As a student at Beavercreek High School, her plan was to go to college at nearby Wright State University. But when her father came home from work at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base one day in the fall of 1975 and told her that the United States Air Force Academy was going to begin accepting female cadets, Janet Wolfenbarger changed her mind.
Wolfenbarger became part of the first academy class to include women and today is the first female four-star general in the Air Force, serving as commander of the Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson.
In honor of General Wolfenbarger being a trailblazer in the military and leading immensely important Air Force programs, she will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wright State at Spring Commencement on April 27.
“To be awarded a doctorate is the realization of a dream, and the fact that it’s being presented by Wright State makes it even more special,” Wolfenbarger said.
Her advice to college graduates entering the work world is to give 100 percent on every task they are assigned. She said becoming a four-star general demonstrates that such focus and determination can pay off no matter who you are.
“I have spent my career working hard and doing the very best I could in every job that was given to me,” she said.
The command that Wolfenbarger heads employs some 80,000 people and manages $60 billion annually. It supports warfighters through science and technology, weapon systems life cycle management, developmental test and evaluation, depot maintenance and supply chain management.
Wright-Patterson, which has strong research and educational connections to Wright State, is a special place for Wolfenbarger. It is where she was given the mission of managing aircraft weapons systems, feeding her love of aviation.
“I consider aircraft to be the lifeblood of the United States Air Force,” Wolfenbarger said. She had leadership roles in the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, the B-2 Stealth bomber, and the C-17 Globemaster airlifter.
Wolfenbarger has spent more than half of her 32-year career stationed at Wright-Patterson. During these years, in addition to accomplishing the critical mission of Air Force Materiel Command, she has also interacted extensively with the community.
“I find the community here is extraordinarily supportive of the military—another reason this area is very special to me,” Wolfenbarger said.
She credits Beavercreek High School for giving her the educational foundation to succeed in her Air Force career. Last month, the General Janet C. (Libby) Wolfenbarger Campus at Beavercreek High was dedicated in her honor.
Wolfenbarger began her Air Force career in acquisition as an engineer at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Along the way she obtained her master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. and her master’s degree in national resource strategy from the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
Prior to becoming commander of Air Force Materiel Command, Wolfenbarger served as the military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition at the Pentagon, and at Wright-Patterson as the director of the Intelligence and Requirements Directorate and vice commander of Air Force Materiel Command.
Wolfenbarger has won numerous Air Force awards throughout her career, including the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster.
Outside of work, Wolfenbarger likes to spend time with her family. In a 2012 interview with Time magazine, Wolfenbarger said: “I like to believe that I’m an example of how it can be possible to balance being a wife and a mom and still having a career in which you can be fulfilled and continue to progress.”