Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, the Adjutant General of Illinois and Commander of the Illinois National Guard, can add another achievement to a long list of achievements. Neely, a 1989 graduate of Illinois State University in Normal, was among five inductees into the College of Business’ 2023 Hall of Fame at Illinois State University on Feb. 23.
“This year’s inductees are truly an exceptional group of Illinois State alumni whose careers started here,” said Aondover Tarhule, interim ISU president. “Thank you for your service in your chosen profession.”
Neely said he is very humbled to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“Thank you for the amazing opportunity to be here today,” Neely said. “I am very blessed to receive this honor and be inducted into this prestigious group.”
Neely said he never thought he’d be at ISU as an inductee into the College of Business’ Hall of Fame.
“When most people graduate, they say, ‘I got a degree, let’s get busy with it and move on,’” he said. “I probably would have a better chance of winning the lottery than this induction at that time.”
Neely, who also has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, Policy, and Leadership from the National Defense University, said ISU is where studying really came together for him.
“This is where I learned to be a student,” he said. “When I got to ISU, that’s where my passion for learning really started. I really became a life-long learner because of my time here.”
Neely offered advice to the College of Business students attending the ceremony.
“Work hard and be humble enough to learn from those around you,” he said. “I started at the bottom in the military when I enlisted as a private in the Illinois National Guard and I worked my way to the top. You must care about others, learn from others, and work hard. If you get up every day and love what you’re doing, be passionate about that.”
During Neely’s 38 years of military service, he has served in several command, staff and operational positions including as the Principal Deputy Director for Air Operations at the Pentagon for the National Guard Bureau, where he oversaw Intelligence, Air, Nuclear, Cyber and Space Operations and the Air National Guard’s Chief Information Officer. While at the NGB, he served as the Chief of Current Operations where he was the primary policy developer and planner for National Guard Domestic Operations and Defense Support to civil authorities and crisis management for federal interagency partners in support of the 54 states and territories.
Neely has deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is also a national leader in cybersecurity and critical infrastructure as it applies to emergency management.
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