2004 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients

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The West Point Association of Graduates (WPAOG) has named the 2004 recipients of the Distinguished Graduate Award. This annual award has been bestowed upon those West Point graduates 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.” The 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients are:

2004 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipient GEN (R) William A. Knowlton Jan '43

GEN (R) William A. Knowlton Jan ’43

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Having earned academic stars for diligence in his studies and the chevrons of a cadet battalion commander for his manifest skills as a leader, William Knowlton graduated in January 1943 with a commission in the Cavalry. His World War II service was with the 7th Armored Division, which took him from California to France – where he led an assault gun platoon – and eventually into Germany in command of a reconnaissance troop that effected a linkup with the Russians northwest of Berlin in 1945, earning him a Silver Star.

Tours of duty at Headquarters, EUCOM, and SHAPE were highlights of the succeeding years, and in 1955, having completed Command and General Staff School, he was assigned to the Department of Social Sciences at West Point, where he attained the rank of Associate Professor. Returning to the field Army, he next commanded a battalion in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and after graduating from the War College, he served as Military Attaché in Tunis and commanded a brigade in Ft. Knox. His next two assignments were in Washington, in the Office of the Army Chief of Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. These assignments were followed by two years in Vietnam where he oversaw Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) on General Westmoreland’s staff and served as Assistant Division Commander in the 9th Infantry Division. His performance of duty in Southeast Asia merited him a Bronze Star, ten Air Medals, a Distinguished Flying Cross, two Silver Stars, and a Distinguished Service Medal.

Back in Washington, William Knowlton took on the responsibilities of Secretary of the Army General Staff and then, on the 23rd of March 1970, he became the 49th Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. During a tenure of over four years and during a very turbulent time for the Nation, he launched initiatives to increase diversity, reduce attrition, and preserve the Honor Code. At the same time, however, he faced a number of challenges to West Point’s institution. His leadership was central to meeting those challenges and a key part of the process that led to a 1974 Supreme Court ruling on two honor cases that re-established West Point’s ability to set and enforce high standards.

William Knowlton’s final six years on active duty took him to a succession of positions of extraordinary responsibility. He became Chief of Staff of EUCOM, then Commanding General of NATO Land Forces, Southeastern Europe, and finally, US Representative on NATO’s Military Committee. In recognition of his superb service in these assignments, he was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, made an Officer of the Legion d’Honneur by the French, and awarded the Grosse Verdienstkreuz mit Stern by the Germans.

After retiring from active duty, William Knowlton continued his service to the Nation. Among many other things, he held a position as Senior Fellow of the CAPSTONE Course at the National Defense University for over a decade, lectured at the Armed Forces Staff College, acted as an advisor to the Defense Nuclear Agency, and was a member of the Defense Intelligence Agency Science and Technology Advisory Board.

He also held important positions in the private sector, sitting on corporate boards and providing consultant services to think tanks and other organizations. He spent a decade on the Board of Chubb Corporation, which not only matched his personal contributions to West Point, but also gave a million dollars to military emergency relief efforts during Operation Desert Storm, and will eventually fund three AOG preparatory school scholarships.

General William A. Knowlton is a man whose character and accomplishments have earned him the praise and admiration of all who know him, and in recognition of his peerless service, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy takes great pride in presenting him the 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award.

Thomas B. Dyer
Chairman and CEO

GEN (R) Robert M. Shoemaker ’46

A distinguished combat veteran of two wars, a dedicated public servant, and a devoted community leader whose life has been characterized by a former Chief of Staff of the Army as an “example of service to the highest and most noble ideals of service to others and our nation,” Robert M. Shoemaker is truly a distinguished member of the Long Gray Line.

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After graduation from West Point in 1946, then-Lieutenant Shoemaker was commissioned in the infantry and received parachute and glider training at Ft. Benning. His early assignments were with the 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division in Germany; the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division; and the 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division in Korea. After establishing himself as a consummate professional in these early assignments, he went on to serve as an Infantry Branch assignments officer, an advisor to ARMISH-MAAG in Iran for two years, and a student at the Command and General Staff College.

