U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee discussed leadership, sacrifice and service Friday during an address at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. A native of Stamps, Arkansas, Piggee shared stories about military leaders taking responsibility. He advised students to be competent, be committed, to be a person of character, and to give maximum effort in any endeavor.
Before joining the military, he intended to enroll at Henderson State University but chose the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, partially because he was offered an academic scholarship. When he was a student at UAPB, freshmen were required either to enroll in the Reserve Officer Training Corps or to do physical education. He lived in a dormitory that was next to the ROTC program whereas the physical education classes were in a building on the other side of campus. He chose to do ROTC only because of its proximity to his dormitory.
“I did not agree to join the Army at the time,” Piggee said. “I had an academic scholarship. Life was going well. But at the end of my first year, the university called me in and said ‘We are having some financial challenges. We are not able to provide you that scholarship anymore.’”
The ROTC then offered him a scholarship, which Piggee initially declined. An assistant professor in the ROTC Department called his father to advise him of his son’s decision. His father told the professor that he would “take care of” his son.
“I went home and my dad was a visionary and he did not force me,” Piggee said. “He said Son, if you take that scholarship, I will buy you a car. I said, where do I sign?”
Piggee said he is still learning every day. While he has friends who earn more money than he, he believes his experience is culturally richer and more personally fulfilling. Piggee referenced the late Maya Angelou, a civil rights activist and author, who spent part of her childhood in the town of Stamps, Arkansas.
“She said that it’s not what a person did or it’s not what a person says but what you will remember most is how they made you feel,” Piggee said. “And that’s what the faculty does: makes you feel good at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.”
Looking at cadets in the audience, he called them the future leaders whether in the military or in civilian life. He shared his work with General Colin Powell, who preached building trust, leading by example, and giving resources to execute a task.
“You don’t become a good leader just because you assume a position,” Piggee said. “When you are executing a task, you are there with the men and women you are leading. And when you are having a bad day, you take responsibility for your actions.”
UAPB Chancellor Laurence Alexander recognized the students, faculty members, and visitors. He praised Piggee and U.S. Senator John Boozman, a Republican of Arkansas, for improving the life of Arkansans. Boozman was also a speaker at the event. Alexander hailed Piggee for his military service.
“He not only serves as a beacon of light and hope to our university and our community, but also to our state and our country,” Alexander said. “He continues to positively impact the lives of many, as well as inspiring a new generation of future military leaders as he contributes to making a difference in our nation.”
Alexander said that Boozman grew up in Fort Smith, Arkansas, graduated from Northside High School, played football at the University of Arkansas, and graduated from the Southern College of Optometry in 1977 and entered private practice with his brother to provide eye care in Northwestern Arkansas.
“As the son of an Air Force Master Sergeant, John learned at an early age about the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, as well as the unique challenges military families face,” Alexander, who has a doctorate degree, said. “He brings those challenges with him to Washington, where he is committed to enhancing the quality of life for both our veterans and their families. John has authored provisions to extend successful federal homeless veteran programs, expand treatments for our wounded warriors and modernize educational benefits under the GI Bill.”
Boozman relayed his conversations with U.S. Representative Danny Davis, a Democrat of Illinois, who graduated from UAPB. Boozman said Davis asks him to support his alma mater. Boozman hailed Piggee for being an American hero.
“He has risen to such prominence in his career,” Boozman said. “He is a hero in the sense of his military service but more importantly he is a hero in the sense that when you talk about duty, honor, country, and integrity, he is a guy who is a great example for us.”
Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington declared April 14 as Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee Day in the City of Pine Bluff.