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West Point's First Women Graduates, Class of 1980

On May 20, 1975, the House of Representatives approved an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill of 1976, opening the service academies to women. The Senate followed suit on June 6, 1975, and President Ford signed the bill on October 7, 1975.

The first women cadets arrived at West Point on July 7, 1976. Four years later, 62 of those women graduated on May 28, 1980, and were commissioned as second lieutenants.

West Point First Women Graduates, Class of 1980

On October 7, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-106, opening enrollment at the military academies to all eligible applicants, regardless of gender. President Ford’s signature marked the end of a 30-year process to allow women the same opportunities as men and marked the beginning of a long journey for a select group of women headed to West Point.  Exactly ten months later, on July 7, 1976, the first women arrived at West Point for “Reception Day” and the start of their New Cadet Basic Training. They represented the very best of their respective hometowns across the country and were the few women remaining after a vigorous selection process that whittled the number of applicants from about 600 women to the final 119 who entered the gates on that July day.
Despite the numerous obstacles the women faced at West Point, most women soon thrived at West Point.  Their success at West Point, in the Army, and within American society paved the way for future generations of women.
Four years later, 62 women graduated on May 28, 1980, and were commissioned as second lieutenants. For the pioneering women of this first class, no greater example of their dedication to duty can be found than that of their continuous impact on the United States and its Army.
The first women to graduate from the United States Military Academy in the Class of 1980 include:

2LT Donna Sue Alesch
2LT Ann Shelley Ashworth
2LT Carol Anne Barkalow
2LT Brigid Benya
2LT Rebecca Ambrose Blyth
2LT Diane Bracey
2LT Janis Calhoon
2LT Karen Ann Cicchini
2LT Ruth Ann Colister
2LT Joy Suzanne Dallas
2LT Denise Irene Dawson
2LT Robin Fennessy
2LT Bobbi Lynn Fiedler
2LT Anne Walker Fields
2LT Mary Elizabeth Flynn
2LT Brenda Sue Fulton
2LT Kathleen Mary Gerard
2LT Katharine Goodland
2LT Mary Ellen Gridley
2LT Eleanor Ruth Griffin
2LT Nancy Lorraine Gucwa
2LT Janet Jay Harrington
2LT Karen Jayne Hinsey
2LT Andrea Lee Hollen
2LT Ann Marie Hughes
2LT Debra Ann Johnson
2LT Tamara C. Kaseman
2LT Susan Puanani Kellett
2LT Karen Louise Kelly
2LT Karen Mary Kinzler
2LT Clare Kirby
2LT Debra Malvene Lewis
2LT Danna Maller
2LT Vicki Louise Martin
2LT Debra Lynn McCarthy
2LT Jane Mary McEntee
2LT Sylvia Thorpe Moran
2LT Amy Jane Muir
2LT Sonya Elich Nikituk
2LT Rita Annette Null
2LT Marene Nyberg
2LT Erin Marie O’Connor
2LT Jane Hunter Perkins
2LT Lillian Ann Pfluke
2LT Susanne Patricia Reichelt
2LT Mary Grace Rosinski
2LT Brynnen Gayle Sheets
2LT Kathleen Silvia
2LT Joan Mary Smith
2LT Christi Lynn Stevens
2LT Dianne Louise Stoddard
2LT Terry Jane Tepper
2LT Regina Claire Todd
2LT Barbara Lynn Treharne
2LT Doris Ann Turner
2LT Priscilla Marie Walker
2LT Kathleen Ann Wheless
2LT Kathryn Annette Wildey
2LT Carol Ann Young
2LT Donna Marie Wright
2LT Kelly Lynn Zachgo
2LT Joan Marie Zech

SGM Grace Mueller

USA (Ret.)

SGM Grace Mueller, USA Retired served on the WAC Foundation and Army Women’s Museum Foundation boards of officers for over 30 years, and was elected to Director Emeritus upon retiring.

Grace was born May 17, 1917 in Cleveland, Ohio. She was working in Batesville, Ind. at the Batesville Casket Company when she heard a radio announcement that the Army was accepting women enlistees. She enlisted Aug. 1, 1942, and was in one of the early basic Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps training classes at Ft. Des Moines, Iowa. She served at Ft. Sheridan, Ill., Ft. Custer, Mich., and Camp Bullis, Tex. before discharge in 1946 as a first lieutenant. She returned home to Indiana, but did not stay long. She reenlisted under an option that allowed former Woman’s Army Corps (WAC) members to rejoin the Army and was assigned to Ft. Meade, Md. With the passage of the Women’s Armed Forces Integration Act in 1948, women were accorded permanent status in the military services. Now a member of the Regular Army, Grace was assigned to the newly established WAC Training Center at Ft. Lee, Va. She subsequently served at Ft. McClellan, Ala., Ft. Myer, Va., Ft. Ord, Calif., and with 8th Army in Yokohama, Japan. Her last assignment, as a sergeant major, was on the staff of the WAC director. She retired in March 1973.

Very active in retirement, she served for 30 years on successive Army Retiree Councils in the Washington, D.C. area. She delivered meals on wheels and was an active member of the Ft. Myer, Va. Chapel. In 2011 she was inducted into the Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame, joining other Hall of Fame honorees BG Pat Foote, CSM Cynthia Pritchett, Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, and LTC Tammy Duckworth. The women of the West Point Class of 1980 were also inducted in 2011.

She was a long-term WAC Veterans Association member with Northern Virginia Chapter 33 and held many chapter offices, including president (1988-89). She was a charter member of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation. She’s survived by her nephew Lance Mueller and wife Jamie, her niece Judy Rhodes and husband John, and many other family members and friends.

She was living at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. at the time of her death in 2012. She will be long remembered for her service to her country, her love of family, her dedication to veterans, especially women veterans, and insightful ability to get to the heart of complicated issues.

SGM Grace Mueller
USA (Ret.)