General Shoemaker earned his aviator’s wings in 1960 and, in subsequent assignments, proved to be influential in the Army’s creation, design, and testing of tactics for the attack helicopter, Air Assault, and Air Cavalry. After flight school, he remained on the faculty at Ft. Rucker and commanded the experimental 8305th Aerial Combat and Reconnaissance Company, the forerunner of the current air cavalry troop. In 1962, he served on the Tactical Mobility Requirements Board (Howze Board), which studied and developed concepts for air mobility, and was then assigned to the Army Concept Team in Vietnam to document and assess the potential of Army Aviation. The following summer, he joined the newly formed 11th Air Assault Division at Ft. Benning, serving as the test division’s G3. When that division was redesignated the 1st Cavalry Division on 1 July 1965, he assumed command of 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry and led the battalion through the monumental challenges of its deployment and first months of combat in Vietnam. In December of the same year, he assumed command of 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, which was the only air cavalry squadron in the Army at the time.

After attending the War College and serving in the Pentagon as Chief, Plans and Programs for Army Aviation, then-Colonel Shoemaker returned for a third tour of duty in Vietnam as Chief of Staff for the 1st Cavalry Division, and in 1969 he became Assistant Division Commander of the “First Team.”

Reassigned to Ft. Hood in 1970, General Shoemaker had successive assignments as Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff for III Corps; Deputy Commanding General, MASSTER, the Army’s newly created operational testing facility that is now the Army’s only independent operational test activity; Commander, 1st Cavalry Division; and Commander, III Corps. In 1977, General Shoemaker was assigned to Forces Command as Deputy Commander. A year later, he was promoted to General and assumed command of FORSCOM. Throughout his military career, General Shoemaker made significant contributions to the development of innovative concepts that still serve as cornerstones of Army doctrine. His efforts have been formally recognized through his induction in the Army Aviation Hall of Fame.

Retiring after thirty-six years of distinguished service to our Nation, General Shoemaker returned to the Ft. Hood area where he has tirelessly devoted himself to improving the quality of life of the local residents. He served eight years as the elected Bell County Commissioner and has fostered an exceptionally close working relationship between the military and civilian leaders. When the Army announced the redeployment of 12,000 soldiers from Ft. Polk to Ft. Hood, General Shoemaker volunteered to chair “Howdy! Task Force” and led the community’s effort to create adequate housing, schools, transportation, and physical infrastructure to support the influx of military families. Recognizing the need for an affordable public university to support the region’s civilian and military population, General Shoemaker championed a seven-year campaign that resulted in the establishment of a Tarleton State University campus next to Ft. Hood.

Throughout his years of residence in Central Texas, General Shoemaker has served in leadership positions for various civic and professional organizations, including President and advisor to the President of the 1st Cavalry Division Association, President of the Heart of Texas Council of the Boy Scouts, and as President of the Ft. Hood Chapter of the United Way. For his countless accomplishments and selfless service, General Shoemaker has received numerous local awards. In 2000, the community named one of its newest high schools “Robert M. Shoemaker High School,” the strongest testament to the admiration and affection that his neighbors in Texas feel for him. A living symbol of service to others, General Shoemaker visits the school almost daily to mentor, tutor, or cheer on the students, continuing to serve as the consummate role model of a “Leader of Character” for his community.

Robert Shoemaker is an exemplar of superb service and sterling citizenship. For a lifetime of selfless contributions to the betterment of the United States Army, West Point, our Nation, and his local community, the Association of Graduates is proud to present him with the 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award.

Thomas B. Dyer
Chairman and CEO

2004 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipient COL (R) Ralph Puckett, Jr. '49

COL (R) Ralph Puckett, Jr. ’49

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Colonel Ralph Puckett, Jr., Class of 1949, has richly exemplified the ideals of West Point. For five decades he has served our Nation, our Army, and our soldiers. In so doing, he has shown himself to be a truly distinguished graduate of his alma mater.

After graduating from West Point, where he captained the Army Boxing Team, then-Second Lieutenant Puckett deployed to Japan, where he recruited and trained a Ranger company for critical operations in Korea. Puckett led them heroically. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in November 1950, when he led his small company in a legendary and desperate defense against multiple assaults by hundreds of Chinese attackers. He did so while sustaining multiple severe wounds.

