Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser named Distinguished Minnesotan

Lt. General Thomas Waldhauser, currently senior military assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense and a 1976 graduate of Bemidji State University, has been named the 2013 recipient of Bemidji State’s Distinguished Minnesotan award.

First presented by Bemidji State in 1981, the Distinguished Minnesotan Award acknowledges the contributions of current or former residents of the state who have performed exemplary service to the people of Minnesota or the United States. The Distinguished Minnesotan award was presented annually from 1981-2009, and was not awarded in 2010.

The Distinguished Minnesotan traditionally gives Bemidji State’s commencement address. The university’s 94th Commencement ceremony will be held May 10 at the Sanford Center in Bemidji.

“Tom is the epitome of a distinguished Minnesotan,” said BSU President Dr. Richard A. Hanson. “His service to our nation and to Minnesota as one of the highest ranking officers in the military is remarkable and commendable. Our students are fortunate to have an opportunity to hear him speak at this year’s Commencement.”

After graduating from Bemidji State with a degree in psychology, Waldhauser was commissioned in 1976 as an infantry officer. His company grade assignments included platoon and company commander billets with both the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions; Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Long Beach; and on the staff of the Commander of Amphibious Squadron Seven.

As a field grade officer, the south St. Paul native was a battalion landing team operations officer and served on the faculty of the Amphibious Warfare School in Quantico, Va. During his tour with the school, he deployed to the staff of the U.S. Marine Corps Central Command’s commander during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

Waldhauser also served on the II Marine Expeditionary Force staff and was the battalion landing team commander of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. He also had duty at U.S. Marine Corps headquarters in Arlington, Va., and at the Pentagon with the Joint Staff Combating Terrorism Directorate.

As a colonel, he assumed command of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit – Special Operations Capable in 2000. During this tour, the unit participated in combat operations in southern Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom and in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit was the first American conventional unit to enter Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and was also among the first units to cross into Iraq at the start of that campaign.

Appointed to the rank of brigadier general in 2003, his initial assignments as a general officer were commanding general of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory and deputy commander of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, both in Quantico, Va. From 2006-07, he served as Chief of Staff for U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla.

As a major general, he commanded the First Marine Division from Sept. 2007 until July 2009.

Promoted to lieutenant general in 2009, Waldhauser served as the Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations from 2009-10. From Oct. 2010 until Sept. 2012, he served as the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force and as commanding general of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command.

He has attended U.S. Army Ranger School, Jumpmaster School, Amphibious Warfare School, Marine Corps Command and Staff College. He also has a master’s degree in national security strategies from the National War College at Ft. McNair in Washington, D.C.

Waldhauser was a four-year letter winner for the Bemidji State men’s hockey team. He scored 26 points in 95 games played and helped guide the Beavers to the 1973 NAIA national championship.

For more information on Bemidji State University’s commencement ceremony, visit

Recipients of Bemidji State University’s Distinguished Minnesotan award

1981 Sigurd Olson, naturalist and author
1982 Karl Kassulke, athlete and handicap advocate
1983 Janet Dearholt Esty, businesswoman and entrepreneur
1984 Frederick F. Manfred, author
1985 Dr. John Najarian, transplant surgeon
1986 Dr. Harlan Cleveland, political scientist
1987 Muriel Buck Humphrey Brown, advocate for the disadvantaged
1988 Elmer L. Andersen, businessman and former governor
1989 Curtis L. Carlson, businessman and philanthropist
1990 William S. Marvin, businessman and community leader
1991 Meridel LeSueur, writer and social activist’
1992 Veda Ponikvar, newspaper publisher
1993 Nellie Stone Johnson, political and social activist
1994 Cheryl Dickson, leader in humanities programming
1995 William H. Kling, innovator in public radio
1996 Jerry Willet, businessman and former state senator
1997 Ann Bancroft, explorer of the North Pole and South Pole
1998 Bob Bergland, congressman and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
1999 Coya Knutson, congresswoman
2000 Jon Hassler, author and educator
2001 Libby Larsen, composer
2002 Rosalie Wahl, Minnesota Supreme Court justice
2003 Edgar Heteen, entrepreneur and snowmobile pioneer
2004 Herb Brooks, men’s ice hockey coach
2005 Gerald Vizenor, author and educator
2006 Kathleen Blatz, chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court
2007 Paul Wellstone, U.S. Senator, and Shiela Wellstone, advocate against domestic abuse
2008 Dr. Alex Cirillo, Jr., vice president for community affairs, 3M
2009 Don Shelby, television anchor
2010 [no award given]
2011 Susan Marvin, president of Marvin Windows & Doors
2012 Dr. M. James Bensen, president emeritus, Bemidji State University
2013 Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, senior military assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense