Former Pitt Chancellor Wesley Posvar Is Profiled in New Book About Distinguished Graduates of West Point

Issue Date: 
September 23, 2013

The late Wesley Posvar, a West Point Military Academy graduate who went on to serve as the University of Pittsburgh’s chancellor for 24 years, is featured in a newly published book, West Point Leadership: Profiles of Courage (Leadership Development Foundation, 2013).

The book profiles 180 West Point graduates who are or who were leaders in their fields and explains the impact they had. Among those profiled are several U.S. presidents and corporate leaders as well as military leaders who commanded U.S. armed forces in wars ranging from the Civil War through the war in Iraq. Posvar (1925-2001) is one of just five men profiled in the book as an important “Educator,” and the beginning paragraph of his profile explains why: 

“Brigadier General Wes Posvar was a West Point graduate, a Rhodes Scholar, a Fighter Pilot, a Brigadier General, and a University President. Or, as a friend once aptly described him, Posvar was ‘a fighter pilot trapped in the body of a scholar.’” 

Posvar entered West Point in 1943 during the middle of World War II. He ranked first academically in his class each year and seemingly excelled at everything he did afterward. Posvar earned his pilot wings and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, the forerunner to the United States Air Force. He was the U.S. Air Force’s first Rhodes Scholar, earning his BA and MA degrees  in philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford University.

Posvar’s first teaching post was as an assistant professor of social sciences at West Point from 1951 to 1954. He became a professor of political science at the Air Force Academy in 1957 at age 32 and was later appointed chair of the Division of Social Sciences, the youngest division head in the history of the Air Force Academy. Two more academic degrees were to follow—Posvar earned his MPA and PhD from Harvard University in 1964. He retired as a Brigadier General in the United States Air Force in 1967 after 21 years of active-duty service.

And that was all before he became Pitt’s chancellor in 1967. Many credit Posvar with bringing Pitt from the brink of financial collapse to renown as one of the nation’s leading academic research institutions.

Pitt has also dedicated a room in Posvar’s honor at the Thayer Hotel at West Point. The hotel is a national historic landmark that has hosted five U.S. presidents and countless world leaders. The Brigadier General Posvar Room is one of 41 guest rooms that have been dedicated to distinguished West Point graduates.