Prominent alumnus Lt. Gen. Martin R. Steele, B.A.’74, U.S. Marine Corps (retired), will return to the University of Arkansas campus on Nov. 12-14 as the Arkansas Alumni Association’s inaugural Johnson Fellow.
Endowed by Dr. Jeff Johnson, B.A.’70, and his wife, Marcia, the Johnson Fellows program was created for the specific purpose of bringing esteemed alumni back to the University of Arkansas campus to engage and inspire students. Steele, who resides in Tampa, Fla., will share his extraordinary story and expertise while addressing students in business, history and broadcast journalism classes and interacting with members of Military Past and Present, Leadership Walton participants, R.E.A.L. Razorbacks and Student Alumni Board members.
Born in Philadelphia, Pa., and raised in Fayetteville, Steele enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1965. He rose from private to three-star general, serving three tours of duty on two continents, with tenure as the longest-serving chief operating officer in the history of the Marine Corps. He culminated his military career as the deputy chief of staff for plans, policies and operations at the headquarters of the U.S. Marine Corps in Washington, D.C., in August 1999.
Steele has broad experience in establishing and managing cutting-edge strategic policies and programs. He is a recognized expert in the integration of all elements of national power — diplomatic, economic, informational and military — with strategic military war plans and has served as an executive strategic planner and policy director in multiple theaters across Asia. His extraordinary 34-year career was chronicled as one of three principles in the award-winning military biography Boys of ’67, by Charles Jones.
Upon his retirement from active duty in 1999, Steele served as president and chief executive officer of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, the largest naval museum in the world. Under his leadership, they adopted the mission statement to “honor our heroes, educate the public, and inspire our youth about the price of freedom.”
This creative branding strategy resonated with all audiences and was the early catalyst for the transformation of the Intrepid from just another New York City destination location to the near icon status it enjoys today among educators, historians, international visitors and military veterans. Shortly after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Steele invited the FBI to the Intrepid to conduct their investigations. Within 48 hours, Intrepid was once again in service as the temporary headquarters for more than 750 FBI agents.
Currently, Steele is chairman and CEO of Steele Partners Inc., a strategic advisory company and president and CEO of Uncommon Leadership LLC, a leadership consulting company. These companies’ shared mission is to develop uncommon leaders in Fortune 500 companies who understand how to translate strength of character and high ethical behavior into bottom line success. Through Uncommon Leadership, Steele has led a philanthropic transition program to assist exiting Marines into private sector jobs throughout the country. The program is offered at no cost to the Marine participants, the Marine Corps or to the companies that provide employment opportunities for Marines completing the program. He is conducting research for an expansion of the program to reach the other services over the next year because of the overwhelming feedback from participants, stating the program had a positive “life-changing” impact on their lives.
Steele takes pride in giving back to the University of Arkansas, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in history and was recognized as a Distinguished Graduate of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. He also holds master’s degrees from Central Michigan University, Salve Regina College and the Naval War College.
Married to the former Cynthia Bayliss of Little Rock, the father of three grown children and the grandfather of three children, Steele serves proudly on half a dozen boards across the country. Presently he follows his lifelong commitment to the University of Arkansas by serving on the Arkansas Alumni Association National Board of Directors.