Four-Star Gen. Rainey Receives Honorary Doctorate during EKU Spring 2023 Commencement

Published on May 13, 2023

By Sarah Bashford

Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) recognized Four-Star Gen. James E. Rainey for his distinguished service to the public with an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D) degree during EKU’s spring commencement ceremony on May 12. 

Rainey, ’87, came to EKU on a swimming scholarship, then became involved with Army ROTC. While at EKU, he also met his wife of 35 years, Tracy Rainey, ’88. 

In 1987, Rainey was commissioned as an infantry officer from EKU and has served continuously in the United States Army for over 35 years. Rainey currently serves as commander of the Army Futures Command. He began the position in October 2022, when he earned the promotion of four-star ranking, becoming one of only 242 four-star generals of the U.S. Army dating back to 1866, and the only known EKU alumnus to achieve this distinction.

Prior to serving as commander of the Army Futures Command, Rainey held several leadership positions in the Army, including deputy chief of staff of the G-3/5/7 at the Pentagon, commanding general of the United States Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, and commander of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, among others.

During the 6 p.m. spring commencement ceremony, EKU President Dr. David McFaddin presented Rainey with the honorary LL.D degree. 

“Gen. Rainey is living proof of the power of higher education and a degree from the School of Opportunity,” said McFaddin. “On behalf of Eastern Kentucky University, I must express how proud we are to have an EKU graduate serving our country as one of the top-ranking officials of the U.S. Army. Gen. Rainey, you are a testament to our purpose—to educate the best and brightest who will in return give back through a meaningful career. You have certainly done just that. You have sacrificed so much for our country and for each of us here today.”

EKU holds a long-standing reputation for excellence in providing educational opportunities for veterans, members of the military and their families. EKU is currently ranked No. 3 in the Military Friendly® Schools review, and the first in Kentucky among the “Best for Vets” public institutions by Military Times.

“I came to Eastern Kentucky University in 1983. Coming here changed the trajectory of my life. I came down here to be a part of the swim team on an $800-dollar scholarship—the difference between me going to college or not,” said Rainey. “I learned about discipline, hard work and competing in the right way. I had a great educational experience at EKU and learned to value lifelong learning. I joined the ROTC and found the calling of my life.”

Framed with the honorary diploma, the citation reads, “Gen. James E. Rainey, a lifelong Soldier, whose dedication as a military professional, combat leader, husband, and father have earned him the respect of our country; a builder of teams, developer of leaders, and advocate for military families and veterans; a true role model dedicated to a life of service, whom Eastern Kentucky University is honored to recognize with this Doctorate of Laws.”