Brigadier General Clara L. Adams-Ender, US Army, retired, has a new mission: helping students of modest means complete college. She is executive director of the nonprofit Caring About People with Enthusiasm Legacy Fund. The foundation raises funds and partners with other nonprofits to ensure that college is within reach for as many needy students as possible.
Adams-Ender was born in Wake County, North Carolina, the fourth oldest of 10 children. She received a bachelor's degree in nursing from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro and a master's degree in nursing from the University of Minnesota. She earned a Master of Military Art and Science degree from the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
She rose from Army staff nurse to become chief executive officer for 22,000 nurses, brigadier general and director of personnel for the Army Surgeon General. She was vice president for nursing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the largest health-care facility in the Department of Defense. In 1967, she became the first female in the Army to be awarded the Expert Field Medical Badge. She commanded an Army base, a position equivalent to city manager, magistrate and mayor of a city. She was the first Army nurse in history to command as a general officer. In 2001, she published her memoir, My Rise to the Stars.
An inspiring educator, lecturer, consultant and leader, Adams-Ender has given more than 2,000 presentations to health-care professionals, community and business leaders, veterans groups and students, both at home and abroad.
Adams-Ender is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She served as chairman of the board for The Rocks Inc. and Andrews Federal Credit Union. She is a charter member of the Board of Visitors for the U.S. Marine Corps University and past member of the Board of Medicine for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Her honors include the NAACP's Roy Wilkins Meritorious Service Award, National Bar Association's Gertrude E. Rush Award for Leadership and Distinguished Service Medal with Oakleaf Cluster.
Working Woman magazine named her one of 350 women who changed the world from 1976 to 1996, and the Virginia Foundation for Women honored her as one of seven Outstanding Virginia Women in History in 2005. Her undergraduate alma mater named a nursing professorship for her in 2009. In 2013, she was honored by the American Academy of Nursing as a Living Legend and the United States Army War College named her its first female outstanding graduate.