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2023 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients

Categories: Distinguished Graduate Award, Events & Awards, Grad News
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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

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. [WATCH VIDEO]

Richard Dalzell '79

Mr. Richard L. Dalzell ’79

Mrs. Marene N. Allison ’80

Marene 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. [WATCH VIDEO]

Dan Allyn '81

GEN (R) Daniel (Dan) B. Allyn ’81

GEN (R) Austin S. (Scott) Miller ’83

Dan Miller

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 Qaeda 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 ’76, 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. [WATCH VIDEO]

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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