Distinguished Alumni Award


Howard Kerr, 60BA

Achievement Award 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."


About 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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With the start of a new year upon us, it's time to look back at your favorite University of Iowa stories from 2018. Here are Iowa Magazine's top 10 most-read articles of the year: The Nomadic Life (spring 2018) Hawkeye football favorite Paki O'Meara (10BA) finds ultimate freedom in backpacking around the world, taking photos that inspire a sense of wonder. PHOTO COURTESY PAKI O'MEARA Kinnick at 100 (summer 2018) This past summer marked two historically significant dates for Hawkeye fans: the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nile Kinnick (40BA), and the 75th anniversary of his tragic death. In memory of Iowa's favorite son, scholar, and Ironman, we look back on his life and legacy. Ahead of the Game (spring 2018) The Iowa football team becomes the first in the nation to equip the majority of its players with a state-of-the-art new helmet designed to improve player safety. PHOTO: MARK STASTNY Hollywood U (fall 2018) Alumni success in TV and film shines the spotlight on Iowa's? flourishing screenwriting program. ILLUSTRATION: FABIEN GILBERT / ARTISTIQUE INTERNATIONAL Mountain Roots (spring 2018) Nearly 80 years ago, an unlikely UI mountain-climbing club emerged from the cornfields of Iowa to become one of the most active in the world. Now the next generation of outdoorsmen continue in their Hawkeye family's footsteps. PHOTO COURTESY EBERT FAMILY The Secrets of Sleep (fall 2018) UI doctors and researchers work to shine light on the third of our lives we spend in the dark. Illustration: John Emigh Fry's Dream Team (fall 2018) FRYFest honors Hayden Fry's legendary 1983 coaching tree. PHOTO: UI ATHLETICS Going the Distance (spring 2018) UI-trained dentist Deb Carneol (92DDS) completes seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. PHOTO: MARK CONLON/WORLDMARATHONCHALLENGE.COM At 105, Our Oldest Hawkeye? (spring 2018) Catherine Shaw Shors (35BSC), who earned her business degree from Iowa more than eight decades ago, celebrated a milestone birthday in May. 1936 HAWKEYE YEARBOOK A Heroic Homecoming (spring 2018) Avengers: Infinity War director Joe Russo (92BA) receives a superhero's welcome at his alma mater. PHOTOS: Justin Torner

Iowa alumni with shared connections are invited to join an affinity group. Some of these organizations are an extension of student interests, like Alumni Band or Dance Marathon Alumni Group.

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