Attached are ten inspirational biographies of West Point graduates who lead or have led major corporations- and they are all proud fathers. These bios are all included in “West Point Leadership: Profiles of Courage” which recently was awarded three Silver Benjamin Franklin Awards for Best Biography, Best First Book, and Best Gift Book. There is still time to send a gift wrapped book from Amazon to any father in time for Father’s Day (10% off using “FATHERS” code). Click here to purchase West Point Leadership: Profiles of Courage.
ALEX GORSKY, USMA 1982
Alex Gorsky grew up in a small Midwestern town in a typical middle-class American family, the third of six children whose grandparents had immigrated to the United States and whose father enlisted in the Army during the Korean War. In the sixth grade, Gorsky decided that he wanted to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point; he fulfilled his dream by graduating from West Point in 1982 and serving as an officer in the United States Army for six years. He now leads Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s the largest and most diversified health care companies with more than 128,000 employees in more than 60 countries and $65 billion in sales. Alex Gorsky’s life exemplifies the Horatio Alger story that hard work, perseverance, and honesty can conquer all obstacles.
Gorsky was born in Kansas City, Kansas. His grandparents were immigrants from Croatia and Russia and his grandfather was in the grocery business. Gorsky’s father, Albert Gorsky, voluntarily enlisted in the Army during the Korean War in 1952 and, after proving himself, was selected to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS).
Albert Gorsky served five years of active duty in the Army and then joined the Army reserves while working full-time in sales at Gerber. Albert Gorsky rose to the top of both organizations through hard work, retiring as Vice President of United States Sales for Gerber and as a Two-Star General in the Army Reserves. Major General Albert E. Gorsky retired from the Army after 38 years and was inducted in to the OCS Hall of Fame.
During Alex Gorsky’s childhood, dinner table conversations often included discussions about the military and business. When Gorsky was 12 years old, the family moved to Fremont, Michigan, a small town of only 3,500 people, comprised almost entirely of farmers and Gerber employees. Fremont was very rural, and Gorsky and his friends hunted, fished, hiked, and played sports daily. When a family friend was accepted to West Point, it inspired Alex Gorsky to start reading about the Academy. By sixth grade, his journals show that he was determined to attend West Point. He was the prototypical West Point candidate: captain of the varsity football team, captain of the swimming team, he ran track, and went to Boys’ Nation.
Congressman Guy Vander Jagt nominated Gorsky to attend West Point in 1977, and the day he was accepted was one of the greatest days of his life. Gorsky and his family visited the Academy for the first time on “R Day,” July 6, 1978, the same day he entered West Point. For Gorsky, coming from a small Midwestern town, the Academy was larger than life. It offered academic and physical challenges and social opportunities that did not exist in Fremont, Michigan. He was very active, joining the pistol, orienteering, marathon, and triathlon teams, and he was always ready to try new experiences. He learned to follow, then to lead. An outstanding athlete and in excellent physical condition, Gorsky tried out for Army Ranger School – the most physically challenging school in the Army – while still a cadet, using up all leave the summer between his Yearling and Cow years. Many cadets competed to gain a slot in Ranger School, and among those accepted there was a high attrition rate. Gorsky was one of the few who earned the coveted Ranger Tab. Due to the high attrition rate in Gorsky’s class in 1981, Ranger School was not offered to cadets for several years afterward.
Looking back, Alex Gorsky cites the summer of 1981 as a seminal time in his life. Ranger School gave him the confidence that he could overcome any obstacle, and reinforced his lessons in teamwork, hard work, and commitment. He returned exhausted, having lost 15 pounds, and proceeded to have his worst academic semester of his four years at West Point, which was humbling. At that time, all West Point cadets were required to study engineering (which changed in 1988 to allow some liberal arts majors), and Gorsky majored in engineering and chose as his field of study political science and history. He chose them for two reasons: He had an innate interest in the subject matter, and he had outstanding high-school teachers who had inspired him in those subjects. “I believe that having the combination of an engineering core curriculum, plus a softer science, prepares one for critical thinking combined with understanding organizations, people, and flow of events. In today’s world, having a balance between those two domains is more important than ever,” says Gorsky.
While some cadets became jaded or cynical while at West Point, Gorsky never did; he always felt privileged to attend the Academy. His belief was reinforced in 1980 through 1981, when the 52 American hostages in Iran were released from captivity after 444 days. After their release, President Ronald Reagan had them flown to West Point, where they were welcomed by their families and cheering cadets. The event was covered by global news media frenzy. “It reinforced my belief in what a special place West Point was – gathering on the Plain and in the Mess Hall, here was an event that the world was watching, and we were right in the midst of it. The event reinforced all my sentiments about the Academy,” Gorsky remembered. Having already graduated Ranger School, Gorsky had planned on picking the Infantry Branch, but after spending time with the Field Artillery Officer in Charge his senior year, he was persuaded to choose Artillery. He had been impressed by the Artillery Branch; it included combat arms like the Infantry, but it also placed a major emphasis on strategy and technology.
Artillery Officers needed to understand the strategy and tactics not only of Infantry, but also the Armor and Aviation Branches, and to consider how all of them come together as a combined team. Gorsky’s class graduated on May 26, 1982, and he was commissioned in the Army. He attended Airborne School, the Officer Basic Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, then language school in Monterey, California, to learn basic Greek. Gorsky served a one-year hardship tour at a base in Northern Greece, which was a great experience for a 23-year-old, and he returned to Fort Ord, California (Monterey), to the 7th Infantry Division. The 7th Infantry Division had recently been designated a “Light Infantry” Division, and the Army was making a tremendous effort to transform it from being a training unit to one of the most effective elite combat units in the Army. It was not unusual for its members to spend more than 200 nights a year in the field training. The Army assigned some of its best officers to make this transformation possible, and a huge premium was placed on leadership and small unit tactics. Years later, Gorsky would try to emulate those leadership lessons at Johnson & Johnson. The Army’s staff rides and officer professional development sessions had a major impact on him. For instance, while Gorsky was at Fort Ord, they read books such as We Were Soldiers Once…and Young, followed by discussions at Officer Professional Development about the leadership challenges faced in the books. In 1985, another seminal event occurred in his life when he met a nurse in Monterey, California, named Patricia. Patricia was an “Army and Air Force brat” who been born in Berchtesgaden, Germany, and had grown up all over the world, living in Morocco, Hawaii, and on multiple bases across the United States. They married in 1987 in Carmel and had their reception at the Defense Language Institute. Gorsky was promoted to Captain and received a command – which is rare at that age and rank – before returning to Officer Advanced Course training. He loved leading soldiers at Fort Ord. Patricia was working as a nurse and head of the family support group there. At his six-year mark, Gorsky had to decide whether to stay in the Army until retirement in 20 years or leave to start his civilian career.
Leaving the Army was the toughest decision Gorsky has made in his life and he struggled with it at the time. He loved the Army, its mission, sense of purpose, and its culture that emphasized always doing the right thing, and he feared he might not find that again in corporate America. In 1988, with Patricia pregnant with their son, Nicholas, Gorsky chose to leave the Army to pursue a business career. He was offered several positions in the technology sector and in health care and, after much deliberation, he chose a Johnson & Johnson operating company called Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc. The deciding factor in his decision that would remain a tremendous influence in his life was a Credo written in 1943 by General Robert Wood Johnson, a member of the family that founded Johnson & Johnson. The Credo listed the company’s top four priorities in order: patients and consumers, employees, community, and lastly, shareholders. When the Credo was written, Johnson & Johnson was still family owned (it would go public in 1944), and General Johnson was the largest single stockholder, yet he listed shareholders last. That resonated with Gorsky, who wanted to find a culture that felt similar to the Army. General Johnson understood that if you focus on the first three priorities – patients, employees, and the community – then shareholders would benefit, as well. That echoed the Army ethos of always putting the soldier and the mission first. The principles of the Credo were unheard of when it was written in 1943, and terms like “social responsibility” did not come into use until decades later. At Johnson & Johnson, Gorsky believed he had found his new mission. He began his career there as a pharmaceutical sales representative and, over a period of 15 years, he advanced through roles in sales, marketing, and management. In 2001, Gorsky became the President of Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc. During the years he spent at Janssen, the division experienced significant growth in terms of products, people, and overall prominence in the pharmaceutical industry. It had done so by launching a variety of life-saving products across a range of important therapeutic areas.
Patricia practiced as a nurse until 2000. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without her,” says Gorsky, who fondly remembers Patricia teaching him how to in-service various products throughout his career, and keeping their common interest of patient care at the forefront over the years. Johnson & Johnson has always had a very close relationship with the nursing community, and being married to a nurse has given Gorsky a unique and special perspective.
In 2003, Gorsky was named Company Group Chairman of Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceuticals business in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Russia. “It was a tremendous experience working with so many different regions and people,” he says. In 2005, a former mentor who had left Johnson & Johnson asked Gorsky to join him at Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceutical company. Gorsky worked at Novartis for four years, which gave him an excellent perspective from a competitive viewpoint. But deep down, his heart was at Johnson & Johnson, and he returned in 2008 as Company Group Chairman of the Ethicon business in the company’s medical devices and diagnostics segment. He was quickly promoted to Worldwide Chairman, Medical Devices and Diagnostics in 2009, then promoted to Vice Chairman of Johnson & Johnson and appointed to its Executive Committee in January of 2011. In April of that year, Gorsky became the seventh Chief Executive Officer of Johnson & Johnson, and in December of 2012, he was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors. Johnson & Johnson is one of the world’s largest diversified health care companies operating in 60 countries, with $65 billion in sales and 128,000 employees. It is also the largest and most-diverse medical devices and diagnostics company in the world, the eighth-largest pharmaceutical company, world’s sixth-largest consumer health company, and the world’s fifth-largest biologics company. Leading such a complex organization in nearly every country, with so many market-leading products, is certainly both challenging and an incredible opportunity. How does he manage to steer such a large organization? “What’s most important is, number one: You establish the right tone for the culture, which starts with our Credo. Number two: Set a common vision and a set of priorities – similar in the military to establishing your ‘mission.’ Number three: Provide your team with the resources to allow them to operate with a fair degree of freedom and autonomy to accomplish their objectives. Number four: Give a balance of inspiration and leadership versus just ‘management.’ And number five: The most important is to pick the right leaders and give them the freedom, since they are closest to what’s going on – reward them and hold them accountable.”
When asked what he would like to achieve in his role, Gorsky’s answer is simple yet monumental, given that he leads a health care company that can reach nearly every person on the planet: “To make a difference so that people can live longer, healthier, and happier lives.” Alex Gorsky, West Point Class of 1982, has found his mission.
JOSEPH DEPINTO, USMA 1986
Joe DePinto is a successful business executive who leads 7-Eleven, Inc. one of the largest retail chains in the world with more than 43,000 stores. DePinto had already been a successful global business leader when he came into the public spotlight in 2010 during a reality television show called Undercover Boss, in which he went undercover to work as an hourly associate in his own 7-Eleven stores.
