MJ Hegar Gives Schaff Lecture November 11

Monday, November 11, 2019
MJ Hegar speaking in the Simon Theatre

Major Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar, author of Shoot Like a Girl (one of Mercersburg Academy’s summer reading selections), presented the Schaff Lecture on Ethics and Morals November 11 in the Burgin Center for the Arts’ Simon Theatre. The event was part of Mercersburg’s Monday Evening Lecture Series.

Hegar is a recipient of the Purple Heart and is just the sixth female aviator to earn the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device, which she received after being shot down and wounded during her third tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2009. She is one of Foreign Policy Magazine's 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2013 and one of Newsweek's 125 Women of Impact of 2012. 

Hegar was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force through ROTC at the University of Texas in 1999. She served on active duty as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer at Misawa Air Base, Japan, and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, where she worked on the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the B-2 Stealth Bomber. Her maintenance career culminated in responsibility for 75 percent of all B-2 maintenance as a Captain and selection as the Company Grade Officer of the Year for 2003. In 2004, she was selected for pilot training by the Air National Guard. Upon completion of her training at the top of her class, she served three tours in Afghanistan flying combat search and rescue and Medevac missions.

During her time in the Guard, in addition to deployments to Afghanistan, Hegar flew marijuana eradication missions, wildfire suppression with buckets of water on cargo slings, evacuated survivors from hurricane-devastated cities, and rescued many civilians on civil Search and Rescue missions in California and out at sea. On her third tour to Afghanistan on July 29, 2009, she was shot down on a Medevac mission and sustained wounds that resulted in her being awarded the Purple Heart. Her actions on this mission saved the lives of her crew and patients.

Today, Hegar lives in Austin with her family and works as an executive coach and consultant. She has announced plans to run for a U.S. Senate seat in her home state of Texas in 2020 [editor’s note/update: Hegar won the Democratic primary in July 2020 and is facing incumbent John Cornyn in the general election in November 2020]. Hegar holds a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from UT Austin. She continues to mentor ROTC cadets at her alma mater, serves on the AFROTC Advisory Committee, and writes and speaks publicly about her experiences in the military and her fight for increased military readiness through equality.

The Schaff Family Endowment was funded by and is in honor of Schaff brothers Phillip H. ’38, Charles B. ’41, and David S. ’42. The endowment supports annual speakers “on topics related to fundamental human values—those principles which direct a person’s decisions and actions because they clarify what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’” Recent Schaff Lecturers have included investigative sports journalist Jeremy Schaap and author and musician James McBride.

The event was the second of three in the school’s 2019-2020 Monday Evening Lecture Series, which began with Molly Smith, director of Arena Stage (Ammerman Family Lecture, October 8).