The West Point Association of Graduates (WPAOG) has named the 2014 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 awards will be presented in a ceremony at West Point on May 22, 2014. The 2014 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients are:
LTG (R) Robert E. Pursley ’49
Called “a notable American” by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Lieutenant General Pursley (USAF, Retired) served his country for more than three decades: first as an A-26 pilot flying combat missions during the Korean War, later as a Senior Military Assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and finally as the Commander of U.S. Forces, Japan, and concurrently Commander of 5th Air Force. Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford, one of three under whom Pursley served, called him “an invaluable bridge to the military services and the rest of the Defense Department.” After retirement, he continued to impress the DoD as the President and CEO of Logistics Management Institute, a defense research and development corporation.
COL (R) William B. DeGraf ’50
First to graduate in the Class of 1950, a class that produced 64 general officers (including 7 four-star generals), Colonel DeGraf (Retired) has been its acknowledged and unchallenged leader for decades. He has led class gift programs, organized class reunions, and served as class scribe for 33 of the past 39 years. His leadership might stem from the fact that he was already a first lieutenant before coming to West Point (battlefield commission during World War II). After graduating he fought in Korea, received a master’s in nuclear physics, taught at USMA (Department of Electrical Engineering), and commanded the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam (earning a third Combat Infantryman Badge during that conflict, a rare feat). After retirement, DeGraf’s contributions to the Army went even further: As the Assistant Vice President of Science Applications International Corporation, he led the design, development, and activation of the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, CA, which is thought to be the crown jewel of the Army training system.
Mr. Frederic V. Malek ’59
Lending support to West Point that others have called “legendary,” Mr. Malek has been the embodiment of the leadership qualities that the Academy is famous for cultivating. In business, he served as President of Mariott Hotels and Resorts and Northwest Airlines. In government and politics, he served as an advisor to four U.S. Presidents and directed the highly successful 1988 Republican National Convention. In philanthropy, he funded cancer research and health-related centers. Most notably, he chaired the West Point Board of Visitors and presently co-chairs For Us All: The Campaign for West Point. But despite this impressive list of accomplishments, Robert McDonald ’75 says of Mr. Malek: “…he cares most about making a difference in people’s lives every single day … and has followed the path less traveled in order to do what is right for his fellow man and be of service.”
Mr. Paul W. Bucha ’65
The very definition of “citizen-soldier,” Mr. Bucha has spent 40-plus years looking out for those who serve this country, whether they wear a uniform or not. In 1978, he helped plan the rescue of U.S. citizens illegally detained in Iran just before that nation’s 1979 revolution. He has raised money for the construction of multiple ‘Fisher Houses,’ which assists Wounded Warriors and their families, and he has advocated for raising insurance policy benefits to families of a soldier KIA during the invasion of Iraq. More recently, he has worked with financial institutions that have mistakenly foreclosed mortgages of deployed soldiers absolved and restored. Perhaps the greatest testimony to Mr. Bucha’s determination to help those in uniform, he received the Medal of Honor in 1970 for his courageous actions to rescue and recover men of his company during a 1968 battle with a North Vietnamese battalion. Today, Mr. Bucha continues to support veteran issues and present lectures to service cadets on the values he learned at West Point.
LTG (R) Franklin L. Hagenbeck ’71
A former Superintendent at the Academy (2006-10), Lieutenant General Hagenbeck (Retired) dedicated his 39-year Army career and his civilian life to the values of this institution. As an Infantryman, he commanded at every level, culminating as the commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division, and had numerous overseas deployments, the last as the commander of Coalition Joint Task Mountain in Afghanistan in 2002. As West Point’s 57th Superintendent, he instituted several changes at the Academy, responding to the post-9/11 environment. Notably, he grew cultural immersion opportunities for cadets, revamped the reality of summer training, and expanded physical programs in terms of fundraising and recognition. In retirement, General Hagenbeck served on numerous boards and committees, always exemplifying the ideals of West Point.