Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser named Distinguished Minnesotan by Bemidji State University

1976 Bemidji State grad is currently senior military assistant to U.S. Secretary of Defense

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

About Bemidji State University

Bemidji State University, located in northern Minnesota’s lake district, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. Enrolling more than 5,000 students, the University offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and nine graduate programs encompassing arts, sciences and select professional programs. The University is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and has a faculty and staff of more than 550. University signature themes include environmental stewardship, civic engagement and global and multi-cultural understanding.

For further information about the University, visit

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Quick facts

• Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser named Distinguished Minnesotan
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• Bemidji State University has named a Distinguished Minnesotan annually since 1981, except for 2010 when no award was given
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• The Distinguished Minnesotan gives Bemidji State's Commencement address
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