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#199 – The Story of General Sullivan

Archer Greenhalgh 200 Things about Norwich, Leaders & Legacy 9 Comments

When this series began 199 weeks ago, General Gordon R. Sullivan was the chair of the Norwich board of trustees, and he shared a video message with you introducing our ambitious project. Today, we turn our attention to his life and accomplishments.

General Sullivan was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in Quincy. He entered Norwich as a Rook in 1955. During his time at Norwich, he was a history major, a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, and served on the Junior Week and Winter Carnival committees. He was also on the Guidon staff and penned a regular column titled “Sully’s Scratchings.”

General Sullivan completed his bachelor’s degree from Norwich in 1959 and was commissioned a second lieutenant of Armor in the same year. He retired from the Army on July 31, 1995, after more than 36 years of active service. He culminated his uniformed service as the 32nd Chief of Staff—the Army’s senior general officer—and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Gordon Sullivan served overseas in Korea, two tours in Vietnam, and for 12 years in West Germany. His service involved commands from platoon to Division, as well as staff duty from battalion to the Department of the Army. He also had a role as a combat advisor.

An active member of the alumni community since his graduation, General Sullivan first joined the Norwich Board of Trustees in 1995, shortly after his retirement from the Army. He was elected chair in 2003 and served in that capacity for 13 years, retiring in 2016 to become Norwich’s Distinguished Leader-in-Residence. His leadership on the Board saw Norwich into the 21st century, with growth on our physical campus as well as our innovative online learning programs.

General Sullivan currently serves as the Chairman of the Board at the Marshall Legacy Institute and is also a member of the Mitre Army Advisory Board, the MIT Lincoln Labs Advisory Board, and a Life Trustee of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. He also serves as the Chairman of the Board of the Army Historical Foundation in Arlington, Virginia. In this capacity, he leads the Capital Campaign to construct the National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. A tireless advocate for Soldiers and their families, the Museum project remains consistent with General Sullivan’s priorities—to recognize the contributions of over 30 million American men and women who have served in our Army.

For many years, General Sullivan was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of the United States Army, where he oversaw the transformation of the association into a dynamic, member-based organization that continues to represent Soldiers, Army families, and the defense industry.

In addition to his numerous military awards and decorations, he is also the recipient of the AUSA 2016 Marshall Award, the West Point Association of Graduates’ Sylvanus Thayer Award and a member of the Sergeants Major Academy’s Hall of Honor. He was granted an honorary Doctor of Military Science degree from Norwich in 1991.

General Sullivan currently resides in Falmouth, Massachusetts with his wife Lori. He has three children and three grandchildren. He is an avid reader, amateur historian, and active sailor and sport fishing enthusiast.

Comments 9

  1. Beth Veach

    General Sullivan is an incredible role model of how to both lead and serve others. Learning from him is a real privilege.

  2. Bob Luby

    With all his accomplishments it is probably easy to forget that Sully has “always” been a nice guy. As a Rook, Sully would see Kenny Labell & myself dragging ourself back to Alumni Hall after hockey practice. Bruised, battered, and often bleeding we were not anxious to get back in uniform and make our way to the Mess Hall. Sully, who worked in some capacity at the dinning facility (waiting tables?) would often give us his little “take home” brown sack which generally contained a couple of rolls (sixty years later I can still taste them), plus a little of what was being served that day.

    As a member of “H Company”, our cadre was not particularly intested /supportive of our athletic pursuits – that’s about as positive I can be. Sully, recognized our predicament and often provideded the nourishment we badly needed to get through another day. I also believe that Sully showed us some little tricks like threading the “spiffy thingamajig” through our tie knot and then cutting off the tie ends. Several little things that saved us time.

    I often think of Sully and am forever appreciative of his help.

    Bob Luby, 62

    Kenny didn’t remain with our class through the grueling four years – he went on to play semi-pro hockey and was Worlds Barrel Jumping Champion for several years

  3. Stewart Ives

    I remember COL Sullivan from his time in VII Corps, Kelly Bks, Stuttgart, GE. The Kitzingen O-Club, and Abtswind exercises. Quite a while ago but still stored up there in the dusty gray matter. -Thank you.

  4. Robert Guptill

    General Sullivan has continued his service to Norwich by being elected by the Museum Associates, President of the Sullivan Museum and History Center, which of course is named in his honor. How appropriate that a Norwich history major, scholar, and prominent national leader would be willing at his age and after his life’s accomplishments to take on this leadership role in support of the Museum’s mission.

  5. Paul Howard

    Paul Howard NU ’70
    While stationed in Augsburg, Germany in the 80’s I had the privilege of knowing a wonderful human being named Dick Durgin NU ’59. Dick, who became a BG, could not say enough about his classmate Sully.
    I did get to meet both Generals at Mc Graw Kaserne in Munich. Watching the two of them interact, tell jokes and reminence about their days at Norwich University was a treat. Dick is resting in peace looking down on his trusted classmate.
    Norwich forever.

  6. gail whelan

    A truly amazing, purposeful, empathetic and energetic life and career!
    What contributions this Norwich grad has made, continuously and selflessly!

    It is interesting to see the student photo and imagine where and how that
    life was going to go!

    Gail Whelan

  7. David MacInnis

    Sally was one of the most popular cadets in the class of 1959. In an earlier comment in this segment somebody wondered if he worked in the mess hall serving cadets. Yes he worked in the mess hall but in the kitchen scraping plates and feeding the dish machine. Sully and I worked together for four years back there along with other cadets. As a second lieutenant Sully and my brother Don had a make-shift mud hut on the 38th parallel where they lived. I remember my brother telling me how highly respected Sully was by his troops. He was not surprised that he had reached the Heights that he had within the ranks. Sully continues to be part of my Norwich experience.

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