Major General Joseph August “Bud” Ahearn, U.S. Air Force retired, is an alumnus of Syracuse University, and also a military veteran. You should know his story because it’s a Syracuse University story—one that speaks to our past, our present, and our future.
After graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1958 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, Ahearn was commissioned as a second lieutenant and began his career as a civil engineer officer in the U.S. Air Force. He later pursued his Master’s in Engineering Administration from Syracuse University, graduating in 1967.
During his 34 years of experience with the Department of Defense, Major General Ahearn was responsible for shaping financial strategy, developing budgets, and executing infrastructure programs totaling more than $7 billion annually. As the Senior Civil Engineer for the U.S. Air Force, he directed the development and operations of all U.S. air bases around the world.
Ahearn was decorated with several honors for his service, including the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with “V” device, Federal Republic of Germany Army Cross of Honor in Gold and the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal. In 1984, General Ahearn was awarded the Society of American Military Engineers Newman Medal for his outstanding military engineering contributions in Europe.
Ahearn is affiliated with several professional societies, including the American Society of Civil Engineers, the National Society of Professional Engineers, the Society of American Military Engineers, Civil Engineering Research Foundation, and the American Public Works Association. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2010 “for contributions to improving the environment and transportation infrastructure through engineering and construction projects.” In 2012, he received the Carroll H. Dunn Award of Excellence from the Construction Industry Institute.
In his talks, Ahearn stresses the essentials of authentic leadership: the ability to embrace uncertainty; performance readiness; and openness and inclusiveness. Above all other traits, he values strength of character—integrity in all actions, service to others before self, and excellence in all endeavors. Major General Joseph August Ahearn is an alumnus of Syracuse University, and a veteran of the U.S. military. You should know his story.