“She is an example of exceptional leadership, service and dedication. "

MISSOULA – Groundbreaking University of Montana graduate Colleen McGuire has had many firsts in her life.

She was the first woman from Montana to rise to the rank of brigadier general. She was the first woman ever to serve as provost marshal general of the U.S. Army, leading its highest law enforcement office. She was the first female commander of the Army’s Criminal Investigations Command, as well as the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Now she has earned her first honorary doctorate. On Thursday, Sept. 16, the Montana Board of Regents approved UM’s recommendation to present McGuire with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. The University will bestow the degree Dec. 18 during Fall Commencement ceremonies.

Brig. Gen Colleen McGuire (US Army, Ret.) will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Montana. UM Photo

“Brig. Gen. McGuire had an unparalleled, pioneering career in the U.S. Army,” said UM President Seth Bodnar, also an Army veteran. “She is an example of exceptional leadership, service and dedication. Beyond her impressive career and numerous awards, she is a true Montanan, having retired to her home state. We are thrilled to present an honorary doctorate to this valuable member of our UM family.”

A Missoula native and graduate of Sentinel High School, McGuire earned an undergraduate degree from UM’s School of Journalism in 1979. During her time on campus, she was a student leader in ROTC, a cheerleader, a rugby player and a member of the Delta Gamma Fraternity.

During her 32-year military career, McGuire earned two more degrees: a Master of Military Arts and Sciences from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, and a Master of National Security and Strategic Studies from the Army War College in Pennsylvania.

Her career included overseas missions to Iraq, Germany and Somalia. Her last position was at the Pentagon, serving as director of manpower and personnel on the Joint Staff.

During her storied career, McGuire was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal and Bronze Star, among numerous other military decorations and awards. In 2010 she earned UM’s Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 2019 she was inducted into the Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame.

McGuire retired from the Army in 2012 and began working for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, assisting him with the study of sexual assault response systems in the Army. She also worked as the executive director of the Delta Gamma Fraternity in Columbus, Ohio. She remains an active UM alumna, serving six years on the University Alumni Association board of directors.

In his letter of recommendation, Maj. Gen. John Meyer Jr. wrote: “Colleen has always established an exceptional pattern of excellence. She has been consistently placed in positions of increasing responsibility, where she directly influenced organizations and people in positive and beneficial ways.

“Her ability to manage and lead large organizations, whether in peacetime or combat operations, is without comparison,” Meyer continued. “Colleen is, without reservation, a credit to everything the University of Montana represents.”

McGuire lives in Kalispell and owns a cattle ranch in eastern Oregon.