Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Harry's History

Harry reported to the Academy on 27 June 1970. While at the Academy, he was a member of the 7th Cadet Squadron. He was a member of the debate team, the amateur radio club and served as his squadron's honor representative. At graduation he received the Major General Fechet award for his intercollegiate speech accomplishments.

After graduating from the Academy, Harry received his law degree from Northwestern University's School of Law. During his Air Force service, he was a Staff Judge Advocate and certified as a military judge. He separated from the Air Force on 31 July 1970 to pursue a career in civil law. While practicing law in North Dakota he was elected municipal judge of the city of Bismarck, then city commissioner and federal magistrate. He left North Dakota in 1985 to take a position as Associate General Counsel for General Motors and quickly moved to higher positions of responsibility. From 1987 to 1994 he served as General Motors' General Counsel. In 1996 he was elected a director and Vice Chairman of General Motors. He retired in 2001 after being diagnosed with leukemia. He was credited with making a huge impact on the way GM did business, winning a legendary legal battle with NBC's “Dateline,” and leading GM's advanced technology efforts to produce cleaner, safer, fuel-efficient cars and trucks for the future. From 2001 to 2003, he served as Chairman of Hughes Electronics Corporation. Since 2006 he has served as Chairman of MDU Resources Corporation, a diversified natural resources company. He has also served as a director of Marriott International Inc. since 1996.

But Harry's lifetime commitment is to causes far more important than the bottom-line, which is why he won the 2001 USAFA Association of Graduates Distinguished Graduate Award. His support for improving education, increasing minority opportunities, encouraging local economic development, developing environmentally sound business practices, and ending the trauma of life-threatening diseases illustrate his unswerving commitment to bettering society. His years of concern for cancer patients, higher education and minority opportunity have earned him numerous awards. In 1997 Harry received the ABA's Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession's “Spirit of Excellence' Award. The following year he was selected by the Detroit News as “Michiganian of the Year. In 1999 Parents Magazine honored Harry with the “As They Grow” Award for his work in automotive safety. In 2000, Harry received The American Jewish Committee's National Human Relations Award. The following year, he was presented with both the Black Patriots Foundation Leadership Award and the National Conference for Community and Justice's “Humanitarian of the Year” Award for his work with the NAACP. In 2003 the Society of Surgical Oncology honored Harry with its James Ewing Layman's award. The following year the state of North Dakota honored Harry with its Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award. President Bush asked Harry to serve as Co-Chair of the Presidential Commission on the United States Postal Service. Harry currently serves as Chairman of Yale University's Chairmen's Forum a group of independent Chairs at public corporations in the US and Canada and serves as a trustee of Northwestern University.

In 1998, Harry was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML, a life-threatening disease. He underwent a bone marrow transplant and beat the illness, but saw the devastating toll it takes. He turned his personal battle with the disease into a public mission, and, has sat on the boards of six different foundations that support leukemia and bone marrow research and treatment.

Few graduates of the Academy have dedicated as much time and energy as Harry Pearce toward building a strong Academy. He served for eleven years as the first chairman of the Sabre Society. His leadership resulted in a 67% increase in membership in this organization of high-end donors pledged to support the Academy and cadet programs. He also served as the chairman of the Academy's Board of Visitors for a number of years. He currently serves as a director of the USAFA Endowment Board.

In spirit, character, and accomplishment this remarkable man epitomizes the values and ideals of the United States Air Force Academy.

(Compiled from multiple sources by Doug Jenkins, '64)
[ Harry's Remarks at the 40th Reunion ]
[ Home ] [ Table Of Contents ]