General Brent Scowcroft Receives First-Ever Dean’s Award for Lifetime Achievement

On May 28, 2020, Carlos J. Alonso, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, presented the first-ever Dean’s Award for Lifetime Achievement to General Brent Scowcroft (‘67PhD, International Relations) in recognition of his decades of dedication to the national security of the United States.

Below are General Scowcroft’s citation and a letter of acknowledgement from his daughter Karen Scowcroft ‘83LAW, ‘84SIPA, who accepted the award on her father’s behalf.


The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has a special admiration for intellectual inquiry that reaches beyond academia to change the world at large for the better. Today we honor you, General Brent Scowcroft, a distinguished alumnus of the Graduate School, for your decades of dedication to the national security of the United States.

We live in a world transformed by your commitment to public service. That has been the watchword of your career since your graduation from West Point in 1947, just months after President Truman outlined his famous doctrine for the containment of Soviet communism.

We are proud of the way you have put your Columbia education to use. You arrived at Columbia in 1951 to study international relations, having previously served as a U.S. Air Force pilot, and received your MA in 1953. You returned to Columbia while continuing your U.S. Air Force service, and in 1967, you earned your PhD in international relations.

Surely few alumni of the university once led by Dwight Eisenhower have put their scholarly training to such profoundly important real-world application. Our pride in your career has been undimmed as you rose from assistant air attaché in Embassy Belgrade into an extraordinary 29-year military career, becoming a lieutenant general and serving twice in the White House as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

You set the gold standard for running the National Security Council and the interagency process that propels U.S. national security policy—helping to end the Cold War, oversee the peaceful reunification of Germany, assemble the sweeping international coalition that expelled Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm, and manage such major crises as the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev.

We know this citation is not the most exalted recognition you have received, after having been recognized as a Distinguished Graduate of West Point; presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom; and been dubbed a Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire. We hope, however, that it will prove a particularly meaningful one.

In recognition of your exceptional career—a model of what a Columbia graduate can hope to accomplish—the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is honored to present you with the Dean’s Award for Lifetime Achievement.

You bring honor and distinction to the Graduate School and your alma mater. We thank you for your dedication, your service, and your example of the excellence to which we can aspire, as scholars and as citizens.

Carlos J. Alonso
Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Acknowledgement Letter

On behalf of my father, Brent Scowcroft, whose declining health prevents him from acknowledging this award himself, I accept with deep gratitude the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award for Lifetime Achievement. My father wishes to extend his sincere appreciation to Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and to Dean Alonso for this distinct honor. He is both delighted and truly humbled by this recognition.

Columbia University has singular importance for my entire family as not only my father but also my mother and I are alumni of the University’s various schools. (Perhaps my young daughter will someday continue the family’s excellent educational tradition!) Because of this special connection, my father values his receipt of this award.

What also makes this award particularly meaningful to my father is that it comes from the institution which has had such a significant impact on his career. The Columbia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences played a crucial role in transforming my father from a soldier into a scholar and ultimately a public servant and policymaker. What my father has been able to achieve in his career is in no small part due to his Columbia education!

My father will cherish this Dean’s Award for Lifetime Achievement. Thank you again for this wonderful recognition!

Karen Scowcroft
Columbia Law School, 1983
Columbia School of International and Public Affairs, 1984