Ralph Puckett’s next assignment further established his prominence within the Army’s community of Rangers. At the Infantry School, he served as a Ranger instructor, commanding the Mountain Ranger Division. Subsequently, he was the first Ranger advisor to the U.S. Army Mission to Colombia, establishing the Escuela de Lanceros, the Colombian Ranger School, where he still contributes as a speaker and advisor. In this hemisphere, Colonel Puckett’s influence has been vast. Through the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly the School of the Americas, he has improved military leadership in at least seventeen nations.

As a major, Ralph Puckett’s reputation as a soldier’s soldier grew. In the 1960s, the early years of Army Special Forces, he commanded in the 10th Special Forces Group at Bad Tolz, Germany, leading teams in covert insertions by land, parachute, and submarine. Writing of those years, a noncommissioned officer reminisced: “When the weather was the most miserable and the exercise the most high risk and physically challenging, Major Puckett was always there, leading.”

In 1967, then-Lieutenant Colonel Puckett commanded the 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry (Airborne) of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. He was awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross for heroic leadership in August 1967. During a dire, night-long defense near Chu Lai, he inspired his soldiers, who rallied to repel the attacking North Vietnamese. A rifle platoon leader preparing for a “last stand” recalled Colonel Puckett’s effect on the nearly exhausted soldiers: ” . . . word of Colonel Puckett’s arrival spread like wildfire. We all stiffened up and felt that nothing bad could happen now because the Ranger was with us.” Whether in combat actions such as this one and others in Vietnam, or as Commander, 1st Regiment of the United States Corps of Cadets, or later, as Commander, 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division, Colonel Puckett had a reputation for staying with his soldiers until the hardship or danger had passed. A gentleman, teacher, family man, and mentor, he is, above all, a warrior with a passion for soldiers.

Although retired from active duty, Colonel Puckett still serves. Honorary Colonel of the 75th Ranger Regiment, he is omnipresent as a speaker, writer, and advisor. In fact, more than five decades after his West Point graduation, he could be found walking the swamps and hiking the hills at the Ranger School, encouraging and instructing the rising generation of American soldiers. Colonel Puckett’s contributions to seminars, panels, and advisory committees is extensive. He served on the Chief of Staff, Army Task Force Soldier, charged with reviewing soldier training, equipment, and readiness needs to support soldiers fighting the war on terrorism.

Civilian communities have also benefited from Colonel Puckett’s counsel. He was a national programs coordinator for Outward Bound. Subsequently, he founded Discovery, Incorporated, a program aimed at imbuing young people with self-confidence and the sense of teamwork. In the tri-city Columbus-Phenix City-Fort Benning area, he is known for service, loyalty, and integrity and actively involved in numerous civic responsibilities.

Inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame in 1992, Colonel Ralph Puckett received a great many awards and decorations. In addition to the Distinguished Service Crosses, two Silver Stars, and five Purple Hearts, he has received the Cross of Gallantry with Palm from the Republic of Vietnam and the Order of Military Merit from the Republic of Colombia. He has earned parachute badges from four nations. Colonel Puckett is one of the few Army members inducted into the Air Force Staff College’s Gathering of Eagles, partly in recognition of his ten Air Medals. Perhaps most impressive, however, is the way he has been revered by those who have known him. As one of those succinctly observed, “He lives to spend his life for others.” Colonel Ralph Puckett, Jr. has led an extraordinary life of service to the Nation, to American soldiers, and to those in his community. His example has brought immeasurable credit to the Long Gray Line. Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting him the 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award.

Thomas B. Dyer
Chairman and CEO

COL (R) David R. Hughes ’50

A distinguished combat veteran of two wars, a dedicated public servant, and a devoted community leader whose life has been characterized by a former Chief of Staff of the Army as an “example of service to the highest and most noble ideals of service to others and our nation,” Robert M. Shoemaker is truly a distinguished member of the Long Gray Line.

