U.S. general, UNH alum to speak at commencement

By Justin Doubleday
On March 29, 2013

  • U.S. Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence and 1982 UNH graduate Mary Legere is this year’s commencement speaker. Courtesy

The Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence will take a break from the Pentagon to deliver UNH's commencement speech. It was announced on Wednesday that Lt. General Mary A. Legere, '82, will give the keynote address on May 18 at the commencement ceremonies.

The Dover native has spent over 30 years as a member of the armed forces. Legere is one of the highest-ranking graduates of the UNH ROTC. A three-star general, she oversees the "readiness, modernization and development of the 58,000 soldiers and civilians in the Army's military intelligence corps," according to a UNH press release. 

"We are honored to have Lt. Gen. Mary Legere as this year's commencement speaker," UNH President Mark Huddleston said in a statement released on Thursday. "We believe her leadership and dedication during a long and distinguished military career will inspire our graduating students as they think about starting their careers and moving forward in this next phase of their life. Lt. Gen. Legere's story is inspiring and impressive, and we look forward to welcoming her back to campus."

Legere graduated from UNH in 1982 with a degree in political science. She was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the Army's military intelligence corps. She has earned master's degrees from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Penn.

During her time in the Army, Legere has completed tours in Germany, the Republic of Korea, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq. She is a combat veteran, having been deployed in Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Legere was in Iraq for 18 months, from April 2008 to September 2009, as the coalition forces' chief of staff for intelligence. 

She was promoted to her current position overseeing the Army's intelligence operations in April 2012. Legere has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star Medal, among many other honors. 

While she is a high-ranking member of the military, Legere has not forgotten about UNH. In 2010, Legere came back to Durham to speak at the UNH ROTC's Commissioning Ceremony. 

"She's really an outgoing person," said Major Bob Sanders, the UNH ROTC Battalion XO (executive officer), on Thursday in Zais Hall. "She's a really good speaker, and she's really down to earth." 

While many three-star generals would probably leave immediately after speaking at a commissioning ceremony, Sanders said, Legere stuck around for an hour and a half after the 2010 ceremony, speaking to the friends and families of the graduates. Sanders said that Legere will also be setting aside some time in her schedule in the near future to host some of the graduating cadets from the UNH ROTC at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. 

Sanders said that it is special for the ROTC program to have one of its graduates return as the commencement speaker. 

"It's an honor and it gets [the UNH ROTC] more notoriety," he said. 

Students had mixed feelings about Legere being chosen to give the keynote address at graduation. Senior environmental engineering major Victoria Brisson said that she grew up in the military and will be able to relate to Legere. But she's not sure how others will be able to identify with the general. 

"I think it will be good, but I wish we had more of a say," Brisson said. "She's a smart lady, so she'll have a good perspective for us and good advice for the future. ... I also like that [the speaker] is a female." 

Senior Amy Polaneczky was excited to hear the news about Legere. Polaneczky is majoring in business administration with a focus in marketing. She plans on going into the Air Force after graduation. 

"It'll be awesome to hear from someone with such an interesting, important position," Polaneczky said. 

Senior English majors Matthew Laurion and Stephen Goodrow said that they were neutral on Legere being chosen as commencement speaker. They conceded that she could very well give a charismatic speech, but said they can't really relate to someone with a military background. 

"There's not much we can glean from her experience because we have to take entirely different tracks [to success]," Laurion said. 

"It's an entirely different world," Goodrow said of the military. "It's 'Alpha, Bravo, Charlie' versus 'ABC.'"

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