Distinguished Alumni Award Winner


Howard Kerr (60BA)

Achievement 2019


A career naval officer, aide to the 38th president of the United States, and CEO of three corporations, Howard Kerr (60BA) is a leader through and through. Beyond his military and business accomplishments, he continues to lead through service to his community and his alma mater, the University of Iowa.

A Des Moines native who earned two master's degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Kerr served for 21 years in the U.S. Navy during the Cold War and Vietnam eras. He commanded the USS Hawkins and USS Kinkaid, was commodore of Destroyer Squadron 33, and received the Bronze Star with combat valor and eight Vietnam combat-era awards. In 1973, Kerr was assigned to the White House staff of Vice Presidents Spiro Agnew and Gerald Ford, where he served as an advisor on defense and national security issues. The following year, he became naval aide to President Ford and executive assistant to the counselor of the president. When Kerr left the White House, Ford awarded him the Legion of Merit Medal in an Oval Office ceremony. Kerr retired from the Navy in 1981 and became president and CEO of Custom Technologies Corporation and two other Chicago-based corporations. He also was a board member of Van Kampen and InVesco Mutual Funds and served on the Marrow Foundation.

"His intelligence, integrity, and communication skills have been the essential tools in his effective management of the most important resources in any organization—its people."

Kerr was active in civic service, including serving as mayor for three terms in Lake Forest, Illinois. Now a resident of Lake Bluff, Illinois, he regularly returns to the UI to lecture in the Department of Political Science and work with students. He has been a member of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean's Advisory Board and was the 2016 recipient of the UI's International Impact Award. Kerr and his wife, Patricia, have established a scholarship for the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

The late Navy admiral E.R. Zumwalt once wrote of Kerr: "His intelligence, integrity, and communication skills have been the essential tools in his effective management of the most important resources in any organization—its people."


Distinguished Alumni Awards

Since 1963, the University of Iowa has annually recognized accomplished alumni and friends with Distinguished Alumni Awards. Awards are presented in seven categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty, Staff, Recent Graduate, and Friend of the University.
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