Gen. David Petraeus Named Judge Widney Professor at USC

May 2, 2013
by Merrill Balassone
Gen. Petraeus, right, on a recent visit to the USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families.

Retired Gen. David Petraeus, architect and namesake of the counterinsurgency doctrine that stabilized Iraq under U.S. and allied forces and former director of the CIA, will join the USC faculty this fall.

Petraeus, whose appointment becomes effective on July 1, will be a Judge Widney Professor, a title reserved for eminent individuals from the arts, sciences, professions, business and community and national leadership. Judge Robert Maclay Widney was USC’s founder.

“USC is thrilled to have General Petraeus join our faculty as a Judge Widney Professor,” said President C. L. Max Nikias. “He embodies all the noble qualities of our founder along with a fearless commitment to excellence. His presence will have a profound impact on our students across many disciplines.”

Petraeus will spend time at USC each academic semester teaching classes, participating in seminars and panels, participating in working sessions with students and faculty, and mentoring student veterans and ROTC members. His appointment includes an affiliation with the USC School of Social Work, including its military social work program.

His varied research interests include the leadership of the United States in revolutionizing energy, information technology, life sciences and manufacturing. He is also interested in exploring whether such leadership heralds the start of what he calls the “North American Decades.”

“I am very grateful to have an opportunity to be part of a great university that prizes academic excellence, that is doing cutting-edge research in areas of enormous importance to our country, and that is known for steadfast support of its veterans and ROTC programs,” Petraeus said.

Petraeus’ appointment includes affiliations with the USC Price School of Public Policy; the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, including the program in public diplomacy; the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, including the Department of International Relations; the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, including the Information Sciences Institute; the USC Institute for Creative Technologies; and the USC Libraries, including the Sidney Harman Academy of Polymathic Study.

“The appointment of General Petraeus as a Judge Widney Professor at USC will add transformative energy to our teaching and research in international relations, government, economics, management, defense studies and military science — fields mastered by this clear-thinking jargon-free polymath,” said University Professor and noted California historian Kevin Starr.

Petraeus served as director of the CIA from September 2011 until November 2012. Prior to assuming the directorship, he was a highly decorated four-star general, serving more than 37 years in the U.S. Army before retiring in August 2011.

A lauded combat leader and strategist, Petraeus was instrumental in reshaping American military tactics through his focus on the concepts of a comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency campaign. At Petraeus’ retirement ceremony from the Army, Adm. Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, compared Petraeus to Ulysses S. Grant, John J. Pershing, George Marshall and Dwight D. Eisenhower as one of the great battle captains of American history.

Petraeus’ final assignment in the military was as commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Other assignments included his service as the 10th commander of the U.S. Central Command, where he was responsible for military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, the Levant and Egypt — and his service as commanding general of the Multi-National Force-Iraq for more than 19 months.

“For the past 37 years, General Petraeus has served our country as a dedicated public servant and remarkable leader,” said Jack H. Knott, dean of the USC Price School of Public Policy. “Given our school’s focus on government and public policy, as well as the academic administrative home for the ROTC program at USC, it is a particular honor for us to have General Petraeus join the USC faculty.”

Petraeus earned a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1974 as a distinguished cadet, finishing in the top 5 percent of his class. He later received the General George C. Marshall Award as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College class of 1983. He subsequently earned an MPA and a PhD in international relations from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He served as assistant professor of international relations at West Point and also completed a fellowship at Georgetown University.