The show highlighted DePinto’s superb leadership capabilities, his humility, and the strong support his team provided the stores and their employees. Undercover Boss went on to become a tremendous success for CBS, featuring dozens of other Chief Executive Officers going undercover with their own companies. Because of the leadership displayed by DePinto on Undercover Boss, he was subsequently asked to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show and share his story. The Oprah segment was also seen in a positive light, which again benefited the image of DePinto, West Point, and 7-Eleven.
The show highlighted DePinto’s superb leadership capabilities, his humility, and the strong support his team provided the stores and their employees. Undercover Boss went on to become a tremendous success for CBS, featuring dozens of other Chief Executive Officers going undercover with their own companies. Because of the leadership displayed by DePinto on Undercover Boss, he was subsequently asked to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show and share his story. The Oprah segment was also seen in a positive light, which again benefited the image of DePinto, West Point, and 7-Eleven.
DePinto was born in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. He attended West Point and graduated in 1986. A superb athlete, DePinto was recruited to play ice hockey and played for the Army team. His chose the Artillery Branch and attended Officer Basic Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, then was assigned to the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas. He served more than four years in the Army and chose to pursue a business career in 1990. He met his wife, Ingrid, in 1987 while stationed in Texas and during the next 20 years, they raised four boys and traveled the world together. (Their oldest son, John, is a member of the West Point Class of 2012.)
When DePinto left the Army in 1990, he had a number of employment options available to him. He chose to start working at KFC, a division of PepsiCo from 1990 to 1995. PepsiCo has an outstanding management-training program and DePinto thrived in this environment. He was promoted numerous times from District Manager to Director of Operations, and he also helped lead PepsiCo’s expansion into multi-branding of restaurants. In these roles, he learned the basics of business at the grassroots level, which would serve him well later as a senior executive. He then became SVP and COO of Thornton Oil Corporation, where he learned about retail and fuel markets. Years later, this understanding of the energy market and its impact on global operations would assist Joe while at 7-Eleven.
In 1997, DePinto attended The Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. With seven years of business experience behind him in multiple roles with considerable responsibility, he was then able to learn from the top business professors in the country. Kellogg is consistently ranked number one as the best marketing school in the country, and DePinto took full advantage of the classroom and the network that he built while there. He graduated with his master’s in Business Administration in 1999. Later, he became the President of GameStop Corporation, helping lead GameStop’s acquisition of Electronic Boutique to create the world’s largest retail video game company.
In 2005, DePinto was named Chief Executive Officer of 7-Eleven, Inc. Managing such a large global retail organization was a tremendous business and leadership challenge – perfectly suited to test DePinto’s leadership capabilities. As the Chief Executive Officer of this global enterprise, the leadership lessons he learned from West Point, the Army, and his business experience proved considerable as 7-Eleven more than doubled their earnings and grew more than 14,000 stores globally in six years.
In 2008, 7-Eleven Marketing executives were approached by a new CBS reality show. CBS asked if DePinto would consider working undercover as an hourly employee in a few of his own stores. Asking the Chief Executive Officer of a premier corporation to take on this kind of transparency and exposure was a significant risk, and DePinto debated the risks and trade-offs with his senior team. They concluded this would be a great opportunity to publicly showcase (both internally and externally) the company’s cultural shift toward Servant Leadership that was initiated by DePinto. Additionally, the team felt that they could highlight the excellent fresh food items that were prepared and delivered daily by 7-Eleven’s commissaries and bakeries to their stores. Finally, DePinto believed that this would also be a great opportunity to publicly showcase and recognize some of their unsung company heroes.
He appeared unshaven as a new hourly employee named “Danny,” and a film crew followed him around claiming to be a documentary approved by corporate on how to train new associates. He worked in several parts of the business – as an employee working in a store on both the day and night shift, as a bakery assembly line worker, and as a night deliveryman. In one store, he worked with a wonderful woman who suffered from severe kidney disease yet managed the coffee business for the highest volume coffee store in the 7-Eleven system. Another job was working with a hardworking young man in a bakery who was a former Marine and a struggling artist, and a third job was working as a deliveryman with a fun-loving Russian immigrant and former Soviet Union Army Officer on an evening delivery route. DePinto learned a tremendous amount about his corporation and the great people who work hard every day to make the company operate successfully. He also learned firsthand about the excellent talent dispersed across all parts of the company. Much like a General Officer visiting their troops, this level of understanding of his business and its people was not only good for TV, but was good for the organization. They were able to see their Chief Executive Officer’s humility, his humanity and his willingness to roll up his sleeves and work alongside those on the front lines of their stores.
The associates DePinto worked with were all shocked to find out later that they had the Chief Executive Officer of 7-Eleven working under them as an hourly employee. He rewarded each of them for their outstanding work ethic and positive “can-do” attitude, and for being unsung heroes of the company. 7-Eleven donated $150,000 to the National Kidney Foundation and held organ donation card drives on behalf of the associate with the kidney ailment, gave a franchise store to the Russian immigrant who dreamed of owning his own store, and brought the struggling artist inside corporate to work with its internal marketing team.
Oprah was so impressed that she invited DePinto as a guest on her show. 7-Eleven, already well known worldwide received an incredible jump in its image as the episode was shown over and over again in countries across the globe. Both Undercover Boss and the Oprah Winfrey Show showcased DePinto’s West Point leadership training and reflected positively on West Point.
As a global leader in retail business, DePinto has been asked to advise other global companies and institutions. He is a member of the Board of Directors of OfficeMax, Brinker International, SMU’s Cox School of Business, Lone Star Big Brother Big Sisters, and the National Italian-American Foundation. He is also a member of the Board of Advisors for the Thayer Leader Development Group at West Point, and Board Member of the Business Executives for National Security (BENS). In 2011, Joe was awarded with the “Retail Leader of the Year Award” by the National Association of Convenience Stores to recognize his industry leadership and success.
The DePinto Room at the Thayer Hotel is proudly dedicated by his 1986 classmates.
STEVE CANNON, USMA 1986
Steve Cannon is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), one of the world’s most identifiable luxury automobile brands. Cannon graduated with academic honors and ranked number one in physical fitness out of 1,005 cadets in the West Point Class of 1986. It was obvious to everyone in the Class of 1986 that this fierce competitor would accomplish great things in life. Following West Point, Cannon served in the United States Army and was stationed in Germany, where he was front and center when the Soviet Union collapsed, the Berlin Wall fell, and the Cold War ended. Cannon, who speaks fluent German, has spent the past 25 years working in both the United States and Germany, with more than 15 years in marketing, sales, and finance executive positions. Cannon’s unique background and proven leadership abilities make him ideally suited to lead one of the world’s greatest luxury automobile companies in the USA.
Cannon was born February 10, 1961, and grew up in Wyckoff, New Jersey, where he attended Ramapo High School. He was captain of both the football and wrestling teams and a First-Team All-State Football player and First-Team All-County wrestler.
Congresswoman Marge Roukema nominated Cannon for West Point in the fall of 1981, which marked the first year of Ronald Reagan’s presidency and a major growth period for the defense industry. Cannon entered West Point on July 1, 1982, when the Cold War was at its peak, with the Soviet Union embroiled in a costly stalemate in Afghanistan. President Reagan increased the defense budget significantly in a race to bankrupt the economically unsound Soviet empire.
Cannon thrived in the high-intensity West Point environment, which develops leaders of character by focusing on three areas: academic, physical, and military development. Cadets’ overall class rank is based on a blended average of these three areas. Every cadet must pass physical standards and every cadet must be an athlete, either intercollegiate or intramural. The vast majority of cadets lettered in a varsity sport in high school and, to be ranked in the top of their class, cadets must be in superb physical condition and be outstanding athletes. Cannon exemplified these traits and quickly established himself as a leader in his class.
During his first summer at Cadet Basic Training, known as “Beast Barracks,” Cannon was the pugil stick champion out of more than 1,400 cadet candidates. He made the Army wrestling team, where he also lettered. Leading into his senior year, he was selected to lead Cadet Basic Training as the “King of Beast,” making him the top-ranking cadet for the incoming Plebes at West Point. By this time, he was also ranked number one physically in his class and was an academic standout. Later that same year, he earned the position of Cadet Regimental Commander for 4th Regiment. This prominent leadership position placed 1,100 cadets under Cannon’s leadership and reflected the esteem in which the officers and his classmates held him.
Cannon dominated his class physically, so much so that he “validated” boxing, swimming, wrestling, and gymnastics. This means that when he was pre-screened, he scored so well that he did not have to take the class. He scored a perfect score on every physical test (Army Physical Fitness Test) for four years. He set the one time Academy record for push-ups: 133 in two minutes.
Cannon chose the Field Artillery Branch and reported to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for Officer Basic, where he competed for a Ranger School slot and naturally won. Attending winter Ranger School is a physical and mental endurance test with an incredibly high attrition rate – little food, sleep, and exposure to cold weather for 61 days causes many to quit. Cannon lost 35 pounds in eight weeks but earned the coveted Ranger Tab.
Following initial officer training in 1987, the Army stationed Cannon in Germany where he was assigned to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment along the West German–Czech border. All training at that time was focused on defending West Germany against the Soviet invasion. Cannon enjoyed living in Germany and learned to speak the language. He ran the last marathon to be held in the isolated city of West Berlin, running a swift 2:57. In 1989, he was on the border and had a front-row seat when suddenly the Cold War ended, not with a battle as the United States Army had prepared, but, thankfully, with a peaceful and quiet end as The Wall came down.
After completing his military service, Cannon returned to the United States in 1991 and began his career in the automotive industry as the assistant to the President and Chief Executive Officer of Mercedes-Benz North America (predecessor to MBUSA), the same Chief Executive Officer role he would personally attain nearly 20 years later. MBUSA is headquartered in Montvale, New Jersey, and is responsible for the distribution, marketing, and customer service for all Mercedes-Benz products, Sprinter Vans, and smart cars in the United States. At the time, Mercedes sold 520,000 cars globally with 58,800 sold in the USA.
From there, Cannon moved to Stuttgart, Germany, and was the first American to join a skunk works team tasked with the design, development, production, and launch of the first Mercedes-Benz series (the M Class) to be manufactured in the United States. Cannon was selected to lead a small team tasked with selecting the site for the future manufacturing location. He led the team through a thorough due diligence process, considering several states, but choosing Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as the site. Hyundai and Toyota followed Mercedes-Benz to the state, and Alabama now is second only to Michigan in automobile manufacturing jobs. The M Class was launched in late 1998 and became the “North American Truck of the Year” that same year. That Mercedes-Benz plant now employs 3,000 American employees and produces more than 174,000 Mercedes annually that are sold in 135 countries.
After the successful launch of the M Class, Cannon became Director of Marketing for Daimler-owned debis Financial Services. Cannon left Mercedes in 2000 and later served as Principal for The Richards Group, the largest independent full-service advertising agency in the United States.
