The West Point Association of Graduates (WPAOG) has named the 2023 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 23, 2023. The 2023 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients include a former VA Secretary, a 32-year veteran who continues to serve in numerous ways, a retail and technology visionary, a multifaced “trailblazer,” a four-star who has been involved in every major Army operation over the last 40 years, and likely the most deployed leader in the Global War on Terror.
HON James B. Peake ’66
The first West Point graduate to serve as Army Surgeon General, LTG (R) Jim Peake, M.D., is distinguished indeed, earning the Silver Star, a Purple Heart and the treasured Combat Infantryman Badge. After Airborne, Ranger and Pathfinder training, he began his career as a platoon leader with 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, deploying to Vietnam in 1967. He received his acceptance to Cornell University Medical College while he was in the hospital recovering from wounds he received in Vietnam. After completing cardio-thoracic specialty training, Peake was selected to launch an Open-Heart Surgery Program at Tripler Army Medical Center, which brought him recognition from both peers and chain of command. Following the Army War College in 1988, he was selected to command the 18th Medical Command in Korea. In 1992, he was promoted to brigadier general and assigned to Fort Bragg, NC as commander of the 44th Medical Brigade. In 2000, he was promoted to lieutenant general and received an assignment as the 40th Army Surgeon General and commander of the U.S. Army Medical Command, responsible for 50,000 medical personnel and 187 Army medical facilities worldwide. Peake retired from the Army in 2004 after a 38-year active-duty career, and in 2007 President George W. Bush nominated Peake to be the 6th U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Unanimously confirmed by the Senate, Peake immediately began to streamline systems related to transitioning military members to veteran status and expanded outreach, enrollment, and access through community-based outpatient clinics. “Countless Veterans benefited from Secretary Peake’s vision and leadership at the VA,” notes Congressman Chet Edwards, who chaired the U.S. House Military Construction and VA Appropriations Subcommittee when Peake was VA Secretary. “His empathy, combined with his humility and impeccable integrity, add to his effectiveness as a widely respected leader.”
LTG (R) David F. Melcher ’76
“LTG (R) Dave Melcher is one of West Point’s most significant and loyal graduates” says GEN (R) Richard Cody ’72, the 31st Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and a 2016 Distinguished Graduate Award recipient. “In uniform, as a captain of industry and as a private citizen, Dave has been a leader of character, commitment and integrity, and his moral compass always points true north.” In 32 years of uniformed service, Melcher served in the Corps of Engineers in both light and heavy divisions and as a White House Fellow before attaining his first star in 1999. As a general officer, Melcher served as commander, Southwest Engineer Division; as director, Army Program Analysis and Evaluation; as G-8, Army Deputy Chief of Staff; and as Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Financial Management and Comptroller. As a captain of industry, Melcher was both President of ITT Defense and later President and CEO of Exelis, Inc. a New York Stock Exchange company that supported warfighters all over the world with critical services and equipment. He also founded Exelis Action Corps, a philanthropic organization of Exelis employees who volunteered on projects supporting veterans. In 2015, Melcher served as President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association and has served as a chairman or director on six corporate boards in the defense, medical product, insurance, and banking industries. Melcher is a lifetime supporter of West Point and the Corps of Cadets. He and his wife, Marla, are members of the Ulysses S. Grant Lifetime Giving Society and sponsors of a Chair in the Department of Social Sciences, and he currently leads the Class of 1976’s 50th Anniversary Gift Campaign. They also actively support the U.S. Army Museum, Homes for Our Troops, and the Wounded Warrior Project. “LTG Melcher has exhibited ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ in all his actions and endeavors throughout his service and well beyond,” says GEN James McConville ’81, the 40th Chief of Staff of the Army.
Mr. Richard L. Dalzell ’79
“Rick Dalzell exemplifies the high personal integrity and commitment to the mission that U.S. military alumni share,” notes Jeff Bezos, founder, Executive Chairman, and former President and CEO of Amazon. Named its Chief Information Officer in 1997, Dalzell laid much of the foundation for the growth and success that Amazon maintains today. Dalzell began his active-duty service as a Signal Corps officer, serving in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and later with the 44th Signal Battalion of the 7th Signal Brigade in Europe. Upon leaving the Army, he joined E-Systems ECI Division from which he was heavily recruited to Wal-Mart. Promoted to their Vice President of Information Systems, he was instrumental in developing a novel data warehouse strategy that encouraged partnership with business partners helping position Wal-Mart to become America’s largest retailer. In 1993, in recognition of his leadership and accomplishments, Dalzell received the Sam M. Walton Award for Excellence. During his 10-year tenure at Amazon, Dalzell was promoted to Senior Vice President and is credited for playing a vital and decisive role in transforming Amazon from an on-line retailer to a worldwide technology leader, especially in the realm of cloud computing services, of which Amazon now enjoys well over a 30-percent global market share thanks to Dalzell’s visionary leadership. Throughout his career, Dalzell has been a supporter of West Point. Soon after his retirement from Amazon in 2007, he became a supporter of the Cadet Study Abroad Program. He has consistently been a mentor to cadets, speaking frequently with them about leadership, technology, systems integration, and foreign study experiences. In recognition of his generosity, Dalzell was recently invited by the Chairman of the Board of the West Point Association of Graduates to join a select group of 30 alumni and friends of the Academy to serve on the Campaign Cabinet for West Point Ready, a $600.5 million campaign to benefit USMA and WPAOG.
