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Maj. Gen. Pamerleau Establishes an Endowment to Support All UW AFROTC Students
What does Major General (ret.) Susan L. Pamerleau care about?
"Living life to the fullest, and making a difference in the way that I can," says Gen. Pamerleau. "Where I think I can help the best is in making sure my estate can do the kinds of things that I am passionate about, and that's making sure that young people have opportunities."
Although she would not be the one to tell you, Gen. Pamerleau's list of accomplishments is a long one. Among them, she is the retired Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel for the U.S. Air Force, she has served as an executive officer on the International Military Staff at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, and she is the first woman to command the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC).
Her latest accomplishment is creating a bequest that will support scholarships for all UW AFROTC students in good standing. About fifty students per year participate in this program, although the number has been as high as a hundred.
"I don't have heirs," Gen. Pamerleau says. "I can place my money, my investments, my estate, to do the kinds of things that I think are important. And to me young people serving our country and making sure that we have diversity in our leadership in our armed forces is important."
Military training at UW began in 1891, with the establishment of a School of Military Science and Tactics, and in 1916 UW was among the first educational institutions in the nation to institute the ROTC program. Since then, the program has graduated many highranking members of government and the armed forces, including General (ret.) Peter J. Schoomaker, U.S. Army Chief of Staff (the highest ranking officer in the Army).
Gen. Pamerleau's interest in scholarships began in 2000 when UW's AFROTC detachment commander asked to name an award after her. In about 2004, Gen. Pamerleau found out that the award had no scholarship attached to it, so she began funding one, and then funded two in 2008.
"At that point in my life, and in my work life, I had the means to do those kinds of things and felt like this was an important thing to do," says Gen. Pamerleau.
While in command of AFROTC, Gen. Pamerleau learned about a San Angelo State University endowment funded by the Carr family that supported all qualified AFROTC students. This was the inspiration for her bequest.
"If you're passionate about something, if you see a need for something, then why not make sure that that love, that passion, that interest, benefits from your estate," says Gen. Pamerleau. "The key to it is consciously sitting down and thinking about what the future is and getting someone to help you walk through it."
She sat down with the ROTC detachment commander and the UW Foundation director of planned giving, and they talked through what she wanted to do.
"They were able to craft a document that reflected what my priorities were and what I wanted to be able to do and what was appropriate for the university and for ROTC," she says. "It's really easy. It's a matter of going through the process, figuring out what you want to do, and then professionals helping to make that happen."
Gen. Pamerleau's connection to Wyoming began in 1966 when her father, a minister, moved to Casper while she and her brother were attending the now-defunct Phillips University in Oklahoma. When her brother transferred to the UW Department of History, Gen. Pamerleau decided to attend UW for her senior year.
In 1967, Public Law 90-130 changed the nature of the armed forces by allowing more women to join. Prior to that, U.S. law had limited the number of women in the military to two percent and the highest rank for a woman to that of lieutenant colonel. Consequently, they began actively recruiting women.
"The opportunities for women were very limited when I went in, but I didn't have a clue about that kind of thing," says Gen. Pamerleau. "Most often social change takes place in the military before it takes place across the broad spectrum of society, and there were a lot of opportunities that started opening up."
In November 1967, a recruiter stopped by a UW lunch room to talk about opportunities in the Air Force, and Gen. Pamerleau decided to join.
"I don't think I would've ever gone into the Air Force had I not been at the University of Wyoming," says Gen. Pamerleau. "My life would've taken a very different direction had I not come here."
She then spent the next 32 years in the Air Force.
While serving at NATO headquarters in Belgium, she and a young intern were sitting at a sidewalk café. "The next honest person who walks by, we'll ask him to take a picture," she said to the intern. That next person was wearing a Wyoming sweater and turned out to be David Nicholas, a lawyer from Laramie who served as Department of Defense's Advisor to the U.S. Mission to NATO.
"So, for the next 3 1/2 years," Gen Pamerleau says, "we worked in different parts of NATO but we saw each other often, and we jokingly referred to ourselves as 67 percent of the Wyoming contingent in NATO."
Although Gen. Pamerleau only spent a brief time in Wyoming, her connection is strong. "It's sort of funny how I have adopted Wyoming," she says. "But I think the university provided me a great education. I think it's continuing to provide even a better education. What a great place."
Top: Major General (ret.) Susan L. Pamerleau
Bottom: Major General (ret.) Susan L. Pamerleau (courtesy Maj. Gen. Pamerleau)