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Colonel Hughes began his career as an Infantry lieutenant fighting courageously in South Korea and then taught the hard-won lessons he learned to a new generation of infantrymen before returning to West Point to teach in the Department of English. After duty at the Pentagon, he departed for a new war in Vietnam, this time as an infantry battalion commander, and proved that his courage and leadership had not dimmed in the intervening years. After command and staff duty with the 4th Infantry Division, he retired in Colorado and began an equally impressive second career as an internet pioneer, a career that would take him to the far reaches of the globe.

Like many of his classmates, Colonel Hughes received his initiation into combat early in his military career when North Korean forces attacked South Korea shortly after his graduation. As a platoon leader and company commander in the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division, Lieutenant Hughes was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star for valor, two Purple Hearts, and the coveted Combat Infantryman Badge. He then taught at the Infantry School before pursuing a Master of Arts degree at the University of Pennsylvania and returning to West Point to teach in the Department of English.

As a combat veteran English instructor, he gave generously of his time in the classroom and especially in helping cadets in difficulty. After duty at the Pentagon with the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, he commanded the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry of the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam. He received a third Silver Star, a second Bronze Star for Valor, a third Purple Heart, and a second award of the Combat Infantryman Badge. He also garnered another battalion command: the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry, 5th Infantry Division.

Colonel Hughes then served as the Chief of Staff of the 4th Infantry Division before being selected to command the 3rd Brigade of that Division at Fort Carson, Colorado. He then retired in 1973 to pursue an equally challenging career of service on the frontiers of electronic change. By 1982 he was teaching a college course online-long before most Americans were aware of the internet.

Unselfishly and without regard for personal recognition, he brought broadband communications to Colorado’s San Luis Valley and helped revitalize what had been a fading community economy. He traveled to remote areas to prove that wireless technology can be used effectively and efficiently to gather data for various scientific projects, including work in subzero temperatures in Alaska for the National Science Foundation. He helped Tsering Gyaltsen, the grandson of a Sherpa who accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary on his first conquest of Mount Everest, establish an internet café at the base camp (altitude 5,300 meters) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ascent. The café officially became operational with a message transmitted on 14 April 2003. As the camp is located on a moving glacier, wireless technology was required to connect the camp to a satellite dish higher up on solid ground. Not only will the internet connection allow communications to the outside world, a portion of the revenues generated will also assist the local Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee in ridding the slopes of Everest of the detritus of countless climbing expeditions. In the off season, the wireless system will be used to extend internet service to about 250 students in a school in Namche Bazar and provide the basis of a distance learning program. As a result of this demonstration of will, inquiries have been received from remote areas across the world about how they may establish low-cost, global communications.

His most ambitious effort to date, the Arwain (Welsh for “leading”) project, is expected to regenerate depressed industrial towns and establish Wales as global internet leader. As a result of several trips by Colonel Hughes to Wales and countless hours spent briefing and instructing leaders and officials at all levels, a free broadband wireless network program (Broadband Wales) was funded by the Welsh Assembly to provide internet access for 67,000 businesses and 310,000 domestic customers in areas beyond the reach of commercial systems. Colonel Hughes has also contributed to wireless progress much closer to home by providing much of the enthusiasm, technological skill, and financing for the wireless initiative known as “Virtual West Point.”

For a lifetime of service to West Point, the Army, our Nation, and people around the world, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award to a real “broadband cowboy,” David Ralph Hughes, Class of 1950.

Thomas B. Dyer
Chairman and CEO

Mr. Denis F. Mullane ’52

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After graduation from the Academy in June 1952, Denis Mullane served four years of duty as an Engineer officer in the United States and Germany, with assignments that included two company commands. Having resigned his commission in 1956, he joined the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company as an agent and thus began a civilian career that would witness his eventual rise to the position of President and Chief Executive Officer for the firm and later as Chairman of its Board.

