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Securing America’s Future:

The Power of Liberal Arts Education

John McHugh

Secretary of the United States Army
Utica College (NY), Class of 1970
John M. McHugh was sworn in as the 21st Secretary of the Army on September 21, 2009, following his nomination by President Barack Obama and confirmation by the United States Senate. As secretary, he has statutory responsibility for all matters relating to the United States Army: manpower, personnel, reserve affairs, installations, environmental issues, weapons systems and equipment acquisition, communications, and financial management. At the time of his appointment as secretary, McHugh was a sitting member of Congress representing northern and central New York. During his nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, he earned a reputation as a staunch advocate for soldiers and their families.
 
As a member of Congress, McHugh served as the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. He also served as a senior member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and for six years as the chairman of the Subcommittee on the Postal Service. McHugh also was a 14-year member of the United States Military Academy Board of Visitors. At the time of his nomination, he was co-chair of the House Army Caucus, a bipartisan organization that works to educate fellow House Members and their staffs about Army issues and programs.
 
Born in Watertown, NY, he began his public service career in 1971 as the confidential assistant to the city manager. In 1976, he joined the staff of New York State Senator H. Douglas Barclay, with whom he served as chief of research and liaison with local governments for nine years. Succeeding Senator Barclay in 1984, McHugh served four terms in the legislature’s upper house before his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992.
 
McHugh received a BA in political science from Utica College of Syracuse University in 1970 and earned a master’s degree in public administration from the State University of New York’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Graduate School of Public Affairs in 1977.
Of all the titles I have had—Secretary of the Army, Member of Congress, Senator of New York—the one of which I’m most proud is Utica College graduate.
 
The liberal arts education I received from Utica College was the foundation for a lifetime of learning and professional growth. From small classrooms that created an intimate learning environment to the support and mentorship of inspired administrators, caring staff, good teachers, and motivated faculty, Utica College provided more than a degree—it provided me with knowledge, purpose, and a sense of civic responsibility.
 
I’ve always believed that public service is more than a profession; it’s a calling. There is something especially satisfying about spending one’s day trying to make other peoples’ days better. That was true throughout more than 25 years of elected office, when I had the great honor to serve my community in the New York State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. But there has not been a job in public life that has meant more to me, or brought a better sense of professional fulfillment, than the great honor of serving as secretary of the army. To be able to spend my time serving America’s sons and daughters—young men and women who raise their right hand and pledge to defend our nation—has been a tremendous opportunity. I would never have been fully prepared to do this job, or any other, without a quality liberal arts education.

From small classrooms that created an intimate learning environment to the support and mentorship of inspired administrators, caring staff, good teachers, and motivated faculty, Utica College provided more than a degree—it provided me with knowledge, purpose, and a sense of civic responsibility.

Utica College promises to educate “students for rewarding careers, responsible citizenship, enlightened leadership, and fulfilling lives by integrating liberal and professional study,” and they continue to help students meet those goals and more as young professionals. For me, that well-rounded education better prepared me for the challenges and opportunities I faced throughout my career, and I continue to benefit from the knowledge, lessons, and opportunities that began with a bedrock liberal arts education.
 
As I look back on my life, there are many things I might have done better by doing them differently. But one thing I’ve never questioned was my decision to attend, and the time I spent, at Utica College. Sometimes, some things just defy improvement.
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