College of Medicine and Life Sciences - Commencement

Commencement Speaker 2016

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Maj. Gen. Susan Y. Desjardins

Ret. U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Susan Desjardins served as the commencement speaker for the College of Medicine and Life Sciences ceremony on May 27, 2016, and was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of public service.

General Desjardins was selected by a committee of medical students and faculty from a national pool in recognition of her service to our country through her career. Dean Christopher J. Cooper, M.D., formally nominated General Desjardins, and she was approved by Interim Provost John A. Barrett Jr, J.D., and the Board of Trustees.

“General Desjardins has a remarkable resume,” Dean Cooper said in his nominating letter. “She was one of the first group of women admitted to the Air Force Academy back in 1976. She has experience at every leadership level in the Air Force during her highly decorated career. These leadership positions include tours of duty at Major Command Headquarters Air Force, the Joint Staff and U.S. Strategic Command Headquarters.”

After a 32-year career in the Air Force, General Desjardins retired. Her last Active Duty assignment was as the Director of Plans and Policy for U.S. Strategic Command. She was responsible for the development of the nation’s strategic war plan and for contingency planning for global strike missions.

A command pilot with more than 3,800 flying hours, General Desjardins received her commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in May 1980. She has held a variety of staff positions at the major command, Joint Staff and Headquarters U.S. Air Force levels, including deputy military assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force. Her commands include an air refueling squadron, an operations group and airlift wing. She has served as Commandant of Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy and Director of Strategic Plans, Requirements and Programs, Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott AFB, IL.

General Desjardins continues to serve the military today. She is a consultant for Project Air Force with the RAND Corporation and is a Trustee and Nominating Committee member of the Falcon Foundation that supports military prep school scholarships for young men and women who desire to attend the Air Force Academy. She is also involved in several community endeavors such as serving as President of the Board of Governors of the American Independence Museum in Exeter, NH, and as the National Defense Committee Chair of the Exeter Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was recently selected to the Board of Trustees of Exeter Health Resources.

She received her Bachelor of Science degree in 1980 in international affairs/political science from U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. In 1991, she received her Master of Arts degree in industrial psychology and human relations from Louisiana Tech University and another Master of Arts degree in 1993 in national security and strategic studies from Naval Command and Staff College at Naval War College in Newport, RI.

General Desjardins completed the General Manager Program in 2004 from Harvard Business School and the National Security Studies Program in 2009 from George Washington University in Washington, DC.

She was promoted to Major General on Sept. 10, 2009.

General Desjardins has received the following major awards and decorations:

  • Distinguished Service Medal
  • Defense Superior Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
  • Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters
  • Defense Meritorious Service Medal
  • Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters
  • Aerial Achievement Medal
  • Joint Service Commendation Medal
  • Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster
  • Air Force Achievement Medal
  • Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
  • Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

General Desjardins addressed graduates at the commencement ceremony Friday, May 27, at 2 p.m. at Stranahan Theater.

Last Updated: 6/27/22