U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Two Academy graduates were presented the Association of Graduates' Distinguished Graduate Award April 4 at Mitchell Hall during the Founders Day celebration.
Recipients for 2013, A. Bart Holaday, Class of 1965, and retired Gen. William "Bill" Looney III., Class of 1972, were honored for their accomplishments and support to the Academy. Since 2001, the Academy and its Association of Graduates have recognized exceptional graduates whose accomplishments are inspirational and enhance the reputation of the Academy.
Looney said it's hard to capture in words how much the award means to him.
"I'm in awe of the group I'm joining of distinguished graduates who have been selected in the past," he said. "All of them were my heroes and role models while I went through the Academy and served in the Air Force. I'm incredibly grateful. I know so many graduates who have gone before or after I graduated who are certainly just as worthy if not more than I am of this honor."
During the celebration, the distinguished grads toured different areas of the Academy and connected with Academy leaders and classmates.
"I just love this place," Holaday said. "I have so many friends here, and I care deeply about the Air Force Core Values: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do."
Holaday said he paid a special visit to his late wife, Lynn, interred at the Academy Cemetery.
"I went over and talked to her this morning," he said. "She cared deeply about the Academy and was the primary reason we made the donation to the Holaday Athletic Center here. She would be very proud."
Holaday is the founding Chairman of the USAFA Endowment, the named benefactor of the Holaday Athletic Center and a trustee of the Falcon Foundation. He entered the Academy in 1961 and served as a Cadet Wing commander, a varsity athlete and class president.
"The Academy was a fantastic education and it was a fantastic environment," Holaday said. "What meant the most to me was the opportunity to learn about leadership and management, to make mistakes and profit from them."
During his senior year here, Holaday received a Rhodes Scholarship, enabling him to attend Oxford University in England for three years of graduate study. He now funds an annual post-graduate Fellowship at Exeter College and Oxford University to allow top Academy graduates the same opportunity.
"The scholarship allowed me to see the country and world from a very different perspective," Holaday said. "I think any leader in the Air Force today has to have an international perspective. I want to give a high potential graduate the opportunity to get a very different perspective on the world."
Looney is a guest lecturer on leadership here, serves as a Governing Trustee for the Falcon Foundation and holds the distinction of being the first Academy Falcon Scholar to reach the four-star rank. At the Academy he became the first cadet to hold positions as Cadet Wing Sergeant Major, First Basic Cadet Training Commander, and Cadet Wing Commander during his junior and senior years.
"A lesson I like to impart to cadets when I speak to them is that it's not all about them," Looney said. "It's about their team and the people they will lead. The authority of command is a precious gift. The focus shouldn't be on them because it's their team who will create mission success, not them."
Integrity and honor are the most precious treasures any individual has, and they have to work hard every day to keep it, Looney said.
"You can lose your honor in a matter of seconds," Looney said. "If you ever do lose it, it may be impossible to regain. Fortunately for me, the Academy truly impressed upon me how important it is to be an honorable person. The longer you're at the Academy the more the concept of honor embodies your soul and you begin to appreciate how wonderful it is to be honorable, and to be around honorable people. You become committed to that kind of lifestyle."
It's an honor to be a part of these distinguished graduates who are just extraordinary people, Holaday said.
"For me it was a difficult challenge to get through the Academy and graduate," Holaday said. "I'm proud of what my friends did, the sacrifices so many of them made, and I'm proud of myself for getting through the Academy."
Looney said the award recognizes the accomplishments of so many others as well.
"I get invigorated with how magnificent this place is and how wonderful the Cadet Wing is," Looney said. "We're so fortunate to have these young men and women who will commit to this kind of life and service."