When Gen. Lori Robinson delivers the 2017 UNH commencement address on Saturday, May 20, she will be adding another accomplishment to her increasingly impressive résumé. Not only is Robinson a former UNH Wildcat, but she is also the first female combatant commander in the U.S. Air Force.   

“The university is incredibly proud of Gen. Robinson and the historic role she now holds as the first woman to lead a major combatant command,” said UNH Media Relations Director Erika Mantz. “We love being able to bring back distinguished alumni to motivate and inspire our graduating students, and we’re incredibly honored that she has agreed to be the commencement speaker.”   

The university announced that Robinson would be the 2017 commencement speaker on the morning of Wednesday, March 22.   

“I couldn’t be more thrilled, and humbled, to be this year’s commencement speaker for UNH.  When I was wearing a cap and gown in 1981, I never could have imagined one day returning to UNH to address the graduating class,” Robinson said.

Robinson graduated from UNH with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. After graduating through UNH’s Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program, she entered the Operational Air Force under the rank of second lieutenant in 1982. Robinson spent 34 years in the Air Force before she was promoted to commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) in 2016.   

According to a UNH press release, as commander of NORAD, Robinson is responsible for overseeing aerospace control as well as maritime and aerospace warnings in defense of North America. Her position as commander of USNORTHCOM involves partnering with homeland defense to oversee civil support and security cooperation to defend all of the United States. Both are incredibly well respected positions and Robinson is the first woman to hold either of them. 

“I am very excited about the choice of Gen. Lori Robinson as UNH’s commencement speaker,” said UNH Student Body President Jonathan Dean.

“I think there are two expectations that students have for a commencement speaker. First, someone that is inspiring and has an interesting story,” Dean said. “Second, students look for someone they may only have this one opportunity to ever hear speak. Gen. Robinson meets both of these expectations.”

Dean is just one of the numerous excited students preparing for Robinson’s commencement address in May.

  “I think that Gen. Lori Robinson will be an incredibly interesting speaker. Her graduation from UNH makes her especially relatable, not to mention her career is extremely impressive. I’m looking forward to hearing what she has to say,” said UNH senior Alexis Bouchard. 

Many students, like Bouchard, are eager to have an opportunity to listen to a motivating figure such as Robinson.    

“Gen. Lori Robinson is an inspiration to the entire graduating class. She demonstrates all the qualities a wildcat should possess; she is ambitious, influential and legendary,” said UNH senior Natalie Lewis.   

In addition to her historic role as leader of a major combatant command, Robinson is also a very well decorated member of the U.S. Air Force. Among other awards, she has received the Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal and the Defense Superior Service Medal.

“I’m proud to represent my class and the U.S. military, and while I’m there, I look forward to commissioning cadets from the UNH ROTC unit as the Air Force and Army’s newest officers,” Robinson said.

Executive Editor