of Saint Michael’s graduates.”

Dunford initially heard of Saint Michael’s through his second cousin and eventual classmate Dan Tarpey Jr. ’77, who became a Marine lieutenant colonel and then Catholic high school principal. Dan Jr. is son of the late Dan Tarpey Sr. ’52, who was a close friend of Edmundite Father Ray Doherty ’51, a fellow Marine veteran who is now in-residence on campus with the founding religious order of Saint Michael’s. Dunford recalled in a 2011 interview how he and Dan Jr. talked to Marine recruiters on campus their first year in 1973, and the rest is history.

In announcing  Dunford as Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient, President Neuhauser echoed his words two years ago following the general’s appointment to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, saying, “Our prayers are with General Dunford as he leads our country’s defense. This educated, sophisticated individual serves us all well.”


The other three prominent Saint Michael’s alumni receiving honorary degrees at the May 14 Commencement ceremony will be:

Loung Ung ’93, bestselling author, activist and co-writer of a Netflix Original Movie directed by Angelina Jolie based on her memoir, First They Killed My Father, to be released in early 2017. Loung was only five when Khmer Rouge soldiers stormed into her native city of Phnom Penh, and four years later, some 2 million Cambodians out of a population of 7 million had died at the hands of the infamous Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime, including Loung’s parents, two sisters, and 20 other relatives. In 1980, Loung, her older brother and his wife escaped by boat to Thailand where they spent five months in a refugee camp before relocating to the U.S. in Vermont. In recent years, First They Killed My Father has been presented to winners of the Saint Michael’s College Book Award, and is widely used in high school and university curricula. This year it was the common text for Saint Michael’s first-year students, with Loung offering a well-received Skype presentation at semester’s start. Her later books are Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind, and Lulu in the Sky: A Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing and Double Happiness. Since 1995, Loung has made over 30 trips back to Cambodia and has devoted herself to helping her native land heal from the traumas of war. She has worked as an activist to end violence against women, child soldiers, and the Campaign for a Landmine Free World, and served as the spokesperson for the campaign from 1997-2005. She has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, London Sunday Times, Glamour, among others, and appeared on numerous televisions and radio shows, including CNN, “Nightline,” the “Diane Rheme Show,” “Talk of the Nation,” NPR’s “Weekend Edition,” “Fresh Air with Terry Gross,” and “Today.” She also has been the subject of several international documentary films. Loung was the Saint Michael’s Commencement speaker in 2003, and she was inducted into the College’s Academic Hall of Fame in 2002.

Tracy Romano ’86, vice president of biological research/chief scientist at Mystic aquarium, a founder of the field of marine mammal neuroimmunology and leader in the field of marine mammal health. She graduated with a BS in Biology from Saint Michael’s and received her doctorate in neurobiology & anatomy from the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine. While a graduate student, Romano spent her summers with the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program in San Diego investigating neural-immune interactions in beluga whales. Her postdoctoral work built on this research to investigate the marine mammal immune system and the impact of stress and the environment on marine mammal health. After her postdoctoral studies, she established a research laboratory focused on studying stress and the marine mammal immune system at the Navy Base in San Diego. In 2004, Romano moved her lab to Mystic Aquarium, where she became vice president of research and veterinary services. She has served in multiple capacities for the organization since that time. Currently she leads a team focused on aquatic animal health and conservation biology. Numerous professional commendations include induction into the Saint Michael’s College Academic Hall of Fame. She has shared her expertise as a mentor to many award-winning students, created and implemented a nationally recognized science-based education and cultural exchange program for Native American youth, and has led over 15 field expeditions to the Arctic. She maintains active connection to Saint Michael’s in alumni leadership and giving roles and in 2012 was inducted in the College’s Academic Hall of fame.

Brian Lacey ’72 is president of Lacey Entertainment, a New York-based worldwide television marketing, production and distribution company. He also is the founder and director of the Kilkea Foundation, a non-profit organization that encourages and honors excellence in the humanities, arts and sciences through a college scholarship program and other activities. Through the Foundation, Lacey has generously established the Henry G. Fairbanks Endowed Chair in the Humanities at Saint Michael’s (Professor Fairbanks chaired the Humanities program in the 1960s and 70s and was an important mentor to many students, including Lacey). In addition to his generous giving, Lacey has been very active with his class reunion committees for Saint Michael’s. A summa cum laude American Studies graduate of Saint Michael’s, he has a master’s in English from Clark University (1975) and was a Jonas Clark Scholar. Lacey, active in the entertainment industry for nearly three decades including top executive positions with World Events Productions, Zodiac Entertainment and 4Kids Entertainment before launching Lacey Entertainment, has distributed and/or produced over 3,200 episodes of television programming to over 100 countries in most all genres including some of the biggest children’s hit series in the past quarter century.

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