BOONE, N.C. — During Homecoming Week 2018, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley ’84, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), was recognized by the Appalachian State University Alumni Association as the recipient of the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award. The award recognizes alumni who have attained extraordinary distinction and success in their career field and have demonstrated exceptional and sustained leadership in their community.
At the Alumni Awards Luncheon held Sept. 28 on Appalachian’s campus, Chancellor Sheri Everts said of the award winners, “Year after year, I am inspired by the extraordinary Appalachian alumni I am fortunate to meet, who reinforce that Appalachian is indeed North Carolina’s premier, public undergraduate institution of higher learning. They enhance the value of an Appalachian degree and help define what it means to be a Mountaineer.”
“I appreciate the honor and I am absolutely humbled,” Ashley said. “Thank you for the recognition, but there is a long line behind the person sitting in this chair, and it starts with my wife and my kids.”
‘A caring, compassionate and competent leader’
Ashley has earned a rank attained by less than half of 1 percent of Army officers, but his service and character truly set him apart.
Ashley became the 21st director of the DIA in October 2017 — a position nominated by the president of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. He is a principal adviser to Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and to Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ashley also chairs the Military Intelligence Board.
A career Army military intelligence officer, Ashley has been stationed countrywide and deployed all over the world, earning countless awards and decorations in his more than 34 years of service.
“As noted by his continuous selection for promotion and positions of greater responsibility, his outstanding professional performance has continuously rendered him accolades,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Hale, who said he has known Ashley since 2002. “His contributions to the Military Intelligence Corps, the Intelligence Community and the Interagency of the United States Government have been significant during his extraordinary career.”
Ashley graduated from Appalachian with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and as a distinguished military graduate of the university’s ROTC program. He went on to earn a master’s degree in strategic intelligence from the National Intelligence University and a master’s in strategic studies from the United States Army War College, an institution also attended by former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gen. George S. Patton. He is the highest-ranked military officer ever to have received his undergraduate degree from Appalachian.
Zachary Harrill ’08, a battalion intelligence officer in the North Carolina Army National Guard, had a chance to meet Ashley at Fort Huachuca in Arizona in 2013. Harrill was a student in the Basic Officer Leader Course for young lieutenants.
“The first thing General Ashley asked when he came into the room to speak to us was ‘Who is the App State graduate?’” Harrill said. “I was excited and inspired to speak with General Ashley about his love for Appalachian and his involvement within the Appalachian State University ROTC program during his time as a student and as an alumnus.”
When Harrill graduated from the course — the day before Thanksgiving — he again had a chance to speak with Ashley, who told Harrill he was going to stay at Fort Huachuca to have Thanksgiving with all of the soldiers still in school.
“That is the sign of a true Army leader,” Harrill explained. “Someone who is not only skilled in his profession and bold in his decisions, but is also a person that cares enough about his soldiers to stay at his duty station for a junior officer’s graduation, as well as eat a holiday meal with the troops of all ranks under his command.”
According to Hale, that is not uncommon for Ashley. “His reputation precedes him as a caring, compassionate and competent leader who always takes care of his soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and their families,” he said.
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About Alumni Affairs
The Office of Alumni Affairs provides networking opportunities, affinity program discounts, alumni chapter gatherings and special events, merchandise and travel tour options to Appalachian State University alumni.
The Appalachian State University Alumni Association consists of nearly 127,000 living Appalachian alumni. Membership is free and open to all graduates of Appalachian. The association’s mission is to help alumni remember their Appalachian Experience and stay connected with current Mountaineers, and to work to ensure that those experiences are available for future Appalachian alumni by raising support for the Alumni Memorial Scholarship and The Appalachian Fund.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier, public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.