Cannon returned to MBUSA in 2007 as Chief Marketing Officer with overall responsibility for marketing communications, market research, and product management of the Mercedes-Benz and Maybach brands in the United States. From 2007 to 2011, Cannon and his team successfully moved the brand into some of the most prestigious platforms in sports, including a global partner of The Masters, The U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, and the PGA Championship. The brand’s aggressive expansion included a marquis naming-rights deal for The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
On December 16, 2011, Daimler Board of Management and Dr. Joachim Schmidt, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Mercedes-Benz Cars in Stuttgart, Germany, announced that Cannon would assume the role of Chief Executive Officer of MBUSA. Cannon is only the second American to lead MBUSA, which has 1,600 direct employees and 358 dealers throughout the U.S. with total indirect employees estimated more than 24,000.
Mercedes-Benz globally sells more than 1.2 million cars per year, and within the United States that number has increased to more than 270,000 per year. Mercedes is in a dog-fight with BMW for the title of the top luxury automobile brand in the United States but has the sales growth and goal to have the number-one position soon under Cannon’s leadership. The United States is now one of the fastest growing Mercedes-Benz markets, with 2012 sales growth of 12 percent, and recently overtook Germany as the largest Mercedes-Benz market in the world.
KEN HICKS, USMA 1974
Ken Hicks is the Chief Executive Officer of Foot Locker with $6.0 billion in annual sales, 38,000 employees in 3,400 stores on three continents, and ranked 435 on the Fortune 500. The son of a decorated enlisted World War II soldier, he has top degrees from West Point and Harvard but credits his success to hard work and some good luck. Self-deprecating and modest over his career, this Fortune 500 Chief Executive Officer has worked as a mechanic, a janitor, a roughneck on an oil rig, a gunner in a field artillery unit, and loves selling shoes. As his friend and West Point classmate General David Petraeus says, “He rolls up his sleeves, gets involved, pitches in, and leads by engaging and walking around.”
Hicks’s developed a leadership style over four decades that has managed to turn around a global retail giant in the midst of a global recession. Over the past three years, he and his team have been a shining light in retail, turning Foot Locker around and increasing the stock price from $10 to $35. They have done it by focusing on a clear vision and strategy, reinvigorating the brand, focusing on the customer, and improving productivity of the real estate, sales force, and inventory resulting in a significant increase in shareholder value. He has achieved all of this through leadership he began learning at West Point.
Hicks was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1953. His dad was in the oil business and moved the family to Calgary when Hicks was 3 months old and then to Texas at age 7. His dad had served in World War II in the Infantry in the 10th Mountain Division Europe. After being hit by a Nazi grenade, he was taken prisoner and sent to the infamous Stalag 17. At the end of World War II Hicks’s dad was released after six months as a POW and received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. After the war, Hicks’s father returned home to Oklahoma to enter the oil business and marry Pat Carlyle.
Hicks grew up in Houston, Texas, and attended Westbury High School where he was played football and track (shotput), was a leader in the student Senate, key club, national honor society, and worked about 20 hours a week as a mechanic at a gas station and as a janitor. Congressman George Herbert Walker Bush (who would later be elected as the 41st United States President) nominated Hicks to West Point in 1970.
Cadet Hicks played football as the specialty center (long snapper) for the first two years. He eventually lost the role of long snapper to a USMA 1976 Cadet Bob McClure, who would become the President of the Association of Graduates in 2009. From there, he became involved in intramural lacrosse. Hicks was chosen to be a Cadet Company Commander his senior year of Company C-1. His classmate David Petraeus was a company-mate for four years and would later rise to become the commander of the wars in Iraq and then Afghanistan and then the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Two other classmates would rise the top of the United States government: General Keith Alexander would lead the National Security Agency, and General Martin Dempsey would become the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Petraeus page 96, Dempsey page 52, Alexander page 264).
All cadets at that time majored in Engineering, and Hicks was allowed to choose his field of concentration in economics. It was the closest field of study he could find to business and he enjoyed numbers and problem solving. He found the professors in the social sciences department to be exemplary and one Bill Murdy (USMA 1964, page 400) evolved over time into a role model for Hicks. Bill would later go on to successfully lead several Fortune 500 companies himself.
Prior to graduating, Hicks chose the field artillery and joined the 3rd Armored Calvary. He liked the strategic importance of the artillery, which had both leadership and analytical challenges. For his first assignment he chose Fort Bliss, Texas, and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment where he served as a forward observer (serving with the calvary, needing to understand tank and calvary tactics, as well as artillery skills to call in fire upon the enemy), then as Fire Direction Officer (with the cannons calculating trajectories and deflections to aim the cannons accurately). First Lieutenant Hicks then deployed to Korea for a year to support the Korean Army with special weapons capability.
While in Korea in 1976, an international crisis occurred. Captain Art Bonifas (USMA 1966) and one of his fellow officers were murdered by North Korean soldiers in the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). The incident caused the United States and North Korea to nearly go to war (Bonifas biography on page 214). Hicks remembers the next mission after Captain Bonifas was tragically killed, when tensions were high and every artillery piece in South Korea was loaded and aimed at the DMZ in case the North Koreans attacked any of our troops again.
Captain Hicks returned to Fort Bliss and took command of the Howitzer Battery 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. As commander, he had six cannons and 120 men, and he was arguably one of the best gunners in the unit. It was then that he realized it was far more important that he learn to “teach” his soldiers to become better gunners than him – after all, he could only fire one gun at a time himself. This lesson would serve him well later in life as he learned to teach larger and larger groups of employees to “Be all that you can be” as the Army advertisement promised. Prior to leaving the Army, his unit was dubbed “Fastest Guns in the West” on their annual field test by the Department of Army Inspectors.
In 1980, Hicks resigned from the Army to attend the prestigious Harvard Business School (HBS). As he recalls, it seemed everyone in his HBS class had graduated from an Ivy League school, captained minor intercollegiate sports teams, and had already written theses that solved the world’s problems. Hicks remembers his thinking sardonically that his only real skill at the time seemed somewhat less useful at business school, being able to shoot cannons very well. But he quickly realized and proved that he had developed more important skill sets than gunnery. Over the previous 10 years, he had learned to be a leader – through experiences that most of his Harvard classmates had not had the opportunity to experience. He reflected “At West Point, leadership is trained in theory in the classroom, but it is also experienced every day which is why I believe it is the premier leadership institute in the world. Cadets lead and follow and get to ‘practice’ leadership.” By the time he was a senior at West Point, he had led 120 cadets every day. He had learned to think and to lead at West Point. When he had entered the Army, he had led soldiers ranging in age from 18 to 50, leaving after commanding a 120-man Field Artillery Battery. Then at Harvard, he learned how to think about business and how to solve problems in the business world.
As stated, some of his Class of 1974 West Point classmates went on to lead wars, armies and United States government agencies. At Harvard, Hicks and many of his Class of 1982 classmates would graduate and go on to lead many large corporations, including Jeff Immelt (General Electric); Jamie Dimon (JP Morgan Chase), Steve Burke (Chief Executive Officer of NBC), Mike Fascitelli (Chief Executive Officer of Vornado), and Naina Lal Kidwai (Country Head for HSBC Bank, India) among them. Through both his West Point and his Harvard networks, by proving himself in each of his roles, Hicks was developing both iconic mentors, peers and friends.
At that time in 1981 Hicks was considering a future opportunity in the oil business, so he chose to spend his summer between first and second years at HBS by working as a roughneck in the Mississippi Delta – not the typical summer internship for a Harvard grad. Having been a mechanic in high school, a gunner in the Army, and a roughneck in graduate school, he was not afraid to get his hands dirty. He returned from the Delta for his final year at HBS, and despite having originally felt relatively less skilled than his classmates when he arrived at Harvard, he graduated with the highest distinction as a Baker Scholar in the top five percent of his class – and still the thing he knew how to do best was to shoot cannons.
Upon graduation, he accepted a role as a consultant at the top-tier consulting firm McKinsey and Company to learn more about business. McKinsey gave him the opportunity to practice the business thinking and problem solving that he had learned at Harvard.
He spent five years at McKinsey working on all types of consulting engagements with companies, such as Pepsi, Frito-Lay, and USAA. Hicks still uses many analogies to teach lessons to his team, often using military and sports analogies. He refers to the different levels of that one could experience with a football organization: playing on the field, coaching on the sidelines, and coaching from up in the press box, all important roles for a professional team but all very different experiences. Hicks felt his work at McKinsey was coaching from the skybox and while important and successful, yet Hicks wanted to coach on the sidelines.
So he left consulting to join May Department Stores as the Head of Strategic Planning (moving to the sidelines coaching) with the goal of serving three years and then becoming a line manager (playing on the field). Three years later, he became General Manager of the Home Store. Then he finally got to the line as General Merchandise Manager of Foley’s, where he turned around the business to grow sales and profits three years in a row.
As an experienced executive retailer by this time in 1999, Hicks joined Home Shopping Network as the Head Merchant. On the wall in his office at Foot Locker, he has the nine Principles of War displayed, which he believes applies in not only in war, but also in business. In every battle, one of the principles can be identified that was the primary cause of either victory or defeat. The principles are Mass, Offensive, Maneuver, Objective, Simplicity, Unity of Command, Surprise, Maneuver, and Security. Every major military battle in history and every major business success or defeat can be understood through adherence or ignorance of one or more of the principles of war.
In this role at Home Shopping Network, he learned to apply one particular principle of war very effectively: offensive. Every day, 325 items would be sold, 260 of these were brand-new items never before sold. This was speed to market. One particular initial meeting, someone discussed selling a movie video on the Home Shopping Network – it was the movie Titanic. They had never sold a video over the network before this time. Without any real props, someone took a photo of Leonardo DiCaprio and stuck it on a video box. The next thing Hicks knew the woman on TV was selling it on the network, and they sold 26,000 units in a few minutes at $20 each. That was speed to market for a retail product a successful example of the “offensive.”
Hicks was then recruited to lead Payless Shoes as the President. Payless had previously been a May Company where Hicks had worked earlier in his career but it had been spun off. At the time, Payless sold 320 million pairs of shoes per year at $11 each and was the largest shoe company in the United States.
After Payless, Hicks joined JCPenney as Chief Operating Officer, leading more than 1,200 stores and a supply chain with more than 40 distribution centers across the country. Later, he became Chief Merchant. During Hicks’s tenure, he stopped a decade-long decline, turning sales around and returning the chain to profitability – dubbed the “retail turnaround of the decade” by the Wall Street Journal. Hicks was also a part of the JCP leadership team that doubled the stock price during his tenure.
