Agency honors Studevant

Published 1:31 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2017

By Beth Reece

Special to The K-V Dispatch

She gave employees advice like, “Never let them see you sweat,” and, “Always dress appropriately,” but for all her talk about appearances, Kenbridge native Mary Studevant had a reputation as a hard worker who showed up early and was often the last to leave.

She was inducted into the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Hall of Fame for her significant contribution to agency, the Aviation workforce, their military customers and the community.

The DLA Hall of Fame induction ceremony was held Sept. 21 at the McNamara Headquarters Complex at Fort Belvoir.

“Going to work for the government was the most convenient thing to do because, at the time, you took the Civil Service exam, and if you passed you were called in to work,” she said.

She started out as a part-time clerk with the Internal Revenue Service in 1962. A year later, she and her husband, who was serving in the Air Force, moved to Hawaii, where she continued her federal service at Hickam Air Force Base.

When they returned to Virginia in 1966, Studevant began her 30-year DLA career as a secretary with what was then Defense Supply Center Richmond, now DLA Aviation, where she progressed through many positions. But in 1973 she took a nine-year break to be a stay-at-home mom. She returned to DLA in 1982 as a trainee in contracting and took advantage of every training opportunity available, attending evening classes and earning a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Richmond, completing a pre-graduate fellowship at the University of Virginia and attending Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

These opportunities were the catalyst that moved her up the career ladder.

Studevant’s passion for learning inspired one of her earliest contributions to the agency. During her 17 years of procurement experience, she developed the agency’s first contracting intern program at DSCR to ensure newly hired employees completed a structured program of on-the-job training that aligned with Department of Defense standards. It was an important step in a time when media reports were lambasting Pentagon officials for buying $700 toilet seats and paying too much for other supplies.

“The new program enabled us to be sure our folks were certified to do the things they did and had the training that would help them make smart business decisions. It went on to become a template for training throughout the agency,” she said.

Agreements Studevant made with two community colleges and Virginia Commonwealth University also paved the way for employees to take college courses relating to their contracting duties.

“Many employees said they couldn’t go back to college because they had to get home and take care of their kids. But with these agreements, all they had to do was walk across the hall to receive college-level courses. We even put together a program where students were reimbursed for tuition, and later we paid the cost for them up-front,” she added.

In 1994, former DLA Director Vice Adm. Keith Lippert selected Studevant to serve as his chief of staff. She supervised the command staff and supported four consecutive commanders, advising them on strategic planning while also overseeing the activity’s equal employment opportunity and small business goals.

As activities throughout DLA strived to improve warfighter support, Studevant was key in pioneering the Strategic Management System, which helped Defense Supply Center Richmond measure day-to-day operations with a combination of metrics and performance indicators. The system led to the first “balanced scorecard” that all DLA activities used to measure success and is a forerunner to similar systems used across the agency today.

Studevant’s leadership and attention to detail led to Defense Supply Center Richmond being recognized as a premiere location for executive-level conferences, former DLA Aviation Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Allan Day said when Studevant was inducted into the DLA Aviation Hall of Fame last year.

She coordinated command conferences with an eye on even the smallest details, but two weeks before hosting one Joint Logistics Commanders’ Conference in Richmond, the leaders decided to move the event to Northern Virginia.

“It was quite a challenge, but after driving to check out several locations, I was able to negotiate the meeting location, meals, rooms and everything that went with planning a conference with the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner. Even with very short notice, it was recognized by the leadership as one of the best conferences ever,” she said.

After a reorganization at Defense Supply Center Richmond in July 2001, Studevant became deputy director for Support Services, now DLA Installation Support in Richmond. It was in this position where she was charged with overseeing the local infrastructure when terrorists attacked the nation Sept. 11, 2001. The agency had already established a Continuity of Operations Program, but events of that day helped Studevant and other leaders tighten the plans for doing business in emergencies.

Like most former employees, people are what Studevant remembers the most about her years with the agency. In particular, she recalls those who taught her the value of mentoring, as well as a special evening at the White House.

“When Vice Adm. Lippert received his second star, he was pinned at the White House. He, his family and a few select people were invited to have dinner there, and he invited me,” she said. “I still have fond memories of that occasion.”

Angela Curtis, a human resources specialist for DLA’s Human Capital Program Development Office, worked for Studevant as a corporate planning officer. She was inspired by Studevant’s transparency and ability to help those following her footsteps become strong leaders.

“The test of true leadership is when one can admit to making mistakes, accept responsibility and not place blame. Mary’s uncanny way of doing this made it possible for employees throughout DLA to learn how a true leader can be transparent and trusted at the same time,” she said. “She was a role model for all employees and particularly for the women at DLA.”

Retirement has given Studevant more time to pursue her greatest pleasure: mentoring young people at local schools.