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The background and experience of Brigadier General Robert F. McDermott, dean of the faculty of the U.S. Air Force Academy, is a record of startling contrasts -- of the old and the new -- of heritage and frontiers.

He is a graduate of the oldest public school in America, the Boston Latin School. He attended the oldest private military college, Norwich University, and graduated from the oldest service academy, West Point. He holds a master's degree from the oldest university, Harvard, and a doctor of laws degree from St. Louis University, the oldest university west of the Mississippi.

In contrast with this academic background, he has been associated with the founding of a new institution, the youngest of our service academies, since its establishment in 1954, He was appointed by President Eisenhower as the first permanent professor of the Air Force Academy in 1957, and as the first permanent dean of the faculty in 1959. His promotion to brigadier general that accompanied his appointment as dean made him the youngest general or flag officer on active duty at that time.

General McDermott's military background has an analogous mixture of contrasting experiences. He served as a combat pilot and operations officer of a fighter-bomber group in the European Theater during World War II; and he has served as a staff officer in a theater headquarters and in the Pentagon.

His performance is attested to by his command pilot rating and the combat decorations he wears -- the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters and the European Theater of Operations Ribbon with six battle stars -- as well as by the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and Commendation Medal he received for meritorious staff work.

From this contrasting background of tradition and youthful achievement General McDermott has emerged as a recognized leader in higher education and pioneer in military education. The recognition he has received in the form of appointments, promotions and awards is a reflection of his innovations and accomplishments as the academic administrator of the U.S. Air Force Academy. The innovations he has already introduced in the service academy system of education include the "whole man" concept in selecting cadets and a program of advanced and elective courses to enrich the prescribed curriculum.

The concept of using measures of a candidate's moral and leadership attributes as well as his physical and mental qualifications for selection was introduced in 1956, for the first time at any service academy. Also in 1956, as another service academy first, General McDermott introduced a comprehensive curriculum enrichment program designed to provide each cadet with a challenge to advance academically as far and as fast as he can in accordance with his aptitudes, interests and prior preparation.

General McDermott's foreseeable goals for the academy include the establishment of an Astronautical Research Laboratory and an extension of the enrichment program to include graduate education opportunities for exceptional cadets, leading to the award of the master's degree. Short of accomplishment of these goals, however, General McDermott can take pride in these definitive results of his pioneering innovations and academic administration; the superior performance of Air Force Academy cadets on the Graduate Record Examination aptitude and area achievement tests; the number of Rhodes Scholarships won by academy graduates in leading civilian graduate schools of engineering and political science; and the superior performance of academy graduates in flying training and in operational duty assignments.

(Up to date as of March 12, 1963)


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