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2002 Distinguished Graduate Award

     BG Peter M. Dawkins '59

A brilliant and outstanding leader who achieved great success as a cadet, as a commander and staff officer, and as a dynamic and innovative business executive, Peter Miller Dawkins has served his country and his Alma Mater with distinction and integrity throughout a professional career spanning over forty years.
Born in Michigan, Pete Dawkins entered West Point at the age of 17, embarking on a cadet career of unparalleled accomplishments. President of his West Point Class of 1959, First Captain and Brigade Commander of the Corps of Cadets, at the top of his class in academics, he was also an outstanding athlete who played football, ice hockey, and baseball.
In 1957, Eastern hockey coaches named him “finest sophomore in the East,” and two years later he led all Eastern college defensemen in goals scored, resulting in his being selected to the All-East hockey team. Pete captained the 1958 Army football team, the last Army team to finish the season unbeaten. He was a unanimous choice All-American at halfback and won the prestigious Maxwell Trophy, as well as the 1958 Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s outstanding college football player. Pete Dawkins is only the third cadet to win the Heisman. The culmination of the many athletic honors he received was election to the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame in 1975, at that time the youngest player ever selected.
Commissioned in the Infantry upon graduation from West Point, Lieutenant Dawkins, who had been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, spent the next three years as a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University in England. Reporting to the 82nd Airborne Division in 1963, he commanded a company and served as Assistant G-3, Operations, where he developed a comprehensive Division Outloading Plan, a first for the 82nd Airborne Division. While attending the Infantry Officers Career Course a year later, Captain Dawkins led a committee that studied the curriculum of the course; the results of the study were implemented and greatly enhanced the education of young officers at Fort Benning. Captain Dawkins’ seminal article, “Freedom to Fail,” published in Infantry magazine the same year, won the Marshall Award for excellence in professional writing.
Assigned as Senior Advisor to the First Airborne Battalion of the Vietnamese Airborne Brigade, and later to the Military Assistance Command Pacification Office, Saigon. Pete Dawkins was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, two Bronze Stars with “V” for valor, the Air Medal, and the Joint Services Commendation Medal.
Posted to the United States Military Academy, Major Dawkins was an instructor in the Department of Social Sciences, and co-director of the National Security Seminar. Midway in this tour, he returned to Vietnam at the request of General Westmoreland for a three-month field assignment focusing on the Revolutionary Development Program. His study led to an important strategy critique of the Military Assistance Command’s war plan.
In 1968, Major Dawkins became a student at Princeton University. In 1970, he was awarded the degree of Master of Public Affairs, and, in 1979, Princeton awarded him his Doctorate. Pete Dawkins joined the Office of the Special Assistant for the Modern Volunteer Army, working on the Army’s transition from draft status to an all-volunteer force. He was the principal author of the Modern Volunteer Army strategy document: “An Army People Want.” It was the blueprint the Army adopted. Back in the United States after a battalion command in Korea, he was appointed a White House Fellow, then Military Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. He attended the Army War College in 1975, and a year later Colonel Dawkins was assigned to Fort Ord, California, as Commanding Officer, Headquarters Command.
In 1979, Colonel Dawkins reported to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he served as Commander of the 3rd Brigade and later as Division Chief of Staff. In June 1981, he was promoted to Brigadier General and reassigned to the Office, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Department of the Army. General Dawkins was Deputy Director and then Acting Director of the Strategy, Plans, and Policies Directorate and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal upon his retirement from the Army in 1983.
Soon after relocating to New York City in 1984, General Dawkins was asked by the Vietnam Veterans organization to lead a fund drive to raise $2 million to erect a memorial and provide vocational and psychological counseling for veterans. General Dawkins, beginning with no organization or staff, completed this daunting task in fourteen weeks, raising over $3.5 million.
Pete Dawkins was honored by the Business Executives for National Security, receiving that organization’s Eisenhower Award given annually to an individual who exhibits unusual leadership in the realm of national security. That award resulted from Dawkins’ chairmanship of a high-level panel of chief executive officers of industry who looked into how the Department of Defense could benefit by the experiences of American industry.
Throughout a lifetime of distinguished service to the nation and his fellow citizens, General Dawkins has never wavered from his belief in the ideals and principles of the West Point motto: Duty, Honor, Country. Pete Dawkins’ outstanding leadership, selfless concern for his fellow man, and his personal and professional conduct have set a standard that future generations of West Point graduates will find difficult to emulate.
Accordingly, the Association of Graduates is proud to present the 2002 Distinguished Graduate Award to Peter Miller Dawkins, USMA Class of 1959.

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