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2004 Distinguished Graduate Award


A soldier whose lifetime of extraordinary service to West Point, the United States Army, and the Nation, William A. Knowlton has earned a place of honor in the ranks of the Long Gray Line. He is a living embodiment of the values enshrined in the Academy's motto: Duty, Honor, Country and is truly a distinguished graduate of his alma mater.

Having earned academic stars for diligence in his studies and the chevrons of a cadet battalion commander for his manifest skills as a leader, William Knowlton graduated in January 1943 with a commission in the Cavalry. His World War II service was with the 7th Armored Division, which took him from California to France - where he led an assault gun platoon - and eventually into Germany in command of a reconnaissance troop that effected a linkup with the Russians northwest of Berlin in 1945, earning him a Silver Star.

Tours of duty at Headquarters, EUCOM, and SHAPE were highlights of the succeeding years, and in 1955, having completed Command and General Staff School, he was assigned to the Department of Social Sciences at West Point, where he attained the rank of Associate Professor. Returning to the field Army, he next commanded a battalion in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and after graduating from the War College, he served as Military Attaché in Tunis and commanded a brigade in Ft. Knox. His next two assignments were in Washington, in the Office of the Army Chief of Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. These assignments were followed by two years in Vietnam where he oversaw Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) on General Westmoreland's staff and served as Assistant Division Commander in the 9th Infantry Division. His performance of duty in Southeast Asia merited him a Bronze Star, ten Air Medals, a Distinguished Flying Cross, two Silver Stars, and a Distinguished Service Medal.

Back in Washington, William Knowlton took on the responsibilities of Secretary of the Army General Staff and then, on the 23rd of March 1970, he became the 49th Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. During a tenure of over four years and during a very turbulent time for the Nation, he launched initiatives to increase diversity, reduce attrition, and preserve the Honor Code. At the same time, however, he faced a number of challenges to West Point's institution. His leadership was central to meeting those challenges and a key part of the process that led to a 1974 Supreme Court ruling on two honor cases that re-established West Point's ability to set and enforce high standards.

William Knowlton's final six years on active duty took him to a succession of positions of extraordinary responsibility. He became Chief of Staff of EUCOM, then Commanding General of NATO Land Forces, Southeastern Europe, and finally, US Representative on NATO's Military Committee. In recognition of his superb service in these assignments, he was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, made an Officer of the Legion d'Honneur by the French, and awarded the Grosse Verdienstkreuz mit Stern by the Germans.

After retiring from active duty, William Knowlton continued his service to the Nation. Among many other things, he held a position as Senior Fellow of the CAPSTONE Course at the National Defense University for over a decade, lectured at the Armed Forces Staff College, acted as an advisor to the Defense Nuclear Agency, and was a member of the Defense Intelligence Agency Science and Technology Advisory Board.

He also held important positions in the private sector, sitting on corporate boards and providing consultant services to think tanks and other organizations. He spent a decade on the Board of Chubb Corporation, which not only matched his personal contributions to West Point, but also gave a million dollars to military emergency relief efforts during Operation Desert Storm, and will eventually fund three AOG preparatory school scholarships.

General William A. Knowlton is a man whose character and accomplishments have earned him the praise and admiration of all who know him, and in recognition of his peerless service, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy takes great pride in presenting him the 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award.

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