Academy, AOG to honor 4 distinguished grads


Four graduates are slated to receive the Air Force Academy’s Distinguished Graduate Award April 7.  


The Academy and Association of Graduates have selected annual distinguished graduates since 2001 to recognize alumni who make significant contributions to the U.S. and their communities.


This year’s recipients are: retired Gen.s’ George Butler, Class of ‘61, and Charles Holland, Class of ‘68; retired Col. Gary Payton, Class of ‘71; and R. David Yost, Class of ‘69.


Butler helped transition the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command into the Joint Forces’ Strategic Command. During his tenure there, he was responsible for Air Force and Navy nuclear assets. Butler is an advocate for global nuclear arms reduction.


During a 35-year Air Force career, Holland served as the commander of Special Operations Command during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He’s been a director, advisor and consultant for several corporate boards, including the Air Force, since retiring from military service.


Payton is an astronautics professor at the Academy and the 2014 recipient of the Academy’s Outstanding Academy Educator Award. He spent four years as an instructor pilot before taking several positions with the U.S. space program, including payload specialist for the Space Shuttle Discovery launch in 1985, deputy for technology with the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and director of the Strategic Defense Initiative. After retiring from the Air Force in 1995, he became deputy undersecretary for Air Force space programs.


Yost served as an officer for five years. He later became CEO of one of the largest distributors of pharmaceutical products in the U.S. He serves on the Academy’s Endowment Board of Directors.