As distinguished educator and public servant, James R. Killian, Jr. has rendered a lifetime of outstanding service to the United States and its citizens. In positions of extraordinary responsibility in education and in government, Dr. Killian has exemplified, through his accomplishments in the national interest and, manner of achievement, the ideals of West Point expressed in the motto, “Duty, Honor, Country.”
As Vice-President, President, and full-time Chairman of the Corporation of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Killian shared in the direction of the extraordinary educational, scientific and technological programs which that institution established in furtherance of the security and welfare of the United States. During the period of his leadership, the institutional support which M.I.T. provided to our nation was a major factor in the success of the United States during and since World War II. In the years of dynamic scientific and technological change after World War II, his vision and leadership have contributed to a major redirection of our nation’s school and college curricula toward science, for the strengthening and broadening of engineering education and for greatly enhanced support of basic research.
Dr. Killian’s public service has spanned more than forty years. In assignments to an unusually wide variety of government posts, he has contributed to the highest government decisions a unique blend of theoretical scientific knowledge and an understanding of the practicalities of enterprise management. His unswerving application of those qualities to the national problems which arose as a consequence of Soviet Russia’s successful space launch of 1957 resulted in the creation of the successful United States’ national space program and the establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Dr. Killian thereby made a major and highly significant contribution to the current preeminence of the United States in space science and to our national security. In evaluating that contribution, President Eisenhower wrote: “It would be impossible for me to overemphasize the vital importance of your work here, both to the future security of the United States and to the strength of a large and fundamental section of our whole system of education.
Dr. Killian’s selfless response to the call of duty, his superb personal qualities, and his continued service to his country symbolize and reflect the values expressed in the West Point motto. Accordingly, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy hereby awards the 1978 Sylvanus Thayer Award to James R. Killian, Jr.