Hicks came to Foot Locker in 2009 when the company was in a slump – sales were down 20 percent since a high in 2006. The global retail company with more than 30,000 employees was struggling and closing stores to try to retain profitability. The global economy was in shambles, and the Foot Locker stock price was at $10. He led his team to develop a strategic plan to better define the business, step up the apparel business, increase their online retail operations, and develop their international opportunities. They developed a five-year plan and achieved it in less than two years. The stock jumped from $10 to $35 in three years after increasing earnings before interest and taxes from 1 percent to 9 percent, and improved net operating income from less than 1 percent to 5 percent after taxes despite the global retail economy lagging throughout the three-year turnaround.
How did he do it? He focuses on teaching and communicating. Everyone knows his vision “To be the leading global retail supplier of athletically inspired shoes and apparel” carrying the most complete assortment from top-tier brands, such as Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, and others. Everyone knows the strategy and the priorities. In fact, he sends every one of the 38,000 employees a pocket pamphlet that clearly states the company’s strategies, objectives, and results.
Foot Locker has almost 3,400 stores, 38,000 employees, 30 percent of its business in Europe/Canada/Australia, and has several retail brands under the Foot Locker Corporate umbrella, such as Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Champs, Footaction, and CCS. It is a global company and it is exposed to the risks of the global economy.
Turning around this giant retailer in the midst of a global recession took all the skills Hicks had developed over four decades: having learned both the formal theory and the real world practice in leadership, engineering, problem solving, and business. The company had previously been a “top-down” retailer. Much as the American military pushes decision-making down to the front line leaders – Captains, Sergeants, and Lieutenants, Hicks pushed down the decision-making, accountability, responsibility, rewards, and promotions to the lowest level – to the guy on the front lines managing in the stores, districts, and buyers and merchandising managers. Just as he learned to teach his gunners instead of trying to be the best gunner himself, he imparts these teachings on his 3,400 store managers. The store managers don’t have to be the best salesman, they have to teach all their employees to be the best salesmen. If they succeed, they will be rewarded and promoted. He created a culture to reward and promote those who succeed, and the vast majority of his leadership roles across the company are filled with executives who started as part-time employees at the store level, which helps inspire new workers to join the team at the store level in retail. It is a proven path to management for the successful part-time employee.
Hicks credits much of his success to the opportunities and experiences afforded to him because of his chance to attend West Point. He and his wife give back in time, resources, and funding to the current cadets. The Hicks fund the West Point Model United Nations (Model U.N.) and are proud to say West Point has been the World Champions for five of the last seven years.
As he looks back on his own career, Hicks reflects upon the lessons learned from his mentors both in uniform and in business. His economics professor Captain Bill Murdy went on to lead several large companies in private equity and operating companies (page 400).
Hicks worked for icons in the retail industry, such as Dave Farrell, who had 27 consecutive positive years of growth, for Barry Diller, and Hicks Kolker, and Allen Questrom. He worked directly for each of them at different stages in his career, and he learned a tremendous amount but says “they didn’t suffer fools gladly.” Although he considers them his role models and coaches, he didn’t ask them to be his mentor and he would discourage anyone to look at mentorship as a “favor” to ask of a senior. “Put yourself in a situation where you can “learn,” support, and prove yourself instead of putting a mentor in a position of asking for them to “teach.” With 38,000 employees, Hicks is teaching them all lessons in leadership.
DR. DAVID MCCORMICK, PHD, USMA 1987
David McCormick is Co-President and a member of the Management Committee for Bridgewater Associates, a global macro investment firm with more than $140 billion in assets under management, and the world’s largest hedge fund.
In his role at Bridgewater, he has helped lead the firm and advise its clients – some of the largest, most sophistical investors in the world – through one of the most challenging periods in modern financial history. This is not the first time McCormick has been tested as a leader in volatile and uncertain times. He has been under fire before as an Army Officer, a business leader in the tech industry, and while serving at the highest levels of government. His most challenging leadership experience was as President Bush’s Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs during the 2008–09 global financial crises. In this role, he was a critical player in developing and executing the United States response to the crisis.
McCormick’s career has taken a very unconventional path. Reflecting on his life, he is very humble and grateful, saying he had a lot of luck, taking chances that at the time seemed risky and could have turned out much differently. McCormick was born and raised in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, where he attended Bloomsburg High School. He was cocaptain of the football and wrestling teams and was recruited to play both sports at West Point. He received his nomination from Senator Arlen Specter and started at West Point on July 1, 1983, during the President Ronald Reagan’s first term and at the height of the Cold War.
At West Point, McCormick was a fierce competitor, a four-time letterman on the Army wrestling team and the team’s Cocaptain his senior year. He was the two-time East Coast Runner-Up and twice earned a trip to the NCAA Division I championships. He was also a scholar-athlete and awarded the Arvin Award named after Captain Carl Arvin, the USMA 1965 Cadet First Captain who was Killed In Action in Vietnam and awarded two Silver Stars for valor. McCormick’s name is inscribed in the Arvin Gymnasium as a West Point Class of 1987 Scholar-Athlete.
McCormick studied Mechanical Engineering and planned to spend a career as an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers. Then in the summer of 1986, prior to his senior year, his career took an unexpected turn when he worked in Washington, D.C., as an intern assigned to the Political Military Bureau of the United States State Department. It was in this role that he became intrigued with international politics and economics, an interest that would later change the course of his career.
McCormick returned to West Point to finish his senior year and was promoted to Cadet Captain and Battalion Commander responsible for approximately 400 cadets. As the Cocaptain of the Army wrestling team, McCormick had hopes of All-American honors, but tore his ACL (knee ligament) partway through his senior year. He delayed the surgery until after the wrestling season (and competed in the Eastern and National Championships despite the injury) and then had his operation just prior to graduation and recovered in time to walk across the podium to receive his diploma from Army Chief of Staff General Wickham on May 27, 1987.
McCormick remained at West Point as the graduate assistant coach of the wrestling team for one semester to give him time to rehabilitate his knee prior to Airborne and Ranger Schools. While there, McCormick took advantage of the setback and enrolled in two classes at Columbia University using the GI Bill. One of the classes was an international politics class taught by Roger Hilsman (USMA 1943), a WWII hero who had served in the Office of Strategic Services (predecessor to the CIA) and in a senior role in the Kennedy administration. This experience, and Roger Hilsman in particular, would further spur McCormick’s appetite for a career in public service.
McCormick left West Point in December 1987 to attend the Engineer Officer Basic Training and then to Airborne and Ranger Schools, where he was chosen as the Honor Graduate of Ranger School. Second Lieutenant McCormick arrived at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to join the 82nd Airborne Division in September 1988. At the 82nd, McCormick found a comfortable home deploying constantly for training and often on alert as the nation’s rapid deployment force. The Cold War ended during this assignment and the United States Army struggled to find a post–Cold War mission. That search was short-lived; on August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army forces invaded Kuwait, threatening the world’s oil supplies. President George H.W. Bush immediately sent the 82nd Airborne to block the Iraqi Army from continuing on into Saudi Arabia. Days later McCormick and his soldiers found themselves on the ground in the midst of the crisis defending Saudi Arabia and preparing to liberate Kuwait. Several months later, McCormick’s unit in the 82nd Airborne was assigned under a French Army Division and was involved in the “left hook” flanking the Iraqi Army in January 1991. First Lieutenant McCormick at age 25 was Executive Officer of combat engineering company of 130 soldiers tasked with clearing minefields and destroying enemy munitions deep in Iraq. He received the Bronze Star Medal for his leadership during Desert Storm.
Upon return to Fort Bragg, McCormick was promoted to Captain and attended the Engineer Officer Advanced Course. While attending the advanced course he started applying to graduate schools, intent on going to Korea on his next Army assignment and then returning to attend graduate studies and hopefully a teaching assignment at West Point. While McCormick loved the Army, in writing his essays for graduate schools he somehow sensed that there was another path for his career and life. After much soul searching, he resigned from the Army in July 1992 and traveled the world – from Greece to Syria, from Borneo to China – for eight months prior to starting graduate study in international affairs on the beautiful Princeton campus.
At Princeton, McCormick initially pursued a master’s degree at the Woodrow Wilson School for International Affairs, but during the first year of his master’s program, he met Amy, who would become his wife eight years later, and they both opted to pursue their PhDs. Having lived through the end of the Cold War and the dramatic downsizing of the Army, McCormick wrote his doctoral thesis on the future of the Army after the downsizing which later became a book called The Downsized Warrior. The Army supported the idea of his doctoral thesis and did something remarkably unique and brought McCormick back on to active duty to perform his research. Captain McCormick returned to the Army for three months temporary duty to perform the research, and with such incredible Army support, McCormick was able to finish his doctoral thesis in record time.
After completing his PhD, McCormick again chose a non-traditional path and joined McKinsey, Inc, a top-tier consulting firm, in Pittsburgh where he worked with Dean Dorman (USMA 1986) and Tony Guzzi (USMA 1986) from 1996 to 1999. In 1999, at the peak of the Internet/tech boom, McCormick was recruited away from McKinsey to join an early stage but high-flying Internet company called FreeMarkets. Soon after joining, the company had an initial public offering, and shortly thereafter McCormick was promoted to President and then Chief Executive Officer. In 2000, he and Amy started their family, having the first of four daughters: Lilah (12), Tess (10), Ava (8), and Elise (6).
FreeMarkets had a meteoric rise, but at that same time, the United States economy collapsed with the bursting of the Internet bubble. While this was a challenging time, with many tech companies failing, McCormick led FreeMarkets through the downturn and continued growth and profitability, and successfully sold the company to Ariba in 2004 for $500 million. He remained at Ariba as the President for the next 18 months before being lured away to join the Bush Administration to serve as Undersecretary for Export Administration in the United States Department of Commerce in 2005. McCormick and Amy and their three daughters, Lilah, Tess, and Ava, moved to Washington, D.C., in summer 2005 and, soon after they arrived, Elise was born.
The role at Commerce was short-lived, however, and six months in to the job, McCormick was asked to join the White House Staff as Deputy National Security Advisor for Economic Affairs. In this capacity, he negotiated the G-8 and G-20 international summits, closely interacting with President Bush, his cabinet, and the policymakers of the world’s leading economies. While in the White House, McCormick also often worked closely with Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson. In 2007, Secretary Paulson asked McCormick to join him at the Treasury Department as the Undersecretary of International Affairs serving as the leading United States international economic diplomat. In this role, McCormick interacted with the finance ministers and central bankers of the major economies, placing him in a critical role at an historic time, a job he calls “the greatest job in the U.S. government.”
This challenge would bring all of McCormick’s experiences and talents together – having been tested and proven at West Point, Ranger School, Desert Storm, and the collapse of the Internet bubble. In October 2008, as the global financial markets began to melt down, the Bush Administration reacted with a massive response. McCormick’s role throughout this crisis was to help the economic team craft the required policies and then communicate them to policymakers and market participants around the world. For 18 months, he lived on airplanes, traveling the world, during one of the most volatile and uncertain periods in financial markets history.