That career also witnessed an extraordinary array of contributions to the betterment of his fellow citizens. Always interested in youth activities, he coached baseball and football teams, directed dramatic presentations, and taught Sunday school classes. He worked with Catholic charitable organizations, schools, and hospitals to improve their facilities, programs, and funding. Among many other things, he was a member of the Hospital Foundation for Public Giving and the Board of Regents of the University of Hartford. He was a co-chairman of the Governor’s Partnership to Protect Connecticut’s Workforce: “Drugs Don’t Work.” He was the President of the Greater Hartford Arts Council and Junior Achievement of North Central Connecticut. He was the Chairman for Public Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the American Society of Corporate Executives.

But while he was devoting great energy and effort to public service elsewhere, he never forgot his alma mater in the Hudson Valley. Beginning in 1957 when he was first appointed to the West Point Society of New York’s Admissions Committee and continuing to the present day, his service has been energetic, wide-ranging, and profoundly beneficial to the Long Gray Line and the Academy. He founded the West Point Society of Connecticut in 1968 and the West Point Parents’ Club of Connecticut soon after. Having been elected to the Association’s Board of Trustees in 1977, he chaired several important committees, including those responsible for alumni support, communications, and the Thayer Award. In 1989, he became the Association’s Chairman, and during his two terms in that position, he affected a remarkable transformation in the organization. Building on the achievements of his predecessors, he brought the organization fully up to date in its business practices and set a foundation in place that would later support its first major capital fundraising campaign for West Point. He also changed the character of the Association’s alumni relations program so that it deployed a full support system for West Point graduates, working through their classes and societies. Finally, he completed the functional upgrading of AOG committees, so that each was a productive working group dedicated to the cause of improving the AOG’s value to its graduates and strengthening the relationship between the AOG and the Academy’s leadership.

Even after he stepped down from the Chairmanship in 1993, Denis Mullane continued to participate in the affairs of the Association. He again took charge of the Thayer Award Committee and oversaw its work for two years. He was a member of a committee whose efforts resulted in sweeping changes for the better in the structure and process of organizational governance. He chaired the committee that completely overhauled and modernized the system used for compensating the Association’s staff.

During his lifetime, Denis Mullane has received honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Connecticut, St. Joseph’s College, the University of Hartford, and Trinity College. He has also been made a Knight of St. Gregory, the highest honor given by the Pope to a Catholic layperson. The time has now come to confer on this richly deserving man his alma mater’s highest honor. Therefore, considering his lifetime of selfless service to his fellow citizens and to West Point, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award to Denis Francis Mullane.

Thomas B. Dyer
Chairman and CEO

GEN (R) Glenn K. Otis ’53

2004 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipient GEN (R) Glenn K. Otis '53

General Otis began his career as an enlisted soldier on occupation duty in Korea following World War II, was selected from the ranks to attend West Point, taught at the Military Academy, fought valiantly as a cavalry squadron commander in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive of 1968, directed the XM-1 Tank Task Force that produced the technologically superior Abrams main battle tank, and positively affected the lives and training of thousands of soldiers as Commanding General of the 1st Armored Division, Commanding General of Training and Doctrine Command, and as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army Europe during key periods of the Cold War. He then continued his service to his country as a core member of the Defense Science Board, the highest-level board advising the Secretary of Defense, and a number of similar, national-level advisory boards.

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After the normal company grade junior officer assignments, he pursued a master’s degree at Rensselaer and taught in the Department of Mathematics, followed by a tour of duty with the 1st Cavalry Division on the Demilitarized Zone in Korea.

In Vietnam, he commanded the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, of the 25th Infantry Division during the Tet Offensive of 1968. On 30 January he rapidly deployed his outnumbered squadron at Tan Son Nhut Air Field and defeated a superior attacking force by dint of personal leadership and inspiration. For that battle, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart. For their gallantry in action, the entire squadron was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. For other actions, he received the Silver Star, another Purple Heart, the Legion of Merit, and eight Air Medals.

As a staff member in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, he forcefully presented strong analytical arguments to Dr. Henry Kissinger for the extension of the Draft for two additional years to smooth the transition to an all-volunteer Army. This was the course of action eventually selected by the President and presented to Congress.

