February 5, 2009 — To learn about leadership, go to the top.
Brig. Gen. Rebecca Halstead, recently retired from the United States Army, will visit the University of Virginia Feb. 9 to speak on leadership. She will address an undergraduate class during the day and give a public talk on leadership at 6:15 p.m. in Maury Hall room 209.
Halstead is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the Third Corps Support Command and the 10th Mountain Division, respectively. The first female graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (class of 1981) to be promoted to general, Halstead was a 2007 National Women's History Project Honoree.
"If leadership were easy, everyone would do it," Halstead said. "It takes sacrifice and discipline, but it is very rewarding. You get to see other people grow, develop and mature."
Leadership is not limited to military applications, Halstead said.
"People lead in churches, businesses, communities, schools, in families as parents and even as children," she said. "Everyone has an opportunity to be a leader if they seize it."
Halstead, a native of Willseyville, N.Y., had planned to attend nearby Ithaca College and pursue a career as a physical education teacher. Her mother told the then-high school junior that the United States Military Academy had been opened to women and suggested she apply. Halstead applied to placate her mother and assumed that her life would proceed along the path she had laid out for it.
"But then I got accepted [to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point] and I went," she said. "I enjoyed it. I found I was making a contribution and kept going."
Halstead made a career of the Army because of "the people and the places," but mostly because the Army is "a value-based organization."
While enjoying retirement, Halstead is writing a quasi-memoir about family, faith and freedom, working as a consultant with the Praevius Group and giving motivational talks.
She accepted the invitation to address U.Va. students because, she said, "the cadets are the future leaders of the Army."
Halstead's talk is part of a Leadership Lecture series created by Army ROTC Commander Col. Jay Dymek, who wants to expose undergraduates to a variety of leaders.
"This is an opportunity for senior leaders to give voice to their own leadership experience and to speak to students, faculty and the community," Dymek said.