McCormick joined Bridgewater in the summer of 2009 where he is Co-President. As the largest hedge fund in the world, his role as Co-President is to advise Bridgewater’s clients – some of the most sophisticated institutional investors in the world – not only on their investments, but on the global financial markets overall. Having led soldiers, companies, and our country through some of their largest crises over the past 20 years, McCormick’s experiences in the military, business, and government – often during times of crisis – allow him to bring a distinctive and unique perspective to global investors in these challenging times.
As he reflects on the last several decades, McCormick credits his experience at West Point and in the Army as providing the foundation to help him grow and learn through this diverse set of opportunities.
ANTHONY J. “TONY” GUZZI, USMA 1986
Tony Guzzi is the Chief Executive Officer of EMCOR a $6.3 billion company with 27,000 employees. He graduated in the top five percent of his undergraduate university and with distinction from his Harvard Business School (MBA) class. His academic resume is top tier with many awards and accolades and reads like many other Fortune 500 Chief Executive Officers, but Guzzi’s leadership style is markedly different than the average Fortune 500 Chief Executive Officer. He earned his undergraduate degree from West Point and served as a Light Infantry Officer in the United States Army. These foundational experiences ingrained in him the belief that the mission comes first and leading people is his mission.
Guzzi was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, located in the Western Pennsylvania Mountains. His grandparents were both first-generation Americans from Serbia and Italy. Only one of his four grandparents was able to complete high school – the other three had to go to work in middle of the Great Depression to feed their families. One grandfather entered the coal mines, his grandmother worked as housekeeper, and his other grandfather worked as a fireman – all at age 13. Both sets of grandparents had a combined seven children, and all of their children became college graduates with Guzzi’s dad being the first.
His father was an engineer and an entrepreneur, building a company from five people up to 200 that designed and constructed buildings across the Mid-Atlantic. His mother was a nurse with a unique ability to make sure that Guzzi, his older brother, and his younger sister never became too enamored with their own success. Her line: “You have been set up for success, go earn it.” Guzzi’s father was tragically killed in an auto accident at 63 in December 2000 and his father’s untimely death had a profound impact on Guzzi’s own outlook on his life. It made him realize that he needed to have balance between his work and family – just as his father had.
Guzzi attended Bishop-McCourt High School in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and was an excellent student and a good athlete. He was captain of his football team, and lettered three times in football and twice in track. As a result of this success, he was recruited by several Ivy League schools for football.
However, Guzzi had a different goal for his college experience: He wanted to attend West Point. He started to learn about West Point in his junior year in high school through mailings and his own research. His parents and his extended family had always exhibited deep respect for the military and the academies. Guzzi pursued West Point quietly and on his own and his quest was realized when he received a call on Christmas Eve 1981 that he was the principal nominee from the State of Pennsylvania and would gain admission to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Guzzi was attracted to West Point because he wanted to push himself academically, physically, serve his country, and also wanted to further learn how to lead.
Guzzi received his nomination to West Point from Congressman John Murtha, who was a gruff old Marine who told Guzzi, “You have been given a great opportunity, don’t screw it up, don’t come home without a diploma, you won’t be welcome here if you don’t finish.” Guzzi excelled at West Point in all areas of Academy life-academics, physical fitness, and military training. He graduated as a “star man” in the top five percent of his class.
It was during his second year that he really bought into the ethos of the institution of West Point and realized how it was impacting him. That year he realized that a good leader was one who has both competence and character, who does the right thing regardless of personal consequences. West Point is the ultimate laboratory of leadership training, cadets leading cadets and learning to lead soldiers once they join the Army. In this environment, Guzzi developed his leadership style of the “senior serving his subordinates.”
Guzzi’s performance at West Point resulted in the uncommon distinction of staying in command his entire senior year. He was selected to be a “Beast“ (Basic) Training Company Commander, commanded his Cadet Company and then finally served as Cadet Battalion Commander. Graduating at the top of the class, Guzzi had his choice of both branch of service and first assignments. He was torn between Engineers and Infantry, and chose the Light Infantry because he wanted to lead soldiers in the most challenging physical environment. He chose Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, because at that time the 25th Infantry Division was one of the most deployed units in the Army with a strong Pacific presence.
Guzzi graduated on May 28, 1986, and attended Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, followed by Ranger School. Ranger School was both a learning experience and also a challenging place to prove leadership skills under pressure. Guzzi entered Ranger School in great shape at 190 pounds. He finished at 156 pounds eight weeks later. Ranger School was a foundational experience for Guzzi, reinforcing that you only succeed if the team succeeds and personal accolades do not mean much of anything. It taught Guzzi that you can push yourself beyond any limits you had thought imaginable, but also you had to still lead and make sure the team succeeded.
Guzzi arrived in Hawaii and loved the Army and leading soldiers. He believed it was his job to help soldiers excel and he trained them hard. He had a strong belief in leading by example and always maintaining the highest physical fitness standards. He had excellent mentors in his Battalion Commanders and each had his own style but all were great leaders.
On Memorial Day 1988, during a beach party, Guzzi walked up and started talking to a stunning young coed named Michelle; Michelle was a University of Oklahoma Physical Therapy student on vacation visiting her sister. Dave Houston, a visiting classmate of Guzzi’s, who was with Guzzi offered the following advice: “Forget it; she is out of your league.” They were engaged before Labor Day that year and married two years later. They have been married for almost 23 years and have three children: John (19), a sophomore at Boston College; a daughter, Ann Marie (16); and a son, Louis (11). One of Guzzi’s greatest joys has been coaching the kids’ teams and spending time with his family remembering the lessons that his father taught him.
After the Gulf War, the Army began cutting back significantly, from 20 divisions to 12 divisions in one year. Guzzi had already applied to graduate school with the hope of either attending through the Army or attending on his own to pursue a civilian career. He was accepted into Harvard Business School and sought his Battalion Commanders’ advice. His Battalion Commander was frank, the Army was going through the most significant cutbacks in generations, and it would be hard for Junior Officers like Guzzi to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. Guzzi decided to leave the Army and to attend the Harvard master’s in Business Administration program. Michelle worked as a physical therapist and put him through business school.
“The first 90 days were challenging at Harvard, but the rest was pretty easy compared to West Point,” says Guzzi humbly, graduating with distinction with his master’s in Business Administration from Harvard University. Their son, John, was born two weeks after graduation.
He went to work for McKinsey Consulting in Pittsburgh – back in his home state for the first time in 11 years. He worked with a great team at McKinsey and enjoyed helping companies either work on business strategy or performance improvement. McKinsey taught him two things that would help his future career: (1.) that all decisions should be based in facts and facts are stubborn; and (2.) that great organizations falter or fail if they are not able to change or deal with the harsh realities of business. He loved the McKinsey culture and people but he was not a natural consultant. He struggled between his desire to develop and execute the plan versus helping others execute the plan. He missed the direct line leadership that he enjoyed in the Army and decided that he wanted to lead a large industrial organization.
United Technologies recruited Guzzi to join their Corporate Strategy Group in 1997. The United Technologies Chief Executive Officer told Guzzi that this would be a short assignment and the goal was to develop Guzzi as a General Manager at the earliest opportunity. In short order, he was sent to Carrier Corporation to take over a business that had four General Managers in five years and had a poor performance record. Guzzi started in this $250 million in the service business and quickly realized that the business had some great products and even better people but had lacked focus, leadership, structure, and, most importantly, a winning spirit. Guzzi and this team accomplished great success in a short period of time and they gained a reputation as turnaround leaders. Senior leadership at UTC trusted Guzzi to do the right thing and gave him the freedom to operate. The United Technologies President wanted to promote and move Guzzi to another UTC Business Unit after a short 18 months of performance. Guzzi convinced the UT President to leave him in place to prove that the success was not a short-term burst but was sustained and earned success. Guzzi and his team’s responsibilities continued to increase and in six short years his scope of responsibilities had increased over tenfold to a $3-billion business leading Carrier, Distribution, and Aftermarket.
As a result of his and his team’s success at Carrier, he was offered the opportunity to become the President and Chief Operating Officer of EMCOR a $6.3-billion specialty construction and services company with 27,000 employees. He was attracted to EMCOR as it had great field businesses but they were not performing to their full potential. He believed a little jolt of discipline and focus was needed. When he started in late 2004, the company was a $4.5-billion company that has grown to a $6.3-billion despite the epic recession in 2008. As a result of the hard work of the EMCOR team, the value of the company more than quadrupled in that period in a flat stock market.
Guzzi loves to spend his time in the field. He learns by touching not by waiting for people to report to him. To work with and for Guzzi, you must have confidence in yourself and trust in him as he will travel throughout the organization and touch it at multiple levels. He does not travel with an entourage but prefers to travel light and go and see the organization in action. He cannot stand “yes men” but rather if he finds one he will encourage them to find another opportunity. He wants frank communication up and down the chain of command and he will often call or visit individual project manager to get a “boots on the ground” viewpoint of how not only a job is performing, but also how else can the team be successful and what support they need to be successful. He has a large field presence and spends more than 50 percent of his time in the field.
He loves leading a large organization and finds it fulfilling. He really believes “it is all about the people.” For example, at EMCOR he learned to appreciate their how important improving EMCOR’s safety culture and results were. EMCOR’s work is inherently dangerous and supports customers in some of the most demanding environments possible. Under Guzzi’s stewardship, EMCOR has developed a Zero Accident Philosophy. “We believe that every employee should return every night to his or her family after a day’s work. Our front-line supervisors believe in this philosophy and today we work three or four times the total number of man-hours per year than 10 years ago but we have about a tenth of the injuries. Why? We set a policy that makes sense, our front-line leaders bought into this policy, and we hold each other accountable for its implementation and success. Also, we believe it is a competitive advantage as this record makes the best skilled tradespeople want to work here. I believe that this is how we care for our people through concrete results that place people’s safety first in and accepts no compromises for our people’s safety. Our people deserve to work in this type of environment.”
His leadership style can be summed up in four simple words: “Mission first, people always.” He believes that an organization must focus on performance and in the long run this performance allows people to be cared for and provides them with long-term careers and personal success. Getting personal stories out of Guzzi is difficult, as he usually prefers to tell the stories of those around him.
His next big mission within EMCOR: He wants to leave a legacy that will have EMCOR recognized as one of the most ethical corporations in America: “We score high marks in the annual Fortune 500 survey as one of the most admired companies in the Engineering and Construction sector however, that is not enough.” Guzzi wants EMCOR leaders to be known as leaders of competence and character, the lesson he learned at West Point almost 30 years ago. He hopes to accomplish this with a simple message that seems an awful lot like a commander’s intent. “I never want anyone in the public ever thinking that someone at EMCOR is cutting corners. I want our folks to do the right thing by our shareholders, our employees, our customers, our suppliers and our communities we work in. I want them to do what is right and know they have my unqualified support when they do,” he says. He plans on supporting this mission and intent with a well-thought training program that has his fingerprints all over it and he will personally go through the training with each of his 200 most senior leaders in small groups. The training is not an ethics program, but a leadership program that focuses on character and trust: “I think this is the next big competitive advantage for EMCOR, being known as the most ethical company with the best leaders in the business.”