Mrs. Marene N. Allison ’80
When one reads about the life and career of Marene Allison, the word “trailblazer” consistently appears. She was a member of the first class of women to enter the Academy in 1976. She joined the FBI as a Special Agent in 1986, a time when women accounted for only three percent of all Special Agents. And she accepted the position of Chief Information and Security Officer at Johnson & Johnson, another trailblazing opportunity given that women occupy only 17 percent of the top cybersecurity positions for Fortune 500 companies. Yet, as Erica Jeffries Purdo ’98 points out, “Marene stands out in the Class of 1980 as a woman who not only blazes trails, but who reaches back and pulls others along behind her.” In 2004, Allison and BG Niave Knell ’92 founded West Point Women (WPW), an extensive network of graduates created to provide mentorship, education and support to West Point women graduates and members of the Corps of Cadets. As a result of Allison’s leadership, approximately 4,000 women grads participate in WPW, and she has been influential in developing four WPW conferences and spearheading an endowment of more than $150,000. “Marene’s unwavering commitment to our Academy by ensuring it has a strong, enduring talent pipeline of honorable leaders to serve our Army and our nation is truly inspiring,” writes LTG (R) Nadja West ’82, the 44th Army Surgeon General and a 2022 Distinguished Graduate Award recipient. Beyond WPW, Allison has been helping recruit the next generation of young leaders for West Point through her appointment to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services and as a liaison officer and congressional coordinator for the state of New Jersey. “Marene is not a ‘woman leader’: she is a leader of all people wherever she goes and whatever role she takes on, displaying the character West Point can be proud of,” says Timothy Murphy, the 13th Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
GEN (R) Daniel (Dan) B. Allyn ’81
When one reads the nomination packet for GEN (R) Dan Allyn, one line in particular stands out: “Dan’s military career is the history of Army engagements throughout his 36 years of service.” Upon graduation, Allyn served in the 82nd Airborne Division and provided vital leadership during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada (1983). After successfully commanding his first infantry company in Korea, Allyn was selected to command C Company, 1-75th Ranger Regiment, which executed a daring night combat jump on the Torrijos-Tocumen airfield in Panama during Operation Just Cause (1989). Months before 9/11, Allyn took command of 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, which was deployed to Kuwait in preparation for what would become Operation Iraqi Freedom (2001) and played a crucial role in the assault on Baghdad. During the “Surge” (2008-09), Allyn served as Chief of Staff of XVIII Airborne Corps, which comprised the nucleus of Multinational Corps-Iraq. In 2010, as the Deputy Commanding General of XVIII Airborne Corps, he deployed as the Deputy Commander of Joint Task Force-Haiti in response to a devastating earthquake on that island. A year later, Allyn took command of 1st Cavalry Division and deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (2011-12). Allyn synchronized the efforts of U.S. Forces, Afghan National Security Forces, and NATO allies to improve Afghan security, strengthen governance, and develop infrastructure. “Very few conventional force Army officers have been more involved in vitally important combat operations throughout their careers than Dan Allyn,” says the Honorable Lloyd Austin ’75, the 28th U.S. Secretary of Defense. After serving as the Commander of Forces Command, Allyn was named the 35th Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. He is a graduate of the Naval War College, and his awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the French Legion of Honor and the Gold Medal of Polish Honor.
GEN (R) Austin S. (Scott) Miller ’83
General Austin Scott Miller spent nearly 40 years in uniform with an astonishing track record of success that took him from the soccer pitch at West Point (defeating Navy in his final game) to the far reaches of conflict in complex geopolitical regions, including the Indo-Pacific, Africa, Middle East, and South Asia. An Airborne-Ranger, Infantry officer, he commanded at every grade, including a company in Korea, the TF Ranger assault force in Mogadishu during “Blackhawk Down,” the Joint Special Operations Command, and as the final commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and United States Forces–Afghanistan. “Scott Miller led in the toughest of all circumstances, inspired the actions of his soldiers, and rallied the efforts of countless others,” wrote President Bill Clinton. Over 15 years in 1st SFOD-D, Miller continuously participated in combat operations, was wounded in action twice, and led “The Unit” as commander from 2005 to 2007 during some of the toughest combat operations while targeting Al Qaida in Iraq. Likely the most deployed leader in the Global War on Terror, he was one of the first Americans on the ground pursuing Osama bin Laden and other high value targets. General David Rodriguez, who served with Miller, called him “without a doubt, the finest Combat Commander I ever observed.” In 2014, as commanding general of the United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Miller led the initiative to integrate women into the prestigious U.S. Army Ranger School, a significant advancement that laid the foundation for women to pursue top positions across the Army. His numerous decorations and honors include two awards of the coveted Combat Infantryman Badge, two Purple Hearts, the Silver Star and an unprecedented 20 Overseas Service Bars denoting more than 10 full years in combat zones. Miller currently serves at USMA as a senior fellow for the Combating Terrorism Center.