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Geoghehan and Tilelli Named to Inaugural Class of U.S. Army ROTC Hall of Fame

The 1963 classmates will be honored on June 10 at Fort Knox, Ky.

Two members of the Pennsylvania Military College (now Widener University) class of 1963, retired four-star General John H. Tilelli Jr. and John Lance “Jack” Geoghegan, are among the former U.S. Army ROTC cadets selected for the inaugural class of the Army ROTC Hall of Fame. More than 300 former cadets will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Fort Knox, Ky. on June 10 that will also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Army ROTC program.

In addition to being classmates at Pennsylvania Military College, Tilelli and Geoghegan both served in the Vietnam War. Tilelli survived the war, Geoghegan did not.

“It is a tremendous and very humbling honor to be named to the Army ROTC Hall of Fame,” Tilelli said. “I have had the privilege of serving with hundreds of dedicated commissioned officers who are worthy of this distinction. Some, such as my friend and classmate, Jack Geoghegan, made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation, and they will never be forgotten.”

Geoghegan was born in Pelham, N.Y., and graduated from Pennsylvania Military College with a bachelor’s degree in English. He was identified by his classmates as the cadet with the most potential to become a general, and at his commencement ceremony, he was selected to present a ceremonial sabre to former President and five-star General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

After receiving a deferment to earn his master’s degree in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania and to participate in a relief program in Africa, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry and deployed to Vietnam in August 1965. During the Battle of Ia Drang in November 1965, he was killed while tending to a wounded fellow soldier, Willie Godboldt.

Geoghegan was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Air Medal. His story is recalled in the best-selling book We Were Soldiers Once and in the feature film by the same name. Geoghegan is survived by his wife, Barbara Geoghegan Johns, and his daughter, Camille Olson.

During a distinguished 37-year military career, Tilelli became one of only 216 people in the history of the U.S. Army to be promoted to the rank of four-star general. He served as Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1994 to 1995, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Forces Command from 1995 to 1996, and Commander in Chief of the United Nations Command/Commander in Chief of the Republic of Korea and U.S Combined Forces Command/Commander of U.S forces Korea from 1996 to 1999. He served two tours in the Vietnam War, four in Germany and three in the Pentagon. His combat tours include assignments as a Company Commander in Vietnam and as Commander of the 1st Cavalry Division during the Persian Gulf War.

After retiring from the Army in January 2000, Tilelli served as president of the United Service Organizations (USO), and as chairman of the board of the Military Officers Association of America.

A resident of Alexandria, Va., Tilelli currently serves as chair of the Widener University Board of Trustees, and is chairman and CEO of Cypress International, a consulting firm specializing in helping clients with business development related activities.

Widener University President Julie E. Wollman said Tilelli and Geoghegan embody the mission and vision of Widener University through their leadership and their commitment to serving their nation and their communities.

“I’ve had the great privilege of working with John Tilelli as chair of our Board of Trustees, and have heard the stories of Jack Geoghegan’s selflessness and dedication. This honor is well deserved and is a testament to these great men and distinguished leaders.”

Hall of Fame inductees will have their names inscribed on bricks to be displayed on a walkway near the U.S. Army Cadet Command Headquarters Building at Fort Knox. The brick pathway will be presented on the day of the induction ceremony.

Tilelli and Geoghegan were nominated for the Hall of Fame by Lt. Col. Matthew F. Ignatovig, professor of military science and commander of Widener’s Army ROTC Dauntless Battalion. The Dauntless Battalion is the oldest Army ROTC program in the five-county Philadelphia region, serving cadets from Widener, Villanova University, West Chester University, Penn State-Brandywine, Penn State-Abington, Neumann University and Cheyney University.

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener comprises eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., are proud to be tobacco-free. Visit the university website,