WILLIAM FORDHAM MURDY, USMA 1964
For over forty years Bill Murdy has led six large corporations at the executive level as either Chief Executive Officer or Chief Operating Officer in several industries. He served three combat tours, received his MBA from Harvard Business School, and has consistently and selflessly supported West Point, veterans and national security organizations for over fifty years. While being very comfortable operating in the boardroom of large public companies, he remains rooted in his modest beginnings of middle class America and his fourteen years in uniform, starting as a Plebe at West Point and rising to Major in the U.S. Army. He credits his success with hard work, luck, timing and always associating himself with great people. When combined, these ingredients make good things happen.
Bill was the oldest of five children in Houston, Texas. His father, who was a commercial photographer, and his Mother raised the children in small Houston home. His father converted the car garage into a photograph studio. As the eldest of three boys and two girls, Bill found himself in an informal leadership position from his early years, first leading his younger siblings and then taking on more and more leadership roles in grade school and public high school. He was a standout student-athlete, attaining nearly every high school title or accolade possible for a young man: Class President, Valedictorian, Eagle Scout and varsity football, tennis and track. After winning scholarships to Dartmouth, Rice, Vanderbilt and being accepted to the three academies, Murdy accepted the appointment to West Point. He felt an affinity for West Point and the Army since his father had been commissioned in the Army Corps of Engineers in World War II and had served in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Southern France and Germany. His father had been wounded in the leg on Anzio beach, patched up and never evacuated from the field.
When Bill left for West Point on his first airplane flight, he left behind his high school girlfriend Mary. Over the next fifty-three years they would only be separated for four long periods of time: four years at West Point and then his three tours of combat duty in the Army. Together they would raise two children and live in fourteen different places.
Bill did very well at West Point, rising to the top of his class and playing both Sprint football for four years as a starter and also one year on the Army tennis team. A few memories of West Point stand out as he reflects on his timing, luck and success. Major General William Westmoreland, who would later command the overall war effort in Vietnam, was an avid tennis player, but Westmoreland didn’t want to play and be beaten by a top Army tennis player. Bill was ranked seventh on the Army team. Murdy’s classmates would chide him for decades about the time the Superintendent’s helicopter flew in to Camp Buckner to pull Cadet Murdy from field training to fly him back to play tennis with the Superintendent…while the class continued roughing it in the field.
Murdy was chosen as one of only six battalion commanders in the Corps of Cadets his Firstie (senior) year. His battalion was chosen in the spring of 1964 to represent West Point in the funeral procession for General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. In this role, Bill led his battalion down 5th Avenue.
Following in his father’s Army footsteps, Bill chose the Corps of Engineers and the 82nd Airborne Division upon graduation. Educated in basic economics by the West Point Social Sciences Department, he vividly recalls the monthly pay for a Second Lieutenant at the time was paid $220/month. Airborne pay was $110/month, so he astutely calculated choosing airborne included a 50% raise. The Class of 1964 was a “guinea pig” class within the Army, and that year the Army chose not to send officers to the traditional Officer Basic Course but instead sent them directly to their military units. En route to the 82nd Airborne, Second Lieutenant Murdy attended Airborne and Ranger Schools at Ft. Benning and arrived at Ft. Bragg in January 1965.
Shortly after arrival, he and his platoon found themselves geared up to parachute into the Dominican Republic in 1965 to eliminate a communist coup in the Caribbean nation. Just after takeoff it was determined the C-130s could land on a newly secure airfield, so instead of jumping in they landed in the Dominican Republic. During these combat operations the Division lost 26 soldiers, including the first member of the Class of 1964, Second Lieutenant Charlie Hutchinson. As a Corps of Engineer platoon leader, Bill’s platoon was attached to the 2nd Battalion/504th Infantry. In this role, the city of Santo Domingo had two opposing enemy forces separated by what was affectionately named “All-American Boulevard”.Enemy forces were using the sewer system to infiltrate US Army positions and attack friendly forces with snipers. Bill was decorated for personally entering the sewer system and mapping it to help protect friendly forces from attack. For several days he slagged his way around in knee deep in human filth, in enemy territory underground, expecting to encounter an enemy sniper around every corner. Years later, when leading large corporations during crisis, he would fondly remember the smells and the material in the sewers of Santa Domingo to keep his perspective.
Murdy left the Dominican Republic after six months and returned to the U.S. to attend Pathfinder School with orders to deploy to Vietnam.
He arrived in Vietnam prepared to be a Pathfinder team leader, but was made aide-de-camp to Major General Robert Ploger (USMA 1939), commander of Army Engineer Command Vietnam. MG Ploger was an inspirational leader who had received the Silver Star and Purple Heart for actions on Omaha Beach. In this role Bill saw all of Vietnam and had exposure to the entire war effort in both Army and Marine areas of operation.
After returning to the United States Bill attended Harvard Business School sponsored by the Department of Social Sciences , in order to return to West Point to teach economics. However, upon completion of HBS, while the war was winding down, it was still a major operation in 1971. Instead of leaving Cambridge and heading to West Point, Bill returned to Vietnam for another yearlong tour.
His first assignment with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam was to serve in the Tactical Operations Center managing night operations and moving friendly assets around the area of operations to suppress enemy threats. He frequently went on patrol with his teams to understand their needs. After “doing his time” in the Operations Center Bill finally received combat Company Command of the Engineer Company supporting the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Captain Murdy traveled to his units throughout the Area of Operations (AO) and often went on missions with his subordinate platoons. While he had sought command, he unfortunately took command of an engineering company that was previously not well organized or well led. By this time in 1971, after six years of heavy combat in Vietnam, years of public protests in the United States against the war, with a draftee army, Army morale had declined, drug use was prevalent, and “fragging” of officers had become commonplace. In hindsight, Bill looks at this command as his first “turnaround” opportunity and turn it around he did, by leading from the front, by removing soldiers who lacked discipline and by enforcing standards. Bill returned from the battlefield of Vietnam to the granite walls of West Point to teach economics in the Social Sciences Department in mid-1971.
Bill’s considers the team he worked with during his three years at West Point in the Social Sciences Department the best team he’s ever been on. At the time, the professors in the Department included Major Barry McCaffrey (later General McCaffrey and Presidential Cabinet Member), Major Jack Jacobs (Medal of Honor recipient and later Colonel), Captain Paul Bucha (Medal of Honor recipient), Captain Dan Christman (later Lieutenant General and Superintendent), Major Howard Graves (later Lieutenant General and Superintendent), Major Wesley Clark (later General and Supreme Allied Commander Europe).
In 1974, after ten years in the Army and a promotion to Major, with the war in Vietnam over and the Army significantly downsizing, Bill chose to leave the army. He was offered a job in Hawaii with Pacific Resources. Bill and Mary moved the family there in 1974 and would remain in Hawaii until 1981. Soon after arriving he was made Chief Operating Officer of the Pacific Resources (NYSE: PRI). His team took the company public and later negotiated a deal to merge with the Kuwait Oil Company.
While traveling through New York City returning from Kuwait, Bill serendipitously met a recruiter from KornFerry who was in a search for someone to lead a team at Morgan Stanley. Soon after, Bill accepted the position with Morgan Stanley and moved the family back to the mainland. In this new role, Bill created the Morgan Stanley Venture Capital Fund that would later become the private equity group. His leadership helped define an entire industry during its infancy.
To do this, Bill started by convincing the partners (Morgan Stanley was a partnership then not a public company) to invest their own capital into an asset pool that he could invest in private companies. He then engaged a major New York financial institution and levered up the assets of the partners’ six-fold to invest in private companies. His fourteen man team then performed due diligence on private companies to find the most worthwhile risk-adjusted investments. They were very successful in their selections and the returns to the partners were significant. With the team and concept proven, Bill convinced the partners that it would be even more attractive to offer access to the fund to outside private and institutional investors, with small management and attractive 20% profit sharing agreement for Morgan Stanley. This strategy was incredibly successful for both the firm and for the investors. Twelve of their thirty-six initial investments went public including Cypress Semiconductors, Linear Technology, Nellcor, and 3COM.
Murdy left Morgan Stanley to lead General Investment Development in Boston for eight years until friends and investors in Houston suggested Bill help launch a new company called LandCare, which was a roll up of commercial and residential land care companies (commercial landscaping and tree care). The investors immediately offered Murdy the role of Chairman and CEO. Within a year, he took this start up company public (NYSE: GRW) and sold it to ServiceMaster for $500 million in October 1998.
Bill then led a partnership to help build Club Quarters starting in 1999. In 2000, the same investors who had invited him to lead LandCare asked him to lead a heating and air conditioning (HVAC) company that was underperforming called Comfort Systems USA (NYSE: FIX). At the time FIX was trading at $1.65 a share. Despite a global recession in the midst of his tenure, just over twelve years later the stock had risen to $16/share. Bill stepped down as CEO and President in 2012 and remains Chairman.
JOHN GARRISON, JR., USMA 1982
On December 30, 2010, John Garrison, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bell Helicopter, presented the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl trophy to Coach Ellerson and the Army football team after their victory over Southern Methodist University 16–14. The victory was the first bowl game for the Army team in 14 years and first bowl win in 25 years. This moment was particularly special for Garrison as it brought together so many important aspects of his life as scholar, athlete, leader simultaneously: former West Point cadet, Army Officer, West Point professor, and now President and Chief Executive Officer of Bell Helicopter supporting the military – all tied together in this particular moment in time. The employees of Bell Helicopter, 25 percent of whom are veterans and 100 percent of whom support the military, sponsor the Armed Forces Bowl which is billed as “More than a Bowl Game” because it honors all current service members and their families and all veterans of our Armed Forces. As the presenting sponsor, Garrison needed to be impartial during the game; however, after the victory, he could not contain himself as he awarded the trophy to Coach Ellerson, giving a big “hooah” to the Army team.
Garrison was born May 10, 1960, in Massachusetts into an Air Force family – Garrison’s parents were both Air Force Officers – his father, John L. Garrison, Sr., a Lieutenant Colonel and pilot, and his mother, Jeanne O’Brien Garrison, an Air Force nurse. He has four brothers and sisters – Jeanne Marie, Donald, Debbie Ann, and Karen Lee. As a military family, they moved every three or four years from Massachusetts, to New Jersey, to Florida, to Germany to Wisconsin. Garrison went to high school in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and was a standout student-athlete. He played three sports – football, basketball, and baseball – and was captain his senior year of all three teams. He was selected as All-State for both football and baseball. His high-school coach gave him advice that he remembers vividly today: “Use your athletic ability to get yourself the best education that you can get.” Garrison was recruited to play football at all three service academies and also as he says self-deprecatingly, “the bottom half of the Big Ten.” He became enamored with West Point, not only for academics, but also for the physical challenges and the leadership training it provided. Even at a young age, Garrison knew that the combination of academic excellence, physical and mental strength, and leadership were cornerstones of personal and professional success. The thought of graduating from West Point and leading a platoon of soldiers intrigued him at a young age. Because his father was on active duty, he was eligible to receive a Vice Presidential nomination, which he received from Vice President Walter Mondale in 1977. He was accepted into West Point and entered in July 1978.
