Retired Gen. John Philip Abizaid, U.S. Army, former Commander of the United States Central Command which oversees American military operations in a 27-country region including the Middle East, and whose experience includes Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003 to 2007, will address Virginia Tech's 2007 graduates during University Commencement exercises Friday, May 11, at Lane Stadium/Worsham Field.

"We are truly honored to have General Abizaid address our graduates," said Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger. "His distinguished military career, his extraordinary record of leadership, and his remarkable commitment of service to our nation will certainly inspire our graduates."

As commander of the U.S. Central Command, Abizaid led 250,000 U.S. troops stationed in Africa, south and central Asia, and the Middle East. He succeeded Gen. Tommy Franks in 2003, and was promoted to the rank of four-star general that same year. At the request of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Abizaid delayed his retirement until March of this year. He was succeeded by Admiral William J. Fallon.

A native of California, Abizaid, who is the son of a Christian Lebanese-American father and an American mother, is the most senior U.S. military officer of direct Arab descent.

Abizaid graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1973 and later received a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University. He was an Olmsted Scholar at the University of Jordan in Amman, Jordan and also received a senior fellowship at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

During his distinguished military career, Abizaid served in Operation Urgent Fury (Grenada), the Gulf War, Operation Deliberate Force (Bosnia and Herzegovina), the Kosovo Conflict (Serbia), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq). He has received numerous honors and awards for his service, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star.

See the Commencement Section for detailed information related to all aspects of Spring Commencement.