General Merrill Anthony McPeak

Honorary Degrees

San Diego State University

General Merrill Anthony McPeak was born in Santa Rosa, California in 1936. After graduating from Grants Pass High School in Oregon, he entered San Diego State College (now San Diego State University), where he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and majored in Economics. General McPeak met his future wife, Elynor, when they both participated in San Diego State's Forensics program and received national honors as members of the debate team. 

General McPeak was commissioned through the Air Force ROTC program at SDSU, and almost immediately entered active duty. In 1974, he graduated from the National War College and later earned a master's degree in International Relations from George Washington University.

General McPeak's military career spanned 37 years, during which he served in many different capacities including as a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War. Senior leadership assignments included command of the 20th Fighter Wing in NATO, the Twelfth Air Force (and concurrently U.S. Southern Command Air Forces) and the Pacific Air Forces. General McPeak concluded his military service as a Four-Star General. 

Following retirement from active military service, General McPeak began a second career in business. He has been a director of nearly 20 public companies including Aerojet Rocketdyne, Tektronix, TWA and ECC International, where he was chairman for many years. 

In 2008, General McPeak was a national co-chairman of Obama for President. The president subsequently appointed him to the American Battle Monuments Commission, responsible for supervising the many cemeteries and monuments in 15 countries overseas that commemorate the achievements and sacrifices of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. 

General McPeak also appeared in, and was technical advisor to, the Ken Burns documentary “The Vietnam War". Additional accolades include a Lifetime Achievement Award from SDSU in 1992, a “George" Award from George Washington University in 1995, Sigma Chi Hall of Fame membership in 2005, a Distinguished Public Service Award from the Department of the Air Force in 2017 and membership in the French Legion of Honor in 2018.

In addition, General Merrill and Elynor McPeak have been committed to advancing student success at SDSU. In 2020, they created the Elynor F. McPeak Endowed Scholarship for Economics Excellence in the College of Arts and Letters and the Elynor F. McPeak Endowed Scholarship for Aztecs Forensics Excellence in the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts.

In recognition of his extended service to the United States, remarkable career in business and commitment and funding for SDSU students, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and San Diego State University are proud to confer upon General Merrill Anthony McPeak the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.