Honorary degrees presented to 7 leaders in their fields
General Robert W. Cone
General Robert W. Cone is a pivotal leader in the United States Army's preparation for the challenges of the 21st century. As commander of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), General Cone is responsible for educating and training Army soldiers, leaders and civilians as well as for developing the support mechanisms to ensure the success of our troops.
A 1979 graduate of the United States Military Academy, General Cone began his illustrious military career as an armor officer. He has also continued his education, earning two master's degrees: one in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin and the other in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
His leadership experience is expansive. General Cone has held command and training positions at all levels including numerous joint and multinational positions. Recent assignments include serving as commander for III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, and deputy commanding general for U.S. operations in Iraq. Other combat experience includes serving as commanding general of the Combined Security Transition Command in Afghanistan.
As commanding general of TRADOC, General Cone leads according to the concept that "Victory Starts Here" – a phrase that embodies the critical role of providing the right people with the right skills at the right time and place.
He has been a significant military leader in the Global War on Terrorism. During multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, General Cone has guided those under his command with wisdom, distinction and honor. His many awards and decorations serve as testament to his exemplary leadership in peacetime and war.
In recognition of his principled leadership and the positive influence he has exerted on the lives of so many of our servicemen and women, The Citadel Board of Visitors is proud to present General Robert W. Cone with the honorary degree of Doctor of Military Science.
William Henry Johnson, Jr.
William Henry Johnson, Jr., is a member of the Class of 1975 with a passion for history and a talent for leadership. A Summerall Guard, he was also Golf Company commander and a member of the Round Table. After graduation he served in the U.S. Army Reserve for eight years where he achieved the rank of captain.
Mr. Johnson joined W. Lee Flowers & Company, Inc. in Lake City after graduation and is now president of the grocery distributor that serves IGA stores in three states. He is also president of KJ Investment Company which specializes in real estate development.
A respected leader of the grocery industry, Mr. Johnson serves on the board of directors of IGA-USA, which represents IGA food stores nationwide. He is also on the board of directors and the executive committee of the Food Marketing Institute, the trade organization that represents grocery chains, independent retailers and wholesalers throughout the United States.
At his alma mater, Mr. Johnson has served on The Citadel Board of Visitors and as director of The Citadel Brigadier Foundation. He is a current member of The Citadel Foundation Board of Directors, where his business expertise is highly regarded. His establishment of the Henry and Jenny Johnson Endowment for Historical Studies supports guest speakers, historical research and student work. Furthermore, he has enhanced the study of leadership through his support of a master's degree program in Social Science-Leadership which offers graduate classes on campus as well as online. As a tribute to his impact in so many areas, Mr. Johnson received the 2012 Krause Center Award for Distinguished Service, Leadership and Ethics.
In his hometown of Lake City, South Carolina, Mr. Johnson has tirelessly worked with many organizations including the Boy Scouts of America. An Eagle Scout himself, Mr. Johnson encouraged 30 members of his Boy Scout Troop 423 to earn the Eagle Scout award during his 15 years as Scoutmaster.
In recognition of his professional success and outstanding leadership, The Citadel Board of Visitors is proud to present William Henry Johnson, Jr. with the honorary degree of Doctor of Commerce.
Dolphin Dunnaha Overton III
Dolphin Dunnaha Overton III inherited his father’s love of flying. As a young child he built and collected model airplanes. As a young Air Force Pilot in the Korean War, he shot down five Soviet aircraft, becoming an ace in the shortest time of any pilot in the war.
Mr. Overton was born in Andrews, South Carolina. He earned his pilot’s license at the age of 17, and after graduating from high school, he attended The Citadel before leaving to join the Navy. He completed his education at the United States Military Academy at West Point and became one of the early pilots in the United States Air Force. As a fighter pilot in the Korean War, he led three dangerous bombing missions within a month’s time with no loss of life despite massive anti-aircraft enemy fire.
