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In 1996, the Trustees of the Naval War College Foundation established a Distinguished Graduate Leadership Award to honor Naval War College graduates who have attained positions of prominence in the field of national security. 
The criteria for selection of Distinguished Graduates includes attainment of a position of senior leadership in government service; career accomplishments which are inspiring to Naval War College students; and an expressed interest in professional military education. Their graduation from the Naval War College and exemplary service to the United States are marks of professionalism which this award is intended to recognize. 

Previous recipients who have been honored with this award include:

1996:  General John M. Shalikashvili, USA, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
1997:  Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, USN, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Command
1998:  Admiral Robert E. Kramek, USCG, Commandant of the USCG
1999:  General Charles E. Wilhelm, USMC, Commander, U.S. Southern Command
2000:  Admiral Robert J. Natter, USN, Commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet
2001:  Admiral William J. Fallon, USN, Vice Chief of Naval Operations
2002:  Colonel Charles J. Precourt, Chief of NASA’s Astronaut Corps
2003:  Admiral Gregory G. Johnson, USN, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe/Commander, Allied
Forces, Southern Europe
2004:  General Michael W. Hagee, USMC, Commandant, United States Marine Corps
2005:  The Honorable Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
2006:  Vice Admiral David L. Brewer, III, USN, Commander, Military Sealift Command
2007:  Admiral James G. Stavridis, USN, Commander, U.S. Southern Command
2008:  General James E. Cartwright, Commander, USMC, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
2009:  General Raymond T. Odierno, U.S. Forces - Iraq
2010:  Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard
2011:  The Honorable Clifford L. Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) 
2012:  Admiral James A Winnefeld, Jr., USN, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
2013:  Vice Admiral Robert S. Harward, USN, Deputy Commander, U.S. Central Command
2014:  General David M. Rodriguez, USA, Commander, U. S. Africa Command