Webster Alumnus Nominated to Become First Black Secretary of Defense

Webster University lauded the selection of one its most high profile alumni, who was nominated this week by President-elect Joseph Biden to be the next Secretary of Defense.

If approved, Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin III, a Webster University alumnus, would be the first Black man to serve as Secretary of Defense in the United States.

Lloyd AustinLloyd Austin

Austin earned a master’s from Webster in 1989 and has twice been honored by the University as an outstanding alumni.

“We are extremely proud that a Webster alumnus has been tapped for this significant role and that a Webster alumnus will break barriers in the federal government and become the first Black Secretary of Defense, pending appointment by Congress,” said Webster University Chancellor Dr. Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble. “I offer my congratulations to Gen. Austin for this recognition of his exceptional leadership and service. Members of the Webster University community take pride in his significant career accomplishments to date and those yet to come.”

A native of Mobile, Alabama, Austin was raised in Thomasville, Georgia. He graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point) with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1975. He earned a Master of Arts degree in counselor education from Auburn University in 1986 and a Master of Arts in Management and Leadership from Webster University’s Platte City location in 1989. The Platte location was merged with the Fort Leavenworth location in 1999, according to university officials.

“This is exciting news and I am proud that one of our most distinguished graduates is at the center of it,” said Webster University President Dr. Julian Z. Schuster. “Both Chancellor Stroble and I had the honor of meeting with Gen. Austin several years ago and we were both impressed with the breadth of his knowledge and his leadership skills. I am convinced that his tenure  as the Secretary of Defense will be marked with great achievements.”

Webster University named him a Notable Alum on April 30, 2010, and on June 19, 2012, he was named a Distinguished Alumni.

Austin was the vice chief of staff for the United States Army and had served as the last commanding general of the United States Forces – Iraq Operation New Dawn. President Barack Obama nominated him as the 12th commander of the United States Central Command. His appointment was confirmed and he became the first Black commander of that unit. He officially retired from the Army as a four-star general in 2016.

Austin is not the first Webster graduate to be considered for a prestigious national-leadership position, said university officials. Earlier this year, Congresswoman Val Demmings, who has a master’s degree in public administration from Webster’s Orlando location, was among the finalists under consideration to run as vice president with President-elect Biden.