Another Lander University graduate has been promoted to brigadier general, the third Lander alumnus to pin on the one star insignia of that rank in less than three years.
Maria Gervais, who graduated with a degree in biology in 1987, was promoted to deputy commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, Ky., and along with the new assignment came the promotion. Gervais credits Lander with giving her the education and helping her develop the basic foundation leading to her success in the military. She was a member of Lander's women's basketball team for two seasons until a high school knee injury recurred, forcing her to quit.
She said basketball taught her the value of teamwork and to make sacrifices necessary to balance the requirements of athletics and her studies.
Gervais, whose classmates remember her as Maria Rea, is from a military family who settled in Greenwood after her father retired from the Army. "It was the longest time I spent in any one place."
Gervais considered serving in the Army after graduating from Lander with a biology degree, but did not plan to make it a career. "The Army gave our family a good life. My father suggested that if I went into the Army, I should earn a commission."
She took his advice and enrolled in Lander's Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) in her senior year and, after completing advanced training, she was commissioned in 1987.
Her husband, Lt. Col. Chris Gervais, a 1989 Lander graduate, is a communications officer at Fort Knox, and they have one child, daughter Brandi.
Gervais supervises the more than 2,000 senior Army ROTC and Army Junior ROTC programs, including the Scottish Highlander Battalion, which includes units at Lander, and Presbyterian and Newberry colleges. She said, "Key influencers at Lander had a huge impact on my life. Now, I have the opportunity to influence career choices of students enrolled in ROTC." She added, "There is no other place I'd rather be."
A ceremony was held at Fort Knox on Sept. 20 during which Gervais was officially promoted to brigadier general. She follows in the footsteps of Brigadier General Marie Goff, a 1978 Lander graduate who became the first female general officer in the history of the S.C. Army National Guard in December of 2010, and Brigadier General James Simpson, a 1985 alumnus, who received his star last November.