Wes Posvar was a West Point graduate, a Rhodes Scholar, a fighter pilot, a Brigadier General and a University President. Or, as a friend once described him...Wes was "a fighter pilot trapped in the body of a scholar."
Wes was born September 14, 1925 in Topeka, Kansas and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He excelled at everything he did in life. He graduated high school as the both the Class President and the Valedictorian. He entered West Point July 1, 1943 in the second year of our American involvement in World War II. He thrived at West Point- was first in his class academically every year and won a Rhodes Scholarship upon graduation. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps and graduated with his pilots wings. His first assignment was as a test pilot at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida with the 3200th Fighter Test Squadron. That was his last troop or flight assignment- he would dedicate the remainder of his career to academia. Wes attended Oxford University during the very challenging post-World War II years of 1948-1951 while the the United States tried to prevent mass starvation in England massive aid- called the Marshall Plan. He earned a BA and MA in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford. Wes married Mildred Miller in 1950 and they returned to West Point where he joined the Department of Social Sciences in 1951 as an Assistant Professor. With the founding of the US Air Force Academy (USAFA) in 1957 Wes was made a Professor of the Department of Social Sciences at USAFA in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was eventually promoted to Chairman of the Department of Social Sciences at USAFA. He earned his MPA and PhD from Harvard University and retired from the Air Force as a Brigadier General in 1967 after twenty-one years active duty service.
In 1967 he continued his academic leadership by becoming the Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh. He served as the Chancellor of Pitt for twenty-four years and retired in 1991. He is credited with turning around Pitt from a University on the brink of bankruptcy to a world class institution. In May 2000, Pitt dedicated its largest campus classroom building, Wesley Posvar Hall. At the time of the dedication of Posvar Hall, J.W. Connolly, then Chair of Pitt's Board of Trustees said "His talent and vision contributed in large measure to the development of the University into one of the world's preeminent centers of academic medicine and research." Wes was actively involved in the community and led many non-profit efforts. He was the founding chairman both of the Federal Emergency Management Advisory Board (FEMA) and the National Advisory Council on Environmental Policy and Technology. He was a principal advisor to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He also headed a special commission on the West Point Honor Code.
Just over a year after Pitt dedicated Posvar Hall, Brigadier General Wesley Posvar passed away from a heart attack on July 28, 2001. His son, Wesley, at the funeral at the West Point Cemetery, said: 'There was a common thread between his first career as an Air Force officer and second career as a University President, that being Public Service. There is no question that a strong commitment to Public Service was his biggest driver......My father was immensely proud of his West Point and military experience. There is a bond between classmates of West Point that as a civilian I cannot understand but I can jealously observe that it is probably the strongest non-family relationship in American society. Today, we add his mortal remains to the earth and foundations of West Point. I gladly and happily leave my father here, so that his presence, both individually and collectively with all the other West Point graduates buried here, will inspire future generations of West Point Cadets to greatness, in keeping America free. Even in death, my father lives, as one of The Long Gray Line."