On a glorious West Point-in-May day, six members of the Long Gray Line received the Distinguished Graduate Award (DGA): HON James B. Peake ’66, LTG (R) David F. Melcher ’76, Mr. Richard L. Dalzell ’79, Mrs. Marene N. Allison ’80, GEN (R) Daniel (Dan) B. Allyn ’81, and GEN (R) Austin S. (Scott) Miller ’83. The DGA is presented 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.
“I’m humbled by the decades of experience and selfless service represented by the 2023 Distinguished Graduates,” said LTG Steve Gilland ’90, the 61st Superintendent, during a luncheon ceremony to mark the occasion. This year’s class of Distinguished Graduates includes four general officers, an innovative leader of two of the nation’s largest retailers, and a former FBI Special Agent and later cybersecurity professional who co-founded the network group West Point Women.
“Me…a Distinguished Grad? Never would I have thought when I entered West Point as an 18-year-old in 1976 that I would be recognized as a Distinguished Graduate,” said Allison, a member of the first class of women to enter the Academy who has been helping recruit the next generation of young leaders for West Point through her appointment to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women. “Receiving this award has put all that I’ve accomplished into perspective and made me feel that I actually belong to West Point and the Long Gray Line.”
“I have a lot of fond memories of West Point,” said Melcher, who returned to the Academy to teach in the Department of Social Sciences and later served as a regimental tactical officer. With the Army G-8, Melcher served on the Superintendent’s Advisory Group to significantly increase funding for construction and programs at West Point and he’s been a lifetime supporter of West Point as a member of the Ulysses S. Grant Lifetime Giving Society (along with his wife, Marla). “The difference between just having a shell of a building and something world class is the Margin of Excellence, and when I can help, I try to do so,” Melcher said.
“West Point is about service to the nation,” said Peake, the first West Point graduate to serve as Army Surgeon General, retiring as a lieutenant general after a 38-year active-duty career and then becoming the 6th U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs. “It’s what is instilled in you, and so many in my class made the ultimate sacrifice serving in Vietnam and didn’t even think twice about it.”
“West Point is the foundation of how I operate; it has given me my mission,” said Dalzell, who developed a novel data warehouse strategy that helped position Wal-Mart to become America’s largest retailer and later helped transform Amazon from an on-line retailer to a worldwide technology leader. “What I learned at the Academy, such as choosing the harder right instead of the easier wrong (from the Cadet Prayer), has stayed with me throughout my life.”
Allyn, whose 36-year military career is said to be a history of Army engagements of the last four decades and who excelled at leading soldiers and developing future leaders, said, “The legacy of leaders and graduates of West Point is the legacy of our nation, delivering freedom and securing freedom for this nation throughout its history, and the leaders who graduate from this institution will be central to that effort in the future too.”
“It’s all about Duty, Honor, Country,” said Miller, who commanded at every grade, including serving as the final commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and United States Forces-Afghanistan, officially furling the mission flag in July 2021. “You may never reach these ideals, but if you use them as your North Star, they’ll take you to the right place.”