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2017 Distinguished Graduate Awards

2017 West Point Distinguished Graduate Awardees

Six members of the Long Gray Line were recognized with a 2017 Distinguished Graduate Award (DGA) by the West Point Association of Graduates at its annual award ceremony: Marshall N. Carter ’62, BG (R) Daniel Kaufman ’68, GEN (R) Martin Dempsey ’74, GEN (R) Lloyd Austin ’75, the Honorable Robert A. McDonald ’75, and GEN (R) Raymond Odierno ’76 (read their bios here). Speaking at the Alumni Luncheon that recognized the 2017 DGA recipients, LTG Robert Caslen ’75, the 59th Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, said, “These six leaders of character have impressive resumes, but what ties all of their accomplishments together, what truly makes them distinguished, is the ideal of selfless service.”

“Looking at the people who have received this award in years past, and those receiving their medals today, I feel proud to be able to stand within their ranks,” said Austin. Odierno agreed with Austin, labeling the experience of being named one of West Point’s Distinguished Graduates as “surreal” and stating that “the only reason I am here is because of the hard work of the soldiers and leaders with whom I served: This is a celebration for all of us.”

Since 1992, the DGA has been presented annually to graduates “whose character, distinguished service, and stature draw wholesome comparison to the qualities for which West Point stands, as epitomized by its motto: Duty, Honor, Country.” “As you mature, you begin to understand just how strong the virtues of ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ really are, both in your professional life as well as your personal life,” said Kaufman. “It becomes the basis of who you are.” “Internalizing these values and internalizing character, these are the things that end up steering the path of a West Point graduate’s life,” said Carter.

For McDonald, the former Chairman, President, and CEO of The Procter & Gamble Company, the values of West Point boil down to leadership, and he and his wife have endowed the annual McDonald Conference for Leaders of Character to educate future leaders on the lessons he has learned. “My experiences at West Point formed my understanding of leadership, which is leadership is an obligation, and I want to make sure that all of us do everything we can to help others,” he said.

“West Point has been such a big part of my life that this award is the highest honor I’ve ever been fortunate enough to receive,” said Dempsey. “It’s also extraordinary because of what one needs to do just to graduate from here in the first place, and what it means to a 41-year career.”

LTG (R) William Ely'33 Old Living West Point Graduate with WPAOG Chairman LTG (R) Larry Jordan '68Earlier in the day, the DGA recipients—along with graduates from the reunion classes of 1942, 1947, 1952, 1962, and 1967—participated in the annual alumni procession across diagonal walk on The Plain at West Point to the statue of Sylvanus Thayer, Class of 1808. The procession was led by LTG (R) William Ely ’33, West Point’s oldest living graduate, who, at 105 years old, placed a wreath at the Thayer statue’s base to honor “the father of the U.S. Military Academy.” “Having General Ely place the wreath was incredible,” said CDT Hugh McConnell ’17, USCC First Captain, who assisted in laying the wreath. “All the cadets in the cordon were talking about him before the event, thinking about all the years of service he had and the times in which he lived.” Recognizing Ely during the Alumni Luncheon, Caslen said, “Not only is he West Point’s oldest, but he is a distinguished graduate himself.” [SEE PHOTOS ON FACEBOOK]