Willard W. Scott Jr.; Led West Point in Tough Times

Lt. Gen. Willard W. Scott Jr. restored academy's pride.
Lt. Gen. Willard W. Scott Jr. restored academy's pride. (West Point Portrait - West Point Portrait)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 5, 2009

Willard W. Scott Jr., 82, an Army lieutenant general who led West Point through the wake of a cheating scandal and the introduction of coeducation but is best known among cadets for riding the school's mascot, a mule, up and down the sidelines during football games, died Dec. 31 at his home in Alexandria. He had Parkinson's disease.

Gen. Scott rode the mule, which was later named for him, to rally support for Army's football team, declaring, "I'm going to do everything I can to beat Navy." He also did everything he could to restore pride in the U.S. Military Academy after a 1976 cheating scandal led to the expulsion of 150 cadets.

Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster, a former commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was called out of retirement to lead the school in its immediate aftermath, and he was succeeded by Gen. Scott in 1981.

By the accounts of his peers, he was the right man for the job.

"We had a hollow Army," said Gen. Edward C. Meyer, former Army chief of staff. After the Vietnam War, applications to West Point had fallen off, and applicants often did not meet the academy's traditional standards.

Gen. Scott turned the situation around, Meyer said. "The attendance came back, and the quality of applicants was superb," Meyer said. "He ensured that the people doing the selection made the cadets meet an objective standard of excellence."

Gen. Scott reduced required courses, expanded elective courses and allowed cadets, for the first time, to declare a major field of study. As women began being accepted into the academy, he battled resistance from some students and alumni.

He was sent to West Point from his command of the V Corps in Germany, a post that marked him as one of the most successful officers of his generation, said Lewis Sorley, a military author, West Point graduate and former faculty member.

Gen. Scott "and his wife were extroverts, enthusiasts, cheerleaders," Sorley said. "They were inspirers, but none of that should be taken to mean they were about anything but the highest standards. It was the essence of his personality. . . . He was interested in everything about West Point, and his wife was, too."

After he retired from the Army in 1986, Gen. Scott served as the executive director of the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States until 1997. He also was an associate at the Institute for Defense Analyses, a think tank, from 1987 to 2005.

Born into an Army family at what is now Fort Monroe, Va., he grew up at military posts across the country. As a child in San Francisco, he was part of a group of crossing guards who trod the Golden Gate Bridge on the day it opened, May 27, 1937. He graduated from West Point in 1948 and was commissioned as a field artillery officer. He served in Germany immediately after World War II, and his first command was in the 5th Field Artillery Battalion's "Dog" Battery, which Alexander Hamilton led during the Revolutionary War.

During the Vietnam War, he became a general, serving as Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) commander from 1970 to 1972. Later, he commanded the 25th Division, known as Tropic Lightning, from 1976 to 1978.

His military awards included the Distinguished Service Medal, two Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars and the Air Medal.

He was a member of West Point's board of trustees and its Association of Graduates and was past president of the West Point Society of D.C. In 1998, he was awarded the Castle Memorial Award for his efforts on behalf of the academy.

Gen. Scott was a Eucharistic minister for many years, and a religious education teacher, at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Alexandria.

Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Justine Dorney Scott of Alexandria; seven children, Mary Starner of Springfield, Elizabeth Raveché of Hoboken, N.J., Warren Scott, of Canberra, Australia, Catherine Rosenshein of Montclair, N.J., Susan Shanahan of Honolulu, Margaret Scott of New York and Ann Marie Kilkelly, of Hanover, Pa.; 25 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company