Vice Admiral to Deliver Leadership Keynote

January 30, 2013

A high-ranking Navy vice admiral is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the next Leadership Seminar for the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) on February 8.

VWIL cadets met Vice Admiral Carol M. Pottenger, who is the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. Navy, at a military women’s event in Washington, DC, last spring.

“[Pottenger] said, ‘I’m interested in your program and I’ve been waiting for an invitation,” said Col. Melissa Patrick, deputy commandant for VWIL. The cadets saved her business card and made contact with her in time to line her up for the latest Leadership Seminar.

She commissioned as an ensign after graduating from Purdue University in May 1977 and was then selected to be one of the first women to serve on sea duty. She has twice commanded ships at sea, including the USS Bridge, a supply-class, fast-combat support ship on deployment in support of military operations in Afghanistan, responsible for resupplying 10 battle groups. Under her command, the USS Bridge earned the Battle Effectiveness Award and the Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy, awarded to “the ship from each coast selected for having achieved the greatest improvement in battle efficiency during the calendar year, based upon the Battle Efficiency Competition.”

Pottenger also led the Military Sealift Fleet Support Command. In 2006, she became the first female admiral to command a strike group at sea when she took command of Amphibious Force 7th Fleet/ESG 7 in Okinawa, Japan. She then went on to become the third commander of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command as a force provider of 40,000 sailors. She is now the deputy chief of staff Capability Development at NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation in Norfolk.

She will discuss military leadership, achieving success in the Navy, and the keys for breaking down gender barriers. Her visit to Mary Baldwin is particularly noteworthy as the Pentagon announced last week the lifting of restrictions on women in combat positions. In addition to talking to VWIL cadets and other interested members of the Mary Baldwin community at the Leadership Seminar, Pottenger will spend time with the cadets on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, including a round table talk with the 18 U.S. Navy midshipmen cadets in VWIL.

Admiral Pottenger received a doctor of philosophy in social sciences degree from Purdue in May 2007. Her personal awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, six awards of the Legion of Merit, three Meritorious Service Medals, and two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals.

The lecture, scheduled at 7 p.m. in Francis Auditorium, is part of a regular seminar series for cadets to hear from influential speakers. Earlier this semester, cadets heard from Paul Galanti, a prisoner of war who spent nearly seven years in North Vietnam’s infamous Hanoi Hilton.