Garrison found West Point academically and physically challenging. Despite the many challenges, he enjoyed the camaraderie and the scholar-athlete leadership opportunity afforded. His Plebe year, he remembers his first football game – not because of the game itself, but because in those days cadets attended class six days a week, Monday through Saturday. He remembers taking a major test in calculus on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. and having to be dressed and on the field for a 1 p.m. football game up at Michie Stadium. He recalls running up to the stadium thinking to himself that not many Division I football players were taking calculus tests immediately before their games!
Garrison was a four-year Army football letterman, dean’s list, and was chosen to be a 3rd Regimental Commander his Firstie year, one of the top cadet leadership positions attainable. As a senior, he struggled with which Army branch to choose. After wise counsel from several Senior Officers, he was convinced that the branch that would give him the greatest learning experience, with a holistic and strategic view of the battlefield, was the Field Artillery. So he chose Field Artillery and Fort Carson, Colorado, as his first assignment. Before arriving at Fort Carson, he attended Field Artillery Officer Basic Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, then Ranger School. He attended Ranger School in the winter of 1983, and even after being a Division I football player for four years, found it to be the most challenging physical and mental experience in his life. Upon graduation, he was selected as one of the Honor Graduates, a coveted award and designation. He looks back at the experience as a great opportunity to learn how to form a team to work collectively under a stressful and challenging environment – a group of individuals who had to all come together to win collectively. It would not be the last time that he would experience the importance of facing adversity as a cohesive team.
After his training, he headed to Fort Carson, Colorado, south of Colorado Springs. He spent three years at Fort Carson in the typical Lieutenant roles – Fire Support Officer in a Cavalry unit and then Operations Officer in a Multiple Launched Rocket Systems (MLRS) battery. He then attended the Officer Advanced Course (OAC) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He deployed to Korea and spent 20 months there culminating as a Battery Commander of an eight-inch artillery battery, leading 138 soldiers where he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM).
While in Korea, Garrison was selected by the West Point Social Sciences Department to return to West Point as a professor to teach social sciences to cadets. Prior to teaching, he attended Harvard Business School to receive his master’s in Business Administration (MBA). The social sciences department at West Point is renowned for being a stepping-stone to become a General Officer and is a prestigious and extremely competitive assignment to receive.
En route back from Korea in Texas, Garrison married Janet, whom he had met in Fort Worth, Texas, while he attended the Officer Advanced Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, just two years earlier. They moved to Boston to attend Harvard, where once again, he graduated with distinction. In doing so, Garrison learned he could compete not only in the military environment, but Harvard gave him the confidence that he could compete in the corporate world. Garrison taught at West Point in the Department of Social Sciences for two years from 1990 to 1992, during which time the world changed radically, more than it had in the past 40 years: The Berlin Wall fell, ending the 45-year Cold War; Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait; Desert Storm liberated Kuwait; and Congress cut the Army from 20 divisions to 12 divisions in the Peace Dividend. Garrison’s Class of 1982 who were remaining in the Army was told that the Army needed to cut his class group by 70 percent within 12 months. This radical cut back was the “Peace Dividend” that Congress wanted with the end of the Cold War. Having just completed Harvard Business School and with an itch to start in the private sector, Garrison chose to leave the Army after 10 successful years (14, if you include West Point). He was awarded his second Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) and left the Army in June of 1992.
With a West Point BS, Harvard master’s in Business Administration, and extensive leadership experience, Garrison had a number of opportunities available to him in a number of lucrative fields. He was offered a role in consulting at a top firm and several investment banking roles, but he did not want to be in consulting or a finance role. Instead, he wanted to be “in the trenches” – involved in creating and building businesses directly rather than advising or financing them from afar. He chose to follow a classmate from HBS to Enron Power Development Corp. In this role he developed power projects and pipelines all over the world, overcoming adversity and challenges, and led the development of a pipeline in Colombia, South America.
After spending two years in this role, Garrison had traveled more than 250 days a year, and while rewarding, it was hard on the family. Another USMA graduate, who was President at Case Corporation (owned by Tenneco), asked Garrison to come to work with him at Case. Garrison started in sales and marketing in their South American operations, promoted to General Manger of their Agricultural System Group, and was eventually promoted to run the Case IH North American Agricultural Division.
In 1999, he was offered an opportunity he could not refuse and returned to Houston to work once again with his HBS classmate who had started a global water company, Azurix, and was in the midst of making several acquisitions. Several months later, Garrison was Chief Operating Officer and President of the company, and shortly thereafter, he was the Chief Executive Officer. Unfortunately, the water company was experiencing challenging times, and its major shareholder, Enron, was also experiencing challenges. Under Garrison’s leadership, he restructured the company, selling the public shares, divesting several operating companies, and ultimately repaying the outstanding public debt and closed the company down. It was both difficult and educational for Garrison as he led his team through adversity.
Garrison wanted to return to the manufacturing business, which he was able to do when he was recruited by Textron to be President of E-Z-GO, its global golf car and utility vehicle manufacturer with more than 1,000 employees. Garrison developed the leadership team, and together they, created and executed a strategy that returned E-Z-GO to profitability in the economically challenged golf and utility vehicle markets. Having successfully led one division of Textron, Garrison was then promoted to run its industrial businesses – representing all of Textron’s non-aviation businesses. This was a difficult time for the overall economy during the recession of 2008, and Textron was hit particularly hard with the liquidity crunch, but Garrison looked at this as an opportunity to lead and manage under adversity – yet again. The recession provided the opportunity to implement a structuring plan that enabled the industrial businesses to maintain profitability during the recession and grow quickly as the global economy recovered. In August 2009, Garrison was asked to become President and Chief Executive Officer of Bell Helicopter based in Fort Worth, where he and his wife, Janet, originally met 23 years earlier.
Bell Helicopter is a 75-year-old company that has approximately 11,500 employees, 8,000 of whom are in Texas. About two-thirds of its business is from the United States government and one-third from commercial markets with total revenue exceeding $4.5 billion. With his strong military roots, Garrison enjoys interacting with the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Army customers and supporting, as he says, “their incredible missions.” Bell Helicopter also affords him an opportunity to apply his commercial business knowledge and is proud of his company’s mission of changing the way the world flies. “The men and women of Bell Helicopter are focused on delivering the mission solutions customer need to be successful. When I think about the incredibly noble missions our customers perform every day – saving lives and preserving freedom – it is humbling,” says Garrison.
As experts in vertical lift technology, Bell Helicopter makes the UH-1Y, which is the Marines utility helicopter – the modern platform of the legendary Huey – the AH-1Z Viper, which is the Marines Attack helicopter, and the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Army Scout Helicopter.
An example of the innovative ways that Bell Helicopter is changing the way the world files is the revolutionary Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft that is a vertical lift aircraft that converts to a fixed wing aircraft in flight. This technology has changed the way the Marines operate by giving them increased capabilities, speed, and range. Bell Helicopter’s commercial division offers best in class helicopters with the Bell 206-L4, Bell 407, Bell 429, Bell 412, and is developing the newest helicopter the Bell 525 Relentless – all supporting several missions from emergency medical services, airborne law enforcement, search and rescue, oil and gas, and corporate transport.
As he looks back on his life as a soldier, scholar, athlete, and now executive, he sees a theme in his journey. In all aspects of his life, he learns, teaches, coaches, mentors, and leads. That is his role and that is what West Point and the Army taught him as a scholar, an athlete, a leader – first as a follower as a Plebe, then as early as a Yearling, learning to lead as an assistant squad leader. Yet the scholar in him loves to learn and believes in continuous improvement. Having moved every three or four years as an “Air Force brat,” then continued moves as an officer and an executive, he enjoys and welcomes change and the challenges and opportunities that it presents. But regardless of whether a leader is an assistant squad leader or the Chief Executive Officer of a multi-billion corporation, Garrison believes leaders need to maintain humility and says, “It’s not about you – it’s about what your organization can accomplish. People lose their way when they lose sight that the focus needs to be on the organization and its people not on themselves as an individual.”
Janet and Garrison have a son and a daughter – both in college.
TIMOTHY C. TYSON, USMA 1974
Tim Tyson is a proud West Point graduate and a global leader in the pharmaceutical industry. In his 35-plus-year career, he has negotiated complex multi-billion-dollar mergers and acquisitions, led major turnarounds that have fueled growth and value, and, most significantly, has been instrumental in bringing more than 50 lifesaving and life-improving medicines to the market.
Tyson was born in 1952 in Hornell, New York, and moved with his family to the Ithaca area when he was 14. Tyson attended Dryden High School and graduated third in his class. In addition to excelling academically, Tyson lettered in football, basketball, and baseball. During his senior year, Tyson was a leader on the football and baseball teams that won league championships for Dryden High School. He participated in student government, community volunteerism, choir, and theater and played lead guitar for a high-school rock band from Hornell called The Axis Power.
After receiving a Congressional appointment in 1970, Tyson entered West Point with the Class of 1974. As a cadet, Tyson played lacrosse, was a member of the West Point Glee Club and Protestant Chapel Choir, served as a sports editor for the Howitzer, and was Regimental Investigating Officer on the Honor Committee. The Class of 1974 graduated after the withdrawal of ground forces from Vietnam and the implementation of the All-Volunteer Army. Tyson was commissioned in the Military Police Corps and assigned to the 111th Military Police Company at Fort McClellan, Alabama. He served in many positions in the 111th, including Military Police Investigations and Executive Officer. He was well respected by his Commanding Officers, peers, and troops and always pushed himself to overachieve. While on active duty, Tyson attended classes four evenings a week, earning a master’s of Public Administration in 1976 and a master’s of Business Administration in 1979 from Jacksonville State University. In 2007, he was recipient of JSU’s Alumnus of the Year award. Captain Tyson resigned from full-time military service in 1979 and remained in the Army Reserves for the next 14 years, retiring as a Major.
Tyson’s first civilian job after leaving the Army was with Procter and Gamble as a manufacturing manager. From 1980 to 1988, he held several executive positions with Bristol-Myers in Syracuse, New York, and Wallingford, Connecticut.