In his second tour of duty in the Korean War, Mr. Overton’s zeal and heroism earned him flying ace distinction. His military honors included the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross with four oak leaf clusters, four Silver Star Medals, Korean Service Medal, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, United Nations Service Medal for Korea, Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters, and the Korean War Service Medal.
At the age of 25 with an illustrious military career in his wake, Mr. Overton began a career in the tobacco industry in Mullins, South Carolina. For the next 60 years, he continued to work in private enterprise, becoming an international businessman. Throughout those years, however, he never gave up his passion for aviation. He founded Wings & Wheels, which at the time was the largest private collection of antique cars and airplanes in the world. By 1999, he had acquired and restored more than 90 aircraft, most of which he donated to museums and institutions in the United States and the world.
Mr. Overton died on March 25, 2013. For his heroic service to his country and for his preservation of the history of aviation, The Citadel Board of Visitors is proud to confer upon Dolphin Dunnaha Overton III the posthumous honorary degree of Doctor of Commerce.
Stacy L. Pearsall
Stacy L. Pearsall is an award-winning photographer and decorated combat veteran whose remarkable images have raised our collective awareness of wounded veterans.
A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, Ms. Pearsall joined the Air Force at the age of 17, becoming a combat photographer and eventually traveling to more than 41 countries. She served three tours of duty in Iraq and was twice honored as Military Photographer of the Year—the only woman to receive the award two times. She was wounded twice while on active duty and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Commendation with Valor for heroic actions under fire.
Although retired from the Air Force, Ms. Pearsall continues to honor the service and sacrifice of fellow veterans through her work with nonprofit organizations. She founded the Veterans Portrait Project Foundation, which documents the lives of military veterans through still photography, film, audio recording and the written word. She is also an advocate for women veterans and supports efforts to improve the care of disabled veterans. For her efforts, The White House and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs have recognized her as a Champion of Change.
Ms. Pearsall's work became widely known when she shared her experiences as a female combat photojournalist on The Oprah Winfrey Show in February 2009. Media outlets such as Time magazine, The New York Times, CNN, BBC and USA Today soon took notice. Her photographs have also been featured in the Oscar-nominated PBS production, Operation Homecoming, and GQ magazine's "This is Our War."
Despite disabilities sustained from combat injuries, Ms. Pearsall is a medal-winning athlete who, since 2010, has competed in the Warrior Games, an Olympic-style event for injured service members and veterans.
Ms. Pearsall eagerly shares her knowledge, conducting workshops and as owner and director of the Charleston Center for Photography. At The Citadel she serves on The Citadel School of Humanities and Social Sciences Advisory Board.
In recognition of her leadership, service and selfless dedication to the welfare of others, The Citadel Board of Visitors is proud to present Stacy L. Pearsall the honorary degree of Doctor of Journalism.
Darius Carlos Rucker
Darius Carlos Rucker is a world-famous musician who is beloved by his hometown of Charleston for his humility, generosity and inspiring rise to success.
Mr. Rucker was one of six children raised by his single mother, Carolyn. Although the family was financially poor, they had each other and they were rich in spirit and in music. Mr. Rucker sang in church, in the high school choir and around the house. He had a gift that he would not squander.
Upon graduating from Middleton High School, Mr. Rucker attended the University of South Carolina, where he and some fellow musicians formed the band Hootie & the Blowfish. Through hard work and perseverance—oftentimes performing for free—the band gained popularity, and as the lead singer, it was Mr. Rucker’s signature baritone voice that distinguished the group. In 1994, Hootie & the Blowfish released its debut album, Cracked Rear View, which sold a staggering 16 million copies and made Mr. Rucker a star. During the next 11 years, the band released five more albums.
In 2008, Mr. Rucker ventured into country music. With the release of his debut country single “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” he became the first African American to have a No. 1 country hit since Charley Pride in 1983. The album’s next two singles, “It Won’t Be Like This for Long” and “Alright,” topped the charts and earned him the New Artist award from the Country Music Association. In October 2012, he received the ultimate country music honor when he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.
