Saluting alumni who live the objectives of the alma mater
Distinguished Alumni Award
The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor The Pennsylvania State University bestows upon an outstanding alumnus/a. The award salutes the achievements of outstanding alumni whose “personal lives, professional achievements, and community service exemplify the objectives of their Alma Mater.”
2023 Recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award
Dr. Mark P. Becker
Dr. Mark Becker is president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), membership organization that fosters a community of university leaders collectively working to advance the mission of public research universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The association's membership consists of more than 250 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations focused on: increasing access, equity, completion, and workforce readiness; promoting pathbreaking scientific research; and bolstering economic and community engagement.
Prior to leading APLU, Becker spent more than three decades at many of the different types of universities that comprise APLU’s membership, having served as a post-doctoral fellow, professor, dean, provost, and president at flagships, land-grants, and urban serving institutions.
Becker served as president of Georgia State University from January 2009 to August 2021. He led the transformation of Georgia State from a formerly little-known “commuter school” into one of the nation’s premier urban research universities. During his tenure, Georgia State was one of the fastest growing research universities in the nation as sponsored awards more than doubled, and the university became a widely recognized national leader in the introduction of innovative programs and initiatives to foster student success. Under Becker’s leadership, the university became one of the most diverse universities in the U.S., led the country in eliminating disparities in graduation rates based on race, ethnicity, or income, and was first in the nation among nonprofit institutions in graduating Black students.
Prior to assuming the presidency of Georgia State University, Becker served as executive vice president for Academic Affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina from 2004 to 2008. He served as dean of the School of Public Health and later assistant vice president for Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response at the University of Minnesota.
Becker attended Harford Community College in Maryland, earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Towson State University, and his doctoral degree in statistics from the Pennsylvania State University. Becker is a life member of the Penn State Alumni Association.
Col. James H. Stith
Col. James H. Stith Col. James H. Stith, Ph.D., U.S. Army (Ret.) is vice president emeritus for the American Institute of Physics (AIP). Throughout his career, he has been an advocate for programs that ensure ethnic and gender diversity in the sciences. Stith is an internationally known physicist and leading authority on physics education and has conducted workshops in a dozen countries.
Stith spent 21 years on the faculty at West Point and was the first African American in its history to be named to the tenured faculty. He has also been a Visiting Associate Professor at the United States Air Force Academy and Visiting Scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. As an educator, he has been cited for his excellence in teaching and for his outstanding rapport with his students. Colonel Stith was an active member of the West Point community, providing leadership in many areas. This service included two years as Chairman of the School Board at the United States Military Academy.
Stith was raised in Brunswick County, Virginia, as the son of a tobacco farmer. His early education was obtained at the three-room Oak Grove Elementary School. He was valedictorian of his high school class and the first in his family to graduate from high school. Stith graduated from Virginia State College in 1963 with a B.S. in physics and an ROTC commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. After fulfilling his military obligation, he earned his doctorate in physics at Penn State. Stith then returned to active duty and joined the faculty at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
His work with the National Research Council resulted in Science Standards (K-12) for the Nation. The Standards document established, for the first time, national guidelines by which exemplary teaching, effective assessment and student knowledge may be measured.
Stith is a life member of the Penn State Alumni Association. He and his wife, Alberta, live in Bowie, Maryland. They have three adult daughters: Dr. Adrienne Stith-Butler, Dr. Andrea L. Stith, Ms. Alyssa J. Stith (deceased) and 2 grandchildren.
Previous Eberly Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
James P. Bradley
Barbara Howell Raphael
Sara Campbell Rockwell
LTG George Trautman III
Judith Loftin Davenport
T. Ming Chu
J. Lloyd Huck
Harold O'Connor, Jr.
LTGN William Brown, Jr.
J. Edwin Matz
M.Gen (Ret.) Walter Tkach
Katharine Boucot Sturgis