Tyson was hired by Glaxo, Inc. as Director of Engineering in 1988. He successfully led the completion of the construction of a half-billion-dollar research and development facility on the campus in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Tyson ran several divisions for Glaxo, GlaxoWellcome, and GlaxoSmithKline and was a member of the Corporate Executive Team reporting to the Chief Executive Officer. Tyson served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for GlaxoWellcome’s United States operations, where he managed a sales force of more than 4,000 reps and launched 32 new products, eight of which achieved sales greater than $1 billion each. He led the manufacturing merger between GlaxoWellcome and SmithKlineBeecham. As President of GSK’s Global Manufacturing and Supply division, Tyson was responsible for 40,000 employees at 130 manufacturing facilities in 41 countries. He made in-person visits to nearly every one of the sites. Tyson’s leadership by example inspired the thousands of employees to unprecedented achievements.
From 2002 to 2008, Tyson served as Chief Operating Officer, President & Chief Executive Officer of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International. During this period, sales grew 69 percent and earnings increased 135 percent. He led a major restructuring of the company and established a highly effective research and development capability that developed a best-in-class epilepsy compound and a promising pro-drug for hepatitis C, both in Phase III. Valeant was the first pharmaceutical company to implement the Lean Six Sigma process across all disciplines of the company globally.
In 2008, Tyson was named Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aptuit Inc., a pharmaceutical services company, based in Greenwich, Connecticut. Aptuit was a Scrip Award winner in 2010, for its work partnering on five different development programs with Exelixis. The American Chamber of Commerce in Italy, honored Aptuit with the Transatlantic Award 2010, for its substantial investment in Italy, with the acquisition of GSK’s Research Centre of Verona. In 2009, Aptuit was awarded the Chief Executive Officer Cancer Gold Standard accreditation. In addition to implementing Lean Six Sigma practices at GlaxoSmithKline and Valeant, Tyson also introduced the process at Aptuit. In 2011, he was recognized by the International Society of Six Sigma Professionals as Leader of the Year and was honored as the third inductee in to the iSix Sigma Hall of Fame.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL JOHN H. MOELLERING, USMA 1959
Lieutenant General (Retired) John Moellering is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of one of the largest and most well-respected financial institutions in America: USAA. He lived at West Point as a cadet, as a faculty member, then as the Commandant of Cadets before retiring at the rank of Three-Star General. His two sons, John and Matt, are both graduates of West Point, and his grandson, Matt, is a cadet. West Point has become part of the Moellering family’s DNA.
At age 17, Moellering’s neighbor was applying to West Point and, in the process, was required to take the Civil Service Exam since the local Congressman used these grades as a benchmark for competing cadet nominations. His neighbor encouraged Moellering to take the exam as a way to get out of a day of high school, which Moellering found quite enticing. Soon after taking the exam, Moellering scored so well he was offered a nomination to West Point from the Congressman (the neighbor did not, ironically). Years later, Moellering looks back and laughs that he started West Point without really knowing anything about the Academy. After the first day, he was ready to quit, until some new cadets were brought in front the formation and called “quitters” by the upperclassmen. As a result, Moellering decided not to back down – mainly out of pride. He not only stayed all four years to graduate West Point, but then went on to a stellar 28-year career, leading soldiers in the Army and eventually retiring as a Three-Star General.
After choosing the Corps of Engineers, he served as a Platoon Leader and Company Commander, was selected to serve as a White House Fellow and eventually Battalion Commander of an Engineer Battalion. He served a year in Vietnam. He loved being a commander and he learned his own command style by learning from his own commanders. Looking back on his career, he says of his own leadership development, “I learned as much from my bad commanders as I learned from my good commanders.” For example: As a young officer, he saw one of his Battalion Commanders struggle with meeting with the subordinate commanders and the staff at the same time, which took away authority from the commanders and caused confusion in the chain of command.
As a Battalion Commander, he resolved never to have a meeting with both the commanders and the Staff Officers all together. As a Battalion Commander, he met with his Company Commanders and had his Executive Officer manage the staff. Commanders needed to keep the command line and staff line straight, something he later brought with him to the business world. However, having served himself as both a commander and a staffer, he says, “If you are in a staff position, it doesn’t mean you’re not a leader. The key is to constantly seek more and more responsibility.”
When Colonel Moellering took command of the Vicksburg Engineering District, he was responsible for a $200-million budget and maintaining multiple projects. It was much like a civilian project manager of a large company – more of a business than a traditional Army command.
He went to the Pentagon as the Executive to the Chief of Staff of the Army. After the end of the Vietnam War, the implementation of an All-Volunteer Army, and a decade of cutbacks, the Army was a hollowed-out Army and times were tough. His boss at the time, the Chief of Staff, was incredibly hard on his staff, but by Moellering proving himself, he gained a loyal mentor. Moellering was promoted to Brigadier General and sent to Fort Lewis as the Assistant Division Commander for the 9th Infantry Division – one of the best jobs in his career, until the Chief of Staff asked him to go to West Point. The Chief of Staff thought the Corps of Cadets was lacking in discipline and needed Moellering to set it straight.
Brigadier General Moellering arrived at West Point in 1982 as the Commandant of Cadets. After having spent four years as a cadet and then three more as an instructor, he thought he had a clear understanding of these cadets were all about. He quickly realized he didn’t and began setting up small meetings with them – without the ranking cadets and without other officers – to get the real ground truth. He learned that cadets thought summer training was a joke – a waste of time with no discipline. Moellering recalls attending his first summer training event at Camp Buckner and saw cadets disinterested in a presentation and officers not enforcing discipline. He pulled aside the officers and ripped into the Captains, Majors, and Lieutenant Colonels to set an example that training was serious. They implemented bayonet training, a leadership center for underperformers, and brought in outside public speaking groups to teach every cadet public speaking skills. After the challenging years of the 1970s and the hollowed-out Army, Moellering set out to put discipline back into the Corps of Cadets. But Moellering did not look at the position as a command position. He looked at his role as a mentor and told his Tactical Officers (the Captains and Majors reporting to him) that their role was as mentors and not commanders.
He was promoted to a Two-Star General and commanded the Engineer Center at Fort Leonard Wood. After nine months, he was sent to a Three-Star job. He was then assigned as the Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs as the only uniformed member on all the National Security interagency groups in Washington, which included the White House staff, the State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA, and the like. His time spent as a young White House Fellow had helped prepare him to understand how all aspects of government came together in both policy and practice. In this role, he had to learn every aspect of all national security issues in order to advise the Chairman. During his time at the Joint Chiefs, the U.S. would face major national security challenges. These included the Iran-Contra Affair, United States hostages in Lebanon, arms control negotiations with the Soviets, the 1986 air raid on Libya, the Achille Lauro hijacking incident, and many others.
Ironically, one of the reasons he left the Army was because of his meteoric rise – he had only spent nine months as a Two-Star before being promoted to Three-Star. Moellering knew he would never command again. He was recruited by ADP as a Senior Vice President to lead a 750-person division. Thus, he retired from the Army at age 49 at the rank of a Lieutenant General.
After retiring from the Army and having had significant responsibility over both personnel and projects, Moellering assumed the transition would be seamless. He thought he understood business, maintenance, engineering, and service life extension, but soon learned that he knew how to manage projects and spend money, but he didn’t know how to make money. He pulled aside his Chief Financial Officer and asked him for help in learning the “business of business” – the art of making money. He worked with the CFO to understand all areas of financial analysis. He also thought he knew how to “sell,” having needed to influence others in uniform, on Capitol Hill, and elsewhere. But “sales” are as a complex and disciplined art, as well as a science. He enrolled in a Stanford Executive Program to learn the theory of business. Now in his 50s, he methodologically set about to learn every aspect of business – just as he had learned the art of being a soldier three decades earlier.
Nearly three years after joining ADP, a former business mentor from the company asked him to take a day off and come analyze an aircraft business owned by a private equity fund. Lear Siegler was a defense contractor that sold aircraft maintenance and engineering services to the military and with defense cuts looming in the early 1990s, the future of the company looked bleak, and the private equity fund was considering selling and cutting its losses. Moellering thought the company could take advantage of the budget-cutting environment by encouraging the Department of Defense to outsource much more of its maintenance, engineering, and major overhaul programs (inherently done more efficiently by the private sector than the government) as the military tried to do more with what it already had. He was asked by the private equity fund to come in and implement his vision as the Chief Executive Officer.
Soon after arriving, he found the corporate culture to be severely lacking. Nepotism, three-martini lunches, and a lack of ethics permeated the senior ranks. After the first month, he fired 22 of the most senior executives and set about hiring a motivated, ethical team (with many military veterans). Within three years, they had turned the company around and the business was thriving, doubling the top line (revenues) and tripling the bottom line (profits). They then sold the company to United Nuclear Corporation, who later sold the company to General Electric, who then spun off a division to the Carlyle Group, where Moellering remained for another six years.
While at Lear Siegler, he was asked to join the Board of Directors of USAA, a leading financial firm that specialized in servicing members of the military and veterans. He served as a member of the Board of Directors for 12 years, until USAA went through a crisis in leadership and the Chief Executive Officer resigned. The board asked Moellering to take over as Chairman of the Board, which he did in 2007. USAA had been rated as a top financial firm by Moody’s Corp. and Standard & Poors. It was also ranked a top Fortune 500 company in America and in customer service by J.D. Power and Associates for many years. They had a devoted, loyal following of more than seven million members. USAA’s membership is so incredibly loyal that it has the best retention rate in the industry by far (USAA loses less than two and a half percent of its members annually versus the second best in the industry, which sees a 15 percent annual loss rate). Moellering did exactly as he had when he took command as the Commandant – he set about meeting with small groups of employees without the chain of command present so he could get straight, unfiltered feedback from the troops. His research reinforced his initial beliefs: USAA had incredible people and a unique culture, but was hurting its own potential growth rate by limiting the type of person who could join (at the time only military veterans could). Being a member-owned company, the culture is not beholden to shareholders on Wall Street. Every decision is made with the final question being “How does this affect our members?” If the decision does not help members, it just isn’t done. So growth on its own isn’t the primary mission; taking care of existing members is. That alone is a unique culture. When a serviceman gets into financial trouble, the team at USAA does everything they can to stretch the finances to help. These types of actions build an incredibly loyal customer base.
While, at the same time, USSA was significantly limiting its potential growth, they also faced increased competition from discount insurance carriers with massive advertising budgets and cartoon birds or reptile spokespeople. Under Moellering, USAA increased its potential market opportunities by including family members of former veterans and increased its potential market pool to 61-million Americans. They also beefed up their marketing and advertising effort in a new outreach program to gain new members. New membership increased tremendously – from 7 million to 9.2 million.
After having had a stellar 28-year career in the Army and leading two very successful businesses, Moellering reminisces on his lessons learned: “The leadership principles learned in the military are sound. Integrity is the bedrock of leadership in any industry. People have to have trust in your word and character. Whether you are leading troops in the field or leading a bank, as a leader, you need to follow some basic rules. First, do your homework – you need to know everything about your unit or your business. Second, enlightened leadership and persistence are the keys to changing a culture or the direction of a large organization.” The Lieutenant General Moellering Room at the Thayer Hotel is proudly dedicated by his family.