ERIE, Pa. (May 13, 2018) NNS – Vice Adm. Matthew J. Kohler, commander, Naval Information Forces, served as a guest speaker and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Mercyhurst University during a commencement ceremony at the Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pennsylvania, May 13.
“This is not a common occurrence at Mercyhurst,” said Mercyhurst University President, Michael T. Victor, during Kohler’s honorary degree presentation at the university’s commencement ceremony. “As a matter of fact, Mercyhurst has previously presented only 15 such degrees in its 92-year history.”
Victor went on to recognize Kohler’s distinguished career in the U.S. Navy and spoke about his family’s strong connection and contributions to the local area.
Kohler grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, the son of Sally Kohler who is a 1951 Mercyhurst alumna, career educator and Mercyhurst Alumna Board of Directors member for nearly 30 years. She continues as an emeritus member of that group. Her sisters, Judy Alstadt and Mary Pat Schlaudecker, also of Erie, share Mercyhurst as their alma mater, graduating in 1953 and 1964. Kohler has a twin brother, Michael, of Erie and three sisters, Rebecca Johnson, and Natalie Grasinger, both of Erie; and Ellen Croft of North Carolina. Their father, Joseph Kohler, was a career educator in the Erie School District before his passing in 2012.
Kohler attended Strong Vincent High school and graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1983, achieving accolades as an All-American swimmer. He was commissioned as a naval intelligence officer in 1984 through the Aviation Officer Candidate School, Pensacola, Florida. Kohler holds master’s degrees in computer science from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and military history from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Kohler has served in uniform for 34 years and has been an admiral for nearly 8 years.
He has served as commander, Naval Information Forces, Suffolk, Virginia, since its establishment in October 2014 and will depart to assume duties next month as the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare (OPNAV N2N6) and the 67th director of Naval Intelligence.
Kohler addressed the graduates with his view of the competitive world they are entering and the contributions this generation can make with their talent.
“My congratulations come to you from a different perspective. I congratulate and I challenge you, because America needs you with all of the desire and energy that you graduate with today,” said Kohler. “That’s because each and every one of us should feel a sense of competition in the world that we find ourselves in today. Today’s world is a much different one than even a few years ago with a return of great power competition.
“These are challenges that cannot be uniquely solved by a military only solution, though we do have a role to play,” Kohler reflected as one of the Navy’s top information warfare leaders. “The ability to harness new technologies that can advance our way of life for us and for our children requires the very best from the best and brightest across our nation, from our remarkably adaptive and innovative business sector to our world class academic institutions. And that absolutely includes the graduates in this arena today.”
Kohler spoke about questions he often receives from older generations, asking if the younger generations are up to the task.
“From my perspective of seeing every day the products of our universities and high schools — those young American adults who enter our Armed Services, I say unequivocally, yes they are,” said Kohler. “I see them prove it every day in very challenging environments. We’ve never had a more talented, capable and driven military. This young generation has more than proven they are tough and smart.”
Kohler concluded his remarks by emphasizing the power of diverse teams.
“I challenge you to continue this path of excellence and do not settle. Find a team that strives for something important, something bigger than yourself. I challenge you to advocate the characteristics of a high performing team in whatever field you find yourselves. You’ll be surprised what you can do. By doing this, you will make yourself strong, your team strong and your nation competitive,” said Kohler.
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