The George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science (GW Engineering), is excited to welcome Lieutenant General (Ret.) Thomas P. Bostick, PhD, PE, NAE as the 2023 GW Engineering graduation celebration speaker. Bostick is a GW Engineering alumnus (PhD Systems Engineering) and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a member of the GW Engineering Hall of Fame (2017), and he was the 53rd Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the largest public engineering organization in the world.
“We're thrilled that Lt. Gen. Bostick agreed to be the 2023 GW Engineering Graduation Celebration Speaker in the Charles E. Smith Center on May 19, 2023. He will inspire our graduates with words of experience and wisdom,” said GW Engineering Dean John Lach. “Lt. Gen. Bostick truly embodies our school’s ‘Engineering And…’ spirit. He is a leader in his field, a mentor to GW Engineering students and an inspiration to many. He is one of our most accomplished alumni, and we're so proud to have him as an active member of the GW Engineering Community.”
“I’m honored and consider it a privilege to deliver this year’s commencement address that signifies the start of a new chapter for these engineering and computing scholars,” said Bostick. “I’ve had the opportunity to be a mentor and to provide inspiration and guidance to a generation of leaders, and I hope all of the graduates will be inspired to do their best as they meet the opportunities and challenges of this next phase of their lives.”
“I didn’t know where my life’s journey from childhood to West Point, to becoming a member of the United States military, to today, would lead me. In fact, I didn’t always envision myself joining the military, despite growing up with a parent in the military.”
Bostick’s father enlisted in the U.S. Army at a time when joining the military was an opportunity for many African Americans to escape poverty and carve out a path to the middle class. After joining the military, Bostick’s father met his mother who is of Japanese descent. Bostick grew up traveling the world and living in different places as the result of his father’s service. Being a family that represented two dynamic yet distinctively different cultures had its challenges, but it also presented unique opportunities. Bostick describes his family as being their own tribe.
“My siblings and I always admired my parents. My Dad worked hard to go from being an orphan to being a great soldier. My parents didn’t have a college education or a wealth of resources, but they successfully sent all five of their children to college and helped my siblings and I achieve great careers,” Bostick stated. “When I talk about obstacles and how students can overcome them, I reflect on my parents’ journeys. As a multi-racial family, we often experienced racism on both sides. However, we didn’t allow those experiences to define us or prevent us from pursuing our dreams.”
When Bostick was in high school, he met Brigadier General (Ret.) George Wahl who visited his school to speak to students about careers in the military. Wahl would later become a mentor to Bostick and help him attain a presidential nomination to pursue an education at West Point. After completing his education at West Point, Bostick began his military career with the original goal of ending his service following his 5-year commitment.
“West Point reached out to ask me to return to the Academy to teach mechanical engineering - and I agreed. I completed my masters in mechanical engineering and civil engineering at Stanford, ” Bostick stated. “While I was the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leading multiple large nationwide projects, I wanted our government to budget projects as a part of large systems rather than individual projects. So, I started taking classes at GW and ultimately decided to pursue a fourth degree – a PhD in systems engineering from GW.”
Naturally because of his life experiences, Bostick’s values are founded in service, helping people. Throughout his 38-year military career, Bostick has focused on creating opportunities for all individuals. To date, Bostick is the only West Point graduate of color to command the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Bostick was the head of U.S. Army Recruiting and later U.S. Army Personnel with responsibility for over one million soldiers and over three hundred thousand civilians. Bostick served on the comprehensive review group that recommended the repeal of the law commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which allowed gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. Now, he spends much of his time in biotechnology, environmental matters, sustainable infrastructure, and education.
“The world of engineering is so exciting. There are opportunities for engineers to play a significant role in solving the most pressing problems of today,” Bostick stated. “As an engineer, I’ve had the honor of working with stakeholders around the country, elected officials, the White House and global leaders.”
As a White House Fellow, he was a special assistant to the first Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable Ed Derwinski. Bostick serves on several committees of the National Academy of Sciences focused on the environment and climate change. He was selected by U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to serve as a member of the Naming Commission tasked with renaming Confederate-named military bases and properties. He serves on the non-profit boards of American Corporate Partners, Resilient Cities Catalyst, and Blue Star Families. He is a licensed professional engineer, a Forbes Contributor, an Affiliated Scholar at Stanford University, and a mentor of Clark Scholars at The George Washington University.
“My wife and I truly enjoy being a part of the Clark Scholars program. It has been a rich and rewarding experience. We learn from the students, and they learn from us. Everyone who has succeeded in life had a mentor,” said Bostick. “I highly recommend and strongly encourage all GW Engineering alumni to participate in this program or any program that GW offers that will allow them to mentor a student. Alumni can share lived experiences, help advance the fields of engineering and applied science and support the next generation of engineers.”
Bostick is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, holds Master of Science Degrees in both Civil and Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University, an Executive MBA from Oxford University, and a PhD in Systems Engineering from The George Washington University. He recently published his first book, Winning After Losing: Building Resilient Teams. Bostick currently serves as a senior advisor for several companies on biotechnology, engineering, sustainability, and human resources, and he serves on the public boards of CSX (NASDAQ: CSX), a rail transportation company, and Perma-Fix (NASDAQ: PESI), a nuclear waste treatment company. He also serves on the private boards of HireVue, which specializes in online video interviewing services for employers; Allonnia, which uses biotechnology and engineering to solve waste challenges in nature; and Fidelity Investments Equity and High-Income Fund Board of Trustees, an investment management company. He is an advisor to Ginkgo Bioworks which makes DNA easier to engineer. He also advises Hilco Redevelopment Partners in the sustainable redevelopment of some of the nation’s most complex and challenging industrial sites. Previously, he served as Chief Operating Officer and President of Intrexon Bioengineering (NASDAQ: XON), focusing on global challenges including food, agriculture, energy, and the environment.
Bostick has some final words of encouragement to GW Engineering students - “I want to encourage graduates to always do their best, raise their hand to tackle the most challenging missions, be a valued member of their teams, and be resilient by learning from success, failure, adversity, and opportunity. And to especially take to heart the words of Teddy Roosevelt, ‘The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.’ ”