Darius Rucker embodies the American dream, but he has not been cavalier about his success—he uses his celebrity status to benefit those in need, especially children in South Carolina. Through the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Tournament, Mr. Rucker and the band have provided millions of dollars in funding to South Carolina junior golf programs and public education throughout the state. In addition, Hootie’s Homegrown Roundup assists impoverished students from eight Charleston-area elementary schools.
For his contribution to music, his inspiration to others and his generosity to the children of South Carolina, The Citadel Board of Visitors is proud to present Darius Carlos Rucker with the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.
Stephen Craig Tobias
Stephen Craig Tobias graduated from The Citadel in 1967 with a bachelor's degree in History. He received a commission in the U.S. Army, where he served for two years and attained the rank of captain. In October 1969, Mr. Tobias joined Norfolk & Western Railway as a junior engineer – a job that was supposed to serve as a temporary position while he waited to enter law school in the fall. Instead, it was the beginning of an illustrious career that would span more than four decades and earn him a reputation for being a principled leader dedicated to the well being and safety of those in his charge.
As the years passed, Mr. Tobias steadily climbed through the ranks of Norfolk & Western. In 1982, when Norfolk & Western merged with Southern Railway to become Norfolk Southern, Mr. Tobias helped the corporation thrive and in 1998, became the Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer. In 2008, Mr. Tobias received the Railroader of the Year Award from Railway Age in recognition of his leadership at Norfolk Southern – an award that cited the company's record traffic volumes, tight capacity, operational excellence and safety record.
Safety was a fundamental issue for Mr. Tobias who emphasized the importance of following procedures and looking out for the safety of coworkers. That philosophy helped Norfolk Southern win 15 consecutive Harriman Gold Medal Awards for safe operating performance. Industry observers have noted that during Mr. Tobias's tenure, Norfolk Southern was widely regarded as the best-managed Class 1 railroad in the country.
Mr. Tobias graduated from Harvard University's Advanced Management Program in 1986. Throughout his career, he has also been active in community organizations and served on numerous professional boards.
Mr. Tobias's loyalty and support for his alma mater have been both steadfast and generous. He is the past chairman of The Citadel Foundation Board of Directors and is a member of The Citadel Society of 1842.
In recognition of his business leadership and his devotion to his alma mater, The Citadel Board of Visitors is proud to confer upon Stephen Craig Tobias the honorary degree of Doctor of Commerce.
Mitchell M. Zais
Mitchell M. "Mick" Zais, Ph.D. is passionate about education. As South Carolina's State Superintendent of Education, he believes that every student should attend an excellent school and be taught by outstanding teachers. In pursuit of this ideal, Dr. Zais has dedicated his career to excellence in education.
Dr. Zais graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds Master's and Ph.D. degrees in organizational behavior and social psychology from the University of Washington. He also holds a master's degree from the School for Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and was a research fellow at the National Defense University.
After graduation from West Point, Dr. Zais served in the Army for 31 years, retiring as a brigadier general. He was assigned to infantry units in Vietnam, the United States and Korea and served as commanding general of U.S. and Allied forces in Kuwait and of Operation Provide Refuge. In that role, he led the task force that cared for 4,000 Kosovo refugees in the United States. He also taught leadership, organizational behavior, and management consulting on the faculty at West Point. His career culminated as the chief of staff of the U.S. Army Reserve Command.
His numerous military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.
After military service, Dr. Zais became president of Newberry College, a private, liberal arts institution that saw its enrollment and endowment nearly double under his leadership. During his tenure, Newberry was named one of America's best colleges by U.S. News & World Report.
In 2011, Dr. Zais became South Carolina's 17th State Superintendent of Education. That role has put him at the forefront of debates on school improvement, teacher evaluation, charter schools, and legislative reform. Through it all he has demonstrated principled leadership and respect for all the state's residents.
Dr. Zais has a far-reaching commitment to the educational community and has served on many professional boards in this region and nationally.
In recognition of his military service to our country and his leadership in education in South Carolina, The Citadel Board of Visitors is proud to present Dr. Mitchell M. "Mick" Zais with the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Education.