OSWEGO — Former U.S. Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh will receive an honorary doctoral degree from the State University of New York on May 14 at SUNY Oswego’s 155th Commencement ceremony.
McHugh, the 21st secretary of the Army and former congressman and state senator in Upstate New York districts encompassing Oswego, will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at the 9 a.m. ceremony for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“We are deeply privileged to honor Secretary McHugh for his devotion to our country and his lifetime commitment to public service,” said SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley.
McHugh was the second longest-serving Army secretary in history, serving from 2009 to 2015.
As secretary, he was chief executive officer of the world’s largest land force, responsible for a budget of more than $243 billion at its height and a workforce of more than a million active duty, Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers as well as 250,000 civilian employees.
He had oversight on all matters relating to the Army, including manpower, personnel, reserve affairs, installations, environmental issues, weapons systems and equipment acquisition, communications, and financial management.
He earned a reputation as a hands-on problem solver.
When he came to office, the Army was engaged in two wars. McHugh would oversee the largest retrograde operation since World War II, all while reducing the size of the Army in response to budget cuts. He fundamentally reshaped how the Army does business, through comprehensive acquisition reform, innovative energy solutions, reducing the size of Army headquarters, and civilian workforce transformation.
He also successfully guided the Army through a series of public crises, including restoring the honor of Arlington National Cemetery following revelations of mismanagement.
He managed the Army’s preparations for and implementation of the repeal of the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned gays from serving openly in the military.
Throughout the Army’s challenges, he worked to maintain and improve the quality of life of its soldiers and civilians.
He also served as public sector chairperson of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
Over four decades, McHugh worked in government at the local, state and national levels, starting as an assistant to the Watertown city manager and then joining the staff of state Sen. H. Douglas Barclay.
He succeeded Barclay as senator in 1984 and nine years later became New York’s 23rd Congressional District representative.
He had served nine terms as congressman before President Barack Obama appointed the Republican McHugh as secretary of the Army in the Democratic administration in 2009.
While in Congress, McHugh was a leader in national defense policy and championed issues important to New Yorkers, such as assisting crop and dairy farmers, providing stronger schools, and protecting social programs like Social Security.
As the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, chair of the panel’s subcommittee on military personnel and Fort Drum’s congressional representative, McHugh earned a reputation as a strong advocate for soldiers and families.
McHugh also served as a member of Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and for six years as chairman of the subcommittee on the Postal Service where he spearheaded legislation that significantly reformed the U.S. Postal Service.
He was also a member of House International Relations Committee, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Military Academy board of visitors.
A native of Watertown, McHugh earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Utica College of Syracuse University in 1970 and a master’s degree in public administration from the SUNY University at Albany’s Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy in 1977.
In 2013, McHugh received the Rockefeller School’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
A year later, he received a Lifetime Service Award from the American Red Cross of the National Capital Region.
Among other awards and honors, McHugh has been recognized with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit of Enterprise Award, the National Association of Manufacturers Award for Legislative Excellence, and the Association of the United States Army’s Mary G. Roebling Distinguished Service Award.