Portrait of Gen. Martin Dempsey in uniform
Centennial Spotlights

Gen. Martin Dempsey

“Few people alive know as much about the risks of the global world and are as thoughtful about their implications.” That’s how former Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead once described retired Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.

After graduating from West Point in 1974, Dempsey earned a master’s degree in English from Duke in 1984. He returned to West Point, where he was assigned to the academy’s English department.

He served 41 years in the military during times of war and peace. Between 2011 and 2015, he was the 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Over the years, Dempsey kept his ties with Duke, taking part in various discussions. He was keynote speaker in the 2013 Fuqua/Coach K Leadership Summit at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

In 2015, Dempsey was named one of the 100 most influential leaders in the world by TIME, which noted that “his ability to sing 162 Irish ballads from memory would make you wish you’d been coached by his grandmother.”

He has been inducted into the Irish-America Hall of Fame, has received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Dempsey also delivered Duke’s 2014 commencement address, recalling his days as a Blue Devil and telling students to make it matter: “We are and have it within us to remain exceptional. But you’ve got to make this wonderful education you’ve just consumed matter.”

Dempsey was named a 2016 Rubenstein Fellow, during which he co-taught a course in the Sanford School of Public Policy on American civil-military relations, as well as a course on management and leadership at Fuqua.