Leading the Leaders: Virginia Gilmore '54 Durgin

Students who attend Asbury University get a front-row view of the determination, talents and potential of their fellow classmates and the alumni who have paved the way for their achievements. In this web series, we'd like to share that view with you! This is the first in an ongoing series about just a few of Asbury's world-impacting graduates.

In a demonstration of just how versatile a liberal arts degree can be, biology major Virginia Gilmore ’54 Durgin began her post-college life as missionary and retired in 1997 as the highest-ranked female in the Central Intelligence Agency.

Asbury University alumni
Virginia Gilmore, in her 1954 senior yearbook photo. She married her husband, Lane Durgin, a few years after graduation.

Upon graduating from Asbury with a bachelor of arts in Biology, Durgin planned to become a medical missionary. She spent nine months in Greece as a missionary and returned to find that she had been accepted into Ohio State University’s medical school. However, she “got itchy feet” and decided to take the Foreign Service Officer’s Exam so that she would be able to work for the U.S. State Department. Shortly after the exam she found herself in Washington D.C. From there, Durgin met her husband, Lane Durgin who was working for the CIA.

Durgin first served in the CIA in a clerical capacity in Germany for three years. From Germany, Durgin and her family were assigned to Taiwan for two and half years, where she achieved a senior administrative position with the CIA.

After returning to the States, Durgin opted out of government work and served in a private sector working with contracting. She worked 15 years with the private sector until the CIA had a shortage of contracting employees. Five years after restarting her job with the CIA, Durgin became the Chief of the Special Activity Staff in the Department of Operations.

Durgin was the Director of the Office of Finance and Logistics, purchasing everything from burros to planes for the Agency, and specializing in contracting, pricing, cost estimating, analysis and procurement for the CIA. She was responsible for all the acquisition activity and more than 200 contracting staff members for the Agency and was involved in multi-national contracting. Upon retirement in 1997, she received the Distinguished Intelligence Medal by the Agency “in recognition of her superior service.”

Durgin also served as a member of the Congressional Advisory to redesign the NASA space station.

In 2004, Asbury honored Durgin with its highest alumni award, an A Award, for excellence in her field.

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