After promotion to brigadier general (the first member of his class to reach that rank), he was assigned as director of the XM-1 Tank Task Force, responsible for providing a replacement for our aging M60 main battle tank. He fought hard to provide a revolutionary rather than evolutionary replacement capable of “winning the first battle of the war.” It is due to his perseverance that engines were switched, provisions were made to upgrade the main gun from 90 mm to 120 mm, the turret was stabilized to permit firing on the move, advanced night vision technology was integrated, and suspension, armor and mobility were upgraded. Despite its unique and atypical development track, the Abrams tank proved to be overwhelmingly superior to the best enemy tanks during Desert Storm.

As commander of the 1st Armored Division (“Old Ironsides”) in Germany, he was reinforced with a Canadian brigade for a Reforger exercise against the 1st Infantry Division. The obvious route for the armored attack was up a broad valley; attacking up the other side would require a difficult river crossing. General Otis covered the broad valley with one brigade and all the support vehicles he could muster as a diversionary measure while the attacking brigades moved under cover of darkness and in total blackout and radio silence to the river. After successfully making the difficult crossing undetected, they were able to attack deep into the opposing force’s flank and rear, terminating the exercise shortly after dawn.

General Otis commanded the Training and Doctrine Command during a time of critical change in the concept of how best to coordinate air and ground forces in the Air-Land Battle and integrate new equipment, known as the “Big Five,” into our combat units. He met that challenge and then applied it on the ground as Commander in Chief, U.S. Army Europe, effectively modernizing his myriad of units, gaining the respect of our Allies, and establishing tentative contacts with military leaders of nations of the Warsaw Pact.

Upon retirement, he has continued to provide counsel to senior government leaders by membership on a number of critical advisory boards, including the Defense Science Board, the Ballistic Missile Defense Advisory Board, the Central Intelligence Agency Advisory Board, the Army Science Board, and the National Academy of Sciences Board on Army Science and Technology (Chairman for three years).

For a lifetime of selfless service to West Point, the Army, our Nation, and many of our Allies, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award to “a soldier’s soldier” who always led by example, Glenn Kay Otis, Class of 1953.

Thomas B. Dyer
Chairman and CEO

COL (R) John A. Feagin, Jr. ’55

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Upon graduating from West Point in 1955, Lieutenant Feagin was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. Convinced of the need for experienced line officers in the medical service, he gained approval from the Department of the Army to take a leave of absence, without pay, to attend medical school. He graduated from Duke in 1961, returned to the Army, and spent the next eighteen years as a military surgeon.

During these formative years of his career, Dr. Feagin served his internship at Tripler Army Hospital in Hawaii and at the post hospital at Fort Ord, California. He completed his residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he was quickly recognized as a brilliant and uniquely gifted young surgeon. Equally important, John Feagin was known for his compassion, empathy, and commitment to his patients, a quality he has imparted to the countless young physicians he has since trained and mentored. While at Walter Reed, he became a founding member of the Society of Military Orthopedic Surgeons.

In 1966, Dr. Feagin was assigned to the 85th Evacuation Hospital, Qui Nhon, Vietnam, as Chief of Orthopedic Services. His talent for the professional development of young surgeons flourished during this assignment; several of his colleagues from the 85th Evacuation Hospital have become nationally known orthopedic surgeons and educators.

While at Qui Nhon, and typical of John Feagin’s concern for humanity, he established a Medical Civil Action Program (MEDCAP) by adopting a nearby leprosarium where his team provided care and life-saving surgeries for this small, isolated community.

A year later, Dr. Feagin began a four-year tour at Keller Army Hospital at West Point. In addition to the orthopedic care of the Corps of Cadets, he became team physician for the Army football and basketball teams.

Elected a Fellow in the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in 1971, Dr. Feagin studied at the Centre for Hip Surgery in Wrightington, England for a year before assuming his duties as Director, Army Joint Replacement Fellowship Program and Assistant Chief, Resident Training Program at Letterman Army Medical Center.

While at Wrightington working under the foremost medical practitioner of the then new science of artificial joints, John Feagin concluded that joint replacement was more a bioengineering problem than a surgical one and that the procedure should be approached as such. This realization brought a fresh, new perspective to the discipline of knee replacement surgery.

