WCU confers honorary doctorate on Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond

Published 4:06 pm Monday, September 20, 2021

William Carey University conferred an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree on Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond Sept. 10 during a ceremony at Bass Chapel.

The WCU Board of Trustees’ resolution noted Hammond’s long service in the U.S. Army, his support for veteran, church, community and national causes, and his establishment of a tennis scholarship in its decision to award the degree. The ceremony marked only the second time WCU has awarded an honorary doctoral degree in public service, honoris causa.

“William Carey University is always pleased to honor those who have sacrificed for our country. General Hammond is an example of many who have given such service, both as soldiers and Christians, throughout their lives,” said WCU President Dr. Tommy King.

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An alumnus of the University of Southern Mississippi, Hammond was quarterback of the football team and received his commission as an officer in the U.S. Army upon graduation in 1979.

During his 32 years in the Army, he deployed operationally four times – once in the enforcement of the Dayton Peace Accord (Bosnia) and three times to Iraq in support of the global war on terror. His staff experience includes director of Army Operations, Readiness and Mobilization and duty with the Pentagon joint staff.

Hammond was in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, when a plane hijacked by terrorists struck the building, destroying his office and killing all the members of his staff. His remarks at WCU’s conferral ceremony came just one day shy of the twentieth anniversary of 9-11.

“I had stepped away just moments before a jet plane crashed into our office. I couldn’t figure out why I was still alive. But I am certain God spared me in that moment to serve a greater mission years later – when I was honored to lead the 4th Infantry Division and 28,000 soldiers through the toughest of combat service in Baghdad, Iraq,” Hammond said.

“In the midst of the confusion of that day, when I thought I wasn’t going to make it, as the Pentagon collapsed around me and filled up with smoke, we were allowed to make one phone call while the lines were still working. I picked up the phone and called my wife, who was in tears. All I could say was, ‘Diane, I love you, I’m always going to love you.’

“Now, in the twentieth year since 9-11, this is the challenge I give you. Pick up that phone and call the number one person in your life and say whatever’s on your heart, whatever’s on your mind. Don’t wait. Do it now.”

After retiring from the military, Hammond returned to USM, where he now serves as director of the USM Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families.