2017 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients

Updated 30 March

In January 2017, the Alumni Association announced that five alumni were selected as the recipients of the 2017 Distinguished Graduate Award (DGA). On 28 March 2017, former Senator Jim Webb '68 informed the Alumni Association of his decision to decline to receive the DGA award. Therefore, he will not attend the DGA ceremony on 31 March 2017 at the Naval Academy.

On 31 March 2017, the following four individuals will receive the DGA award at the Naval Academy: Admiral Harry D. Train II ’49, USN (Ret.); Milledge A. “Mitch” Hart ’56; Vice Admiral Cutler Dawson ’70, USN (Ret.); and Admiral Eric T. Olson ’73, USN (Ret.). Their bios are further referenced below.

Admiral Harry D. Train II ’49, USN (Ret.), served as the North American Treaty Organization’s Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic while Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command and Commander Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, from 1978 to 1982. Earlier tours for the submariner include service aboard Harold J. Ellison, Harry F. Hubbard and Wahoo; positions as the Assistant Military Secretary in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; command of Barbel; Administrative Aide to the Secretary of the Navy; command of CONYNGHAM; Executive Assistant to Chief of Naval Operations and later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer ’33, USN (Ret.), also a Distinguished Graduate; command of Cruiser Destroyer Group Eight/Strike Group 60 (John F. Kennedy); and command, Sixth Fleet. Following his retirement from active duty in 1982, Admiral Train became deeply involved in the business and civic affairs of his community in Hampton Roads, VA, co-founding and serving as longtime president of Future of Hampton Roads, Inc., where he remains a member of the executive committee of the Board of Directors. He has also served with the Hampton Roads Operations of SAIC International, as Senior Fellow at the Joint Advanced Warfighting School at the Joint Forces Staff College, as the Henry Clay Hofheimer Chair of Military Professionalism at the Armed Forces Staff College, as a member of the Board of Trustees of Old Dominion Research Foundation and as a member of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century. Admiral Train helped establish the capstone course at the National Defense University for newly selected flag and general officers and served as a senior mentor for the course for over two decades. National Defense University awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in National Security Affairs in 2011. He has served in an advisory capacity at the U.S. Naval Academy, Naval Postgraduate School and NATO Defense College. Admiral Train also served as president of his class from 1965 to 1969.

Milledge A. “Mitch” Hart ’56, founder or co-founder of seven companies, including Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and The Home Depot. Following Marine service in Oklahoma and Okinawa, Hart embarked on a career in business with IBM, then joined with fellow alumnus H. Ross Perot ’53 to co-found information technology equipment and services giant Electronic Data Systems, which reached a value of more than $1 billion by Hart’s retirement as president in 1977. The following year he founded Rmax Operating, an insulation manufacturer where he remains chairman, and co-founded The Home Depot, which became the second-largest retailer in the United States. As a business leader, Hart instituted innovative programs supporting employee reservists and National Guard members called to active duty, as well as those designed to provide new career opportunities for veterans. He and his wife, Linda, have also demonstrated significant support for several colleges and universities, most notably Duke University, Southern Methodist University (SMU) and the U.S. Naval Academy, where they provided for a considerable expansion of and continue to support and play active roles in the Naval Academy Leadership Conference. Their generosity also helped establish Duke University’s Hart Leadership Program, the SMU Hart Global Leaders Forum and the Hart Center for Engineering Leadership at SMU. Hart remains active in the business community as chairman of The Hart Group, a Dallas-based diversified group of companies he formed in 1983. In addition to volunteer leadership positions at Duke and SMU, Hart has also provided volunteer leadership to Texas Southern University and the Baylor Health Care System Foundation. In 1999, he was named Outstanding Philanthropist by the National Society of Fundraising Executives-Dallas.

Vice Admiral Cutler Dawson ’70, USN (Ret.), president and CEO of Navy Federal Credit Union. Admiral Dawson’s naval career spanned 35 years and included at-sea tours in frigates, destroyers and cruisers, including time on the staffs of Commander Cruiser-Destroyer Group Three and Commander, Seventh Fleet. Admiral Dawson’s commands included Molala, Bronstein, Harry W. Hill, Princeton and Cruise-Destroyer Group Twelve/Enterprise Battle Group. Under his command, the Enterprise Battle Group conducted strikes in support of Operation Desert Fox in the Arabian Gulf and Operation Allied Force in the Adriatic Sea in the late 1990s. He also served as Commander, Second Fleet and Striking Fleet Atlantic. Shore assignments included the Surface Warfare Division of the Chief of Naval Operations, Director of the Navy’s Senate Liaison Office, Director of the Operations Division of the Navy Budget Office and Acting Budget Officer of the Navy. He also served as the Navy’s Chief of Legislative Affairs and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Resources, Requirements and Assessments). Following his retirement from active duty in 2004, Dawson became president and CEO of Vienna, VA-based Navy Federal, the world’s largest credit union, which has more than six million members, 15,000 employees and $78 billion in assets. Vice Admiral Dawson holds a master's degree in financial management from the Naval Postgraduate School and is a graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. His volunteer leadership service has included the Federal Financial Literacy Council, the Center for Creative Leadership, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions and the Consumer Federation of America.

Admiral Eric T. Olson ’73, USN (Ret.), former Commander, United States Special Operations Command. The first Navy SEAL to reach three- and four-star rank and the first naval officer to command U.S. Special Operations Command, Admiral Olson retired in 2011 after 38 years of service. The top graduate in his SEAL training class in 1974, he served in special operations units throughout his career, deployed for several contingency operations and commanded at every level. Admiral Olson’s overseas assignments included staff positions and operations in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Israel, Egypt, Tunisia and Somalia, where his valorous actions earned him the Silver Star. He commanded the Navy’s counterterrorist unit in the late 1990s and Naval Special Warfare Command from 1999 until 2002. His restructuring of all Naval Special Warfare forces in 1999 and 2000 set the stage for continuous command-level deployments in response to the attacks of 9/11. Later, as head of all U.S. Special Operations forces from 2007 to 2011, he was responsible for the mission readiness and deployments of more than 60,000 Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps personnel in more than 75 countries. After retirement, he founded ETO Group, an independent national security consultancy that advises a number of public and privately held companies focused on developing advanced technologies to solve national security challenges. Admiral Olson holds a master’s degree in International Affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School and is an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He serves the non-profit National Navy SEAL Museum and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Among numerous recognitions, he was appointed an Officer in the French Legion of Honor and he received the Business Executives for National Security’s Eisenhower Award, the Office of Strategic Services Society’s’ Donovan Award and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award.

DGA 2018 Photo Gallery

Distinguished Graduate Award Ceremony


The program was established in 1999 by the Alumni Association as a way to identify to the public and the Brigade of Midshipmen the broad national significance of the United States Naval Academy. READ MORE...


© 2018 United States Naval Academy Alumni Association & Foundation 410-295-4000