The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce awarded the Josiah Marvel Cup Award to Major General (Ret.) Francis D. Vavala.
The award was given at the State Chamber’s 184th Annual Dinner.
Established in 1951, the Marvel Cup honors a Delawarean who has made an outstanding contribution to the state, community, or society. The Chamber’s highest honor is named in memory of Josiah Marvel, who reorganized and served as the first president of the State Chamber in 1913. Recipients of the Marvel Cup are kept secret until the night of the dinner.
Due to the pandemic, the State Chamber coordinated with the Delaware National Guard to bring General Vavala to the Joint Force Headquarters prior to the virtual event. Major General Michael R. Berry and State Chamber President Michael J. Quaranta revealed that he was this year’s honoree.
The gathering was captured on film and shared with more than 800 business leaders, elected officials and state dignitaries during the virtual event on Jan. 11th.
“General Vavala embodies what it means to serve the state and nation. For more than 50 years, both in uniform and out, he has made a tremendous impact on our National Guard and the State of Delaware,” said Major General Michael R. Berry, adjutant general of the Delaware National Guard. “He normally is the one giving out the recognition and awards, so it’s only right he gets some recognition.”
General Vavala is a born and raised Delawarean. He attended Salesianum School and Wilmington University. Before his appointment as Adjutant General, he was a marketing services supervisor for DuPont.
The general’s military service began in 1967, when he enlisted in the Delaware Army National Guard as a private. He was commissioned as a signal officer after completing the Delaware Military Academy Officer Candidate School in 1970.
Vavala was appointed by then-Governor Tom Carper and assumed duties as Delaware’s Adjutant General on February 1, 1999. He was the highest-ranking member of the Delaware National Guard, responsible for the mission readiness of all Delaware National Guard units for both federal and state missions.
General Vavala is the first Delaware National Guardsman to achieve four-star rank. He is also the longest-tenured Adjutant General in the country, serving three Delaware governors over an 18-year period.
In addition to holding dozens of leadership positions in the Delaware National Guard, he also held prominent national positions as president of the Adjutant Generals Association of the United States (AGAUS) and chairman of the board for the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS).
After 50 years of service in the Delaware National Guard, Vavala retired and took on a new role as a veteran’s advocacy specialist at Delaware Technical Community College. He assists in the day-to-day operations of the Veterans Resource Center at Delaware Tech’s Stanton Campus.
The new headquarters, the Major Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III National Guard/Reserve Center in New Castle was a 15-year-long dream of Vavala’s, who led the efforts to construct the building in 2014. The facility is now home to approximately 400 soldiers, airmen and sailors.
Vavala also initiated a program entitled the “War on Hunger” in December 2008, which placed food donation sites in all Delaware Army and Air National Guard facilities as well as National Guard supported events. Food collected through this program is delivered to the Food Bank of Delaware to help feed families at risk in Delaware.
“General Valvala is what one would call a servant leader – someone who by his own words and actions has, time and again, led by example. He is the very definition of public service,” said Chamber President Quaranta.
President-elect Joe Biden and incoming First Lady Dr. Jill Biden sent their congratulations to the General. Both were honored with the Marvel Cup at the State Chamber’s 181stAnnual Dinner in 2018.
“We know how meaningful this award is,” the President-elect stated. “It comes from the community. It is about service to the people. There is no one more deserving than General Vavala. He’s not only been an incredible leader to the Delaware National Guard, he’s been a genuine friend to so many.”