Retired Colonel Alex “Alpo” Portelli will deliver McDowell Technical Community College’s annual commencement address to the Class of 2022 when the college convenes next month for its first full, in-person graduation exercises in three years.
The ceremony will be held in the William H. Long Memorial Auditorium at Nebo Crossing on May 13 at 6 p.m.
Decorated U.S. Army veteran, Colonel Alex R. Portelli, better known locally as “Alpo” Portelli, was born in the United States, raised in Norway and is an expert linguist with native fluencies in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and German languages (as well as competencies in Italian, French, Spanish and Turkish languages). Portelli spent much of his U.S. military career serving in both Staff and Command capacities in Europe. He served as Chief, Europe Division, ECJ5, HQUSEUCOM (policy, strategy and capabilities directorate, Headquarters, United States European Command), in Stuttgart, Germany and served as the U.S. Army Attaché to the Kingdom of Norway. He has extensive European service with Command as well as Staff assignments encompassing three tours in Germany, two tours in Norway, as well as non-European tours in Honduras and Turkey. Portelli also served as Director of the International Fellows Program at the U.S. Army War College from 2009 to 2012.
Upon retirement, Portelli moved to McDowell County where he now lives in Dysartsville on a piece of property he affectionately refers to as “The High Ground.” A lifelong public servant, Portelli continues to serve in a variety of capacities in local and regional public service and civic organizations, including serving as Assistant District Governor of Rotary District 7670; Chairman of the McDowell County Local Food Advisory Council (LFAC); Board member of the McDowell County Health Coalition and Vice-President of District Operations for the Daniel Boone Scouting Council.
Alpo is a distinguished military graduate of the University of Tampa, Class of 1981, with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Portelli was Batallion Commander of the ROTC Unit at the University of Tampa and a member of both the fencing team and the National Society of Pershing Rifles, 16th Regiment/Brigade, a military-based honor society. He continued his studies at the University of Minnesota, where he received a Master’s degree in Scandinavian Studies in 1991. Later, in 2005, he received a Master’s degree in Strategic Studies at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA.
Besides his formal degrees, Portelli studied extensively at a variety of well-known centers of military education around the world, including the Norwegian Army Staff College, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College, the Foreign Area Officer Program, the Joint Military Attaché School, the Norwegian National Defense College and the U.S. Army War College.
Portelli holds numerous military awards and decorations as well as U.S. and Norwegian Parachutist Badges. Of special note, he is the recipient of a United States Department of State Meritorious Honor Award. For his services to the Kingdom of Norway, he was awarded the Norwegian Defense Medal with laurel wreath and, by Royal Norwegian proclamation, was knighted a Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit by His Majesty King Harald of Norway.
From 2012 to 2014, he served as an International Policy and Security Expert with APSEC, LLC and has been President and CEO of REDNCC, Inc. since 2014, heading an international team of experts who break down political, cultural and language barriers in the areas of international security & defense policy, international security cooperation, diplomacy and international business operations.
Portelli and his wife, the former Gail Emanuel of Murrysville, Pennsylvania, whom he met while he was a student at the University of Tampa competing in a Pershing Rifle Drill meet, lead an active and adventurous life. They enjoy scuba diving, sailing and skiing, for example, and travel extensively throughout the world in pursuit of these hobbies.
This will be the first time MTCC has scheduled commencement exercises at Nebo Crossing, having used the auditorium at East McDowell Middle School for in-person graduations for well-over two decades. The beautiful, spacious, high-tech auditorium at Nebo Crossing, soon to be referred to as “The Hub,” was chosen for its seating capacity, large foyer, ample parking and other amenities, said Dr. Penny Cross, Vice-President of Learning and Student Services, whose staff coordinates McDowell Tech’s annual graduation.
The college will also return to the tradition of having a student speaker this year, as SGA President, Lauren Buchanan, will deliver a graduation address on behalf of the Class of 2022.
“Our Vision at MTCC is clear. We aim to learn and grow while focusing on individuals, our community, and our institution. Colonel Portelli’s sense of service and community directly align with our approach to more holistically serve our students, the workforce, and our region. Both Alpo and Lauren will inspire and challenge this year’s class as they embark on their post-graduation journey after MTCC. Graduation is our favorite day of the year, and we look forward to celebrating the Class of 2022,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President.