Leadership University began as a partnership between the Office of Student Life and the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. The recognition portion of Leadership University is based on the story below which details how President Eisenhower became a five-star general in the United States Army.
The mission of Grand Valley State University includes educating students “to shape their lives, their professions and their societies.” Together, President Eisenhower’s story and Grand Valley State University’s mission form the foundation of the Leadership University program.
Eisenhower's Fifth Star
Dwight D. Eisenhower earned a four-star general rank through his long and distinguished career in the United States Army. With his fourth star, Eisenhower commanded the North African Theater of Operations (NATOUSA) and eventually the entire Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). In this role, he oversaw D-Day, the liberation of Paris, and the rolling back of German forces in Western Europe.
On December 20, 1944, four months before fighting ceased in Europe, Congress promoted Eisenhower to general of the army — a five star rank. The promotion had little to do with Eisenhower's performance or any new accomplishment.
In truth, British General Bernard Montgomery had been awarded a fifth star in September, and the U.S. Congress did not want its generals outranked by anyone. So Eisenhower, in effect, was awarded a fifth star without having to earn it.
Of course, we now know that Eisenhower still had many years of service ahead of him: more than three years as president of Columbia University, two years as Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and eight years as president of the United States. When Eisenhower was awarded a fifth star, in other words, some of his toughest leadership challenges were still ahead of him. Through sixteen years of continued service to his country, Eisenhower certainly earned his fifth star.
Based on Eisenhower’s story and Grand Valley State University’s mission, Leadership University participants are awarded a star each time they complete three activities—one falling into each category: lives, professions and societies. Upon graduation and completion of the program, we award a fifth star to students automatically with a challenge: earn it through a long career dedicated to hard work, service, and effective, ethical leadership.
Page last modified May 13, 2014