BETHANY, W.Va. – Retired Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, former Chief of Naval Operations, addressed Bethany College’s 2016 graduating class as part of the institution’s 176th Anniversary Commencement Weekend. Greenert delivered his remarks, “What distinguishes us?” to Bethany’s 136 graduates on May 14 in the Hummel Field House.
“Your brand is a great brand,” said Greenert. “Your graduates are a vast spectrum of people in business, art, theology, entertainment, sports. It goes on and on. For an institution of your size, you punch way above your weight. And what you contribute to our country, to make it the great country that it is, is noteworthy and I congratulate you for that.”
“I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about your world because your world is not our world, it’s not my world, and it not the people’s behind me world, it’s a changing, evolving world. Your world is incredibly complex, it’s dynamic, it is going faster and faster but at the same time, your world is evolving.”
“It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, it is going to be a trans-national, fast moving world,” observed Greenert. “What that means is cultures need to co-exist, we need to learn how to get along. Borders are not going to be defined. Leadership and success in the world is about adapting, compromise, tolerance, invoking trust and confidence in people, engaging, being personal and communicating. The solution will be a product of your perseverance.”
“What distinguishes us? What will distinguish you? There are three key factors that I observe that really distinguish us, your background, your moral foundation and your ability and willingness to commit,” stated Greenert. “These key characteristics, you are going to need professionally and you are going to need them personally throughout your adult journey is this world.”
“Professions need people that commit and see things through. Don’t quit, take risks and give people a second chance and if someone gives you a second chance, take it,” declared Greenert.
He was presented with an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Dr. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg, President of the College, and Dr. Robert J. McCann, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees.
Dr. Rodenberg also addressed the graduates. “You have been nurtured in a special place called Bethany College. At Bethany, you have been part of a community, a place where your professors challenged you to new beliefs, to new thoughts. A place where your community stretched your horizons, to new relationships, new possibilities and has opened your eyes to who you can be.”
“This community has prepared you to be people of courage, leaders in your field and well-rounded citizens of this world,” Rodenberg said. “We commission you today, with your diploma in hand, to enter this world in your own rite, in your own way with your unique gifts and your capacity and power to change it.”
Prior to retiring from the Navy after a 40-year career in October 2015, Greenert served as Chief of Naval Operations for four years. The CNO is the most senior uniformed officer in the Department of the Navy (unless the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is a Navy officer) and functions as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as a military adviser to the Secretary of the Navy, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, the Secretary of Defense and the President.
Greenert, a native of Butler, Pennsylvania, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1975 with a B.S. in Ocean Engineering and completed studies in nuclear power for service as a submarine officer. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as an Ensign and went on to serve aboard the USS Flying Fish, the USS Tautog, and as executive officer of the USS Michigan.
Greenert’s first command came aboard the USS Honolulu and was followed by commands including service as commander of Submarine Squadron 11 at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego, California; chief of staff for the commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, in Yokosuka, Japan; and commander, U.S. Pacific Command, representative to Micronesia/commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Marianas.
After serving as director of the Operations Division in the Navy Comptroller Office, Greenert served as deputy and chief of staff of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Honolulu, Hawaii, and as commander of the Seventh Fleet, the Navy’s largest forward-deployed fleet.
In 2006 Greenert returned to the Pentagon to serve for a year as deputy chief of Naval Operations for Integration of Capabilities and Resources and then as commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command before serving a two year assignment as vice chief of Naval Operations. On September 23, 2011, Greenert became the 30th Chief of Naval Operations.
He is a recipient of various personal and campaign awards including the Distinguished Service Medal (6 awards), Defense Superior Service Medal and Legion of Merit (4 awards) and in 1992 he was awarded the Vice Admiral Stockdale Award for inspirational leadership.
Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.