Richard Samual Kem

Distinguished Alumnus Major General Richard S. Kem, United States Army,  Retired, Class of 1952

Richard S. “Sam” Kem was born on August 9, 1934, in  Richmond to Charles and Janice Kem. He came from a Quaker background; his mother attended Earlham College and later was a trustee.  His father attended Indiana University Dental School, becoming a dentist in Richmond.

The oldest of four boys, Kem gained admittance to West Point after high school graduation.   He graduated from West Point in 1956 and then attended the Engineer Officers Basic Course.  This was followed by airborne and ranger training.  His first assignment was in the Twenty-third Armored Engineer Battalion with the Third Armored Division stationed in Europe.

In 1962 he served as engineer adviser in South Vietnam.  In 1968, with the escalation of the war, he returned to Vietnam to serve as commander of the 577th Engineer Battalion.

He earned a Master’s degree in civil engineering at the University of Illinois. He was stationed in  Alaska in 1964 to help with the cleanup after the Good Friday earthquake, the largest earthquake in North America.  He served two years as a tactical officer on the faculty at West Point.  After attending the Naval War College he moved to the army staff in Washington, D.C.

In 1976 he returned to Germany, commanding the Seventh Engineer Brigade in Stuttgart,  and then served on the staff at the U.S. Army Headquarters in Europe in Heidelberg.  Returning to the Pentagon in 1979, he served as Deputy Assistant Chief of Engineers reporting to Congress on budget and appropriations.

Selected to be a brigadier general, he was named commander of the Corps of Army Engineers, Ohio River Division in Cincinnati, Ohio, serving three years.  In 1984 he was promoted to Major General, to command the U.S. Army Engineer School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Kem returned to Europe during the Reagan years and when the Soviet Union collapsed served as chief of staff at  headquarters.  He returned to Washington in 1989, becoming deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  After a thirty-five-year career, he retired in the fall of 1990 at age 56.

His awards include the following: Distinguished Service Award (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Legion of Merit (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Air Medal, and Army commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster).  The Army Engineer Association presented him a Silver De Fleury Medal and then later the Gold De Fleury Medal, its highest award.  He married in 1960, he is the father of three.  He remarried in 2004 and lives in Washington, D.C., Major General Kem was honored Richmond High School Distinguished Alumnus in 1991.















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