For Army General, Duke Was an 'Intellectual Oasis'

General Martin E. Dempsey received a master's degree from Duke in 1984.

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, credits his broad view of the world in part to a humanities degree he received from Duke in 1984.

Dempsey is one of two high-ranking military officials -- along with Eric Shinseki, the current U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs -- to get a Duke graduate degree through a U.S. Army-sponsored program designed to improve the quality of instruction at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Duke's English Department was one host site for active duty line officers selected by the Army to spend two years in the master's program. After graduation, the Army officers returned to West Point to teach for three years.

"My time at Duke was an intellectual oasis after a long march," Dempsey said. "It allowed me time to broaden my perspective from the confines of military life and open it to another world, full of new ideas, viewpoints, issues and stories which helped me develop."

Dempsey will deliver the 2011 Ambassador S. Davis Phillips Family International Lecture Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in Page Auditorium. His speech is titled: "American Grand Strategy in an Age of Austerity."

Both Dempsey and Shinseki are four-star generals. As chairman of the joint chiefs, Dempsey is the nation's highest-ranking military officer. Shinseki, a 1976 graduate of the Duke master's program, served as chief of staff of the U.S. Army from 1999 to 2003.

Each received master's degrees in English through the Duke program.

"The military decision-making process follows a fairly quantitative and analytical process," Dempsey said. "I believe the humanities develop important qualitative skills that provide military leaders with a more balanced and rich education, allowing them to look at challenges from multiple viewpoints and able to more clearly express themselves."