In 1972, John Feagin founded the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, an organization for which he later served as president. Two years later, he helped found the Low Friction Society, which awards fellowships for the study of hip surgery at Wrightington. In 1974, he co-authored a seminal study on the treatment of Anterior Cruciate Ligament injuries suffered by cadets during Dr. Feagin’s tour at West Point. Published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, the article revolutionized procedures for recovery and rehabilitation of ACL injuries. Termed a “Classic” in orthopedic surgery, the article was reprinted 20 years later by the editor of a learned symposium.

Colonel Feagin was appointed Commander of Keller Army Hospital at West Point in 1978. He retired from the Army in 1979 and entered private practice. While at West Point, he personally trained those physicians serving as doctors for Army athletic teams. He continues this initiative by returning to the Military Academy as a volunteer each fall to instruct physicians and trainers in the latest developments and techniques in treating sports injuries.

Despite being involved in the full-time practice of surgery, Dr. Feagin continued his research into the problems associated with treatment of joint injuries, and found time to author and edit The Crucial Ligaments, a medical text now in its third printing. This book, termed “The Bible of the Knee,” has been characterized by reviewers as “a must for orthopedic surgeons,” and “a major contribution to the subjects of cruciate anatomy, biomechanics, and principles of repair and reconstruction.” While at Jackson Hole, John Feagin also authored A Wilderness Medical Guide for those involved in mountaineering medicine.

In these years, honors and additional responsibilities came thick and fast for Dr. Feagin. Throughout the eighties, he served as team physician for the U.S. Olympic Ski Team, and was the team physician for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. In 1981, he was selected for a Fellowship with the Swiss Association of Osteosynthesis, an assignment that strengthened the ties between American and European orthopedic societies. John Feagin built on this relationship to inaugurate the international exchange of bright young residents in Europe and the United States through Sports Medicine Traveling Fellowships. Dr. Feagin has served as the “Godfather” of the Cleveland Orthopedic Sports Medicine Society, the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, and is an Honorary Member of the European Society for Knee Surgery.

In 1989, Dr. Feagin accepted an appointment as Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Uniformed University of Health Services, a position he holds to this day. In 1989 he was appointed Associate Professor in the Duke University School of Medicine and Chief of Orthopedic Services at the Durham Veterans Administration Medical Center. His impact on the Veterans Hospital was immediate and salutary, and enabled the hospital to reverse a trend towards mediocrity that threatened the accreditation of the center as a teaching hospital. In 1994, Dr. Feagin’s article, The Soldier and His Wound became Chapter 1 in the Office of the Surgeon General’s text on surgery in Vietnam. John Feagin retired from Duke in 1999 and was appointed Associate Professor Emeritus by the Duke School of Medicine.

However, the word retirement is not in John Feagin’s lexicon. He has served as Consultant and Scientific Advisor to the Steadman Hawkins Research Foundation; volunteered his services in Operation Blessing medical missions to Panama and to Kazakhstan; participates in World Medical Missions; was a volunteer in Kenya; is a consultant to several corporations, and is a member of the Medical Advisory Board for LeadingMD.com. Dr. Feagin is a frequent lecturer both in the United States and abroad. Last year he was elected to the Hall of Fame of the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, and received an International Knee Prize for a Lifetime of Contribution to the Science and Practice of Knee Surgery.

John Feagin’s entire professional life has been one of unselfish contribution to the U.S. Army Medical Corps, the broader medical profession, and to the Nation. A role model for young physicians, his extraordinary personal standards of competency, dedication to service, and compassion, transcend his international reputation as the world’s leading authority on cruciate ligament surgery. His is a consummate professional who epitomized the ideals expressed in the West Point motto: “Duty, Honor, Country.” As a teacher, scientist, mentor, author, medical missionary, and humanist, John Feagin is truly a lion in his chosen field.

Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award to John Autrey Feagin, Jr.

Thomas B. Dyer
Chairman and CEO

Distinguished Graduate Award

The Distinguished Graduate Award (DGA) is to be 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.” The DGA is funded by a generous endowment from E. Doug Kenna ’45 and his wife, Jean.

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