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The 2018 Distinguished Graduate Awards

No Rain on This Parade!

DGA 2018

The calendar may have said May 22, the start of Grad Week at West Point, but the raw weather for the annual alumni exercises and cadet review for the 2018 Distinguished Graduate Award (DGA) recipients felt more like an extension of Gloom Period. But rain showers and temperatures in the low 60s could not dampen the spirits of the more than 1,100 graduates and guests who returned to their Rockbound Highland Home for the festivities, especially those of Col (USAF, R) Kermit Dyke ’40, USMA’s oldest living graduate, who at 103 years old walked from library corner and across diagonal walk to lay a wreath at the base of Thayer Statue, nor those of the six graduates who joined the legacy of 133 other graduates, just two-tenths of one percent of the Long Gray Line, who have been recognized as West Point “Distinguished Graduates”: COL (R) Dana Mead ’57, Mr. Thomas Barron ’65, LTG (R) Larry Jordon ’68, GEN (R) William Wallace ’69, HON Sloan Gibson IV ’75, and HON Douglas Lute ’75. [SEE PHOTOS]

The DGA is given to graduates of the United States Military Academy whose character, distinguished service, and stature draw wholesome comparison to the qualities for which West Point strives, in keeping with its motto: “Duty, Honor, Country.” Asked about these values and the impact they have had on his life and career, Wallace said, “When you enter West Point as a plebe, ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ may be just a motto, but when you graduate, ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ is who you are, it’s part of your DNA.”

For Mead, who was President and CEO at two of America’s largest companies, “Duty, Honor, Country” translated into ethics and integrity, lessons he learned at West Point and consistently preached to his business managers. “I always reminded them that no business purpose justifies an illegal, unethical, or immoral act,” Mead said.

“‘Duty, Honor, Country’ are guideposts to live by, pinning graduates to West Point’s eternal values,” said Lute. “During times of adversity and uncertainty, they serve graduates well and will never steer them wrong.”

For Barron, who was present as a cadet in the Mess Hall during GEN (R) Douglas MacArthur’s famous “Duty, Honor, Country” speech, it is the final passage of that speech that resonates for him as a Distinguished Graduate: “The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.” “Like ‘Duty, Honor, Country,’ MacArthur’s repetition of these three terms reminds me of the importance of this institution, and of my integral part in it.”

Similarly, as Todd Browne ’85, President and CEO of the West Point Association of Graduates noted in his remarks at the DGA luncheon, the annual graduate procession and Distinguished Graduate Parade should remind all graduates of their common experience. “They symbolize the common ideals connecting all generations of graduates,” he said.

Finally, the DGA ceremony is one of West Point’s last opportunities to teach a lesson to the graduating class about what it means to be a leader of character and a member of the Long Gray Line. “This year’s group is quite impressive,” said LTG Robert L. Caslen Jr. ’75, the 59th Superintendent of West Point. “Their leadership and diverse experiences have influenced national security, government, industry, and so much more; but what ties all of their accomplishments together and truly makes them Distinguished Graduates is their ideal of selfless service—to West Point, to our Army, and to our nation.” Or, as Jordan puts it, “The only legacy we leave is in terms of the people and places that we have touched.” The legacy of the 2018 Distinguished Graduates is impressive indeed.