2016 UI International Impact Award goes to Howard Kerr

Howard Kerr photoA former naval commander and aide to two U.S. vice presidents and one president, Howard Kerr says his greatest pleasure today comes from bringing a little ‘real world’ experience into the academic space.  “When students tell me that I’m lucky to have had the experiences I’ve had, I agree, but with a big caveat. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt once defined luck for me as preparation waiting for opportunity,” says Kerr.  “I took classes in Schaeffer Hall sixty years ago, sitting in the same seats they’re in, and I didn’t have any idea what I’d be doing when I left the university.  But I found out that my time here at the university had prepared me to take advantage of opportunities that presented themselves.  This is the message I try to pass on to students.”

Howard Kerr, a native Iowan and 1960 graduate of the UI, will receive the 2016 International Impact Award from UI Provost Barry Butler and Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs Downing Thomas on Thursday, November 17, at 7:30 p.m., as part of the television/radio/internet program WorldCanvass, whose topic will be “Higher Education in the Age of Internationalization.” The event takes place in the Recital Hall of the Voxman Music Building, preceded by a public reception from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Voxman lounge. For more information, visit https://international.uiowa.edu/news/november-17-worldcanvass-features-international-impact-award-and-internationalization-higher-ed

Kerr will be interviewed by WorldCanvass host Joan Kjaer, along with Brian Lai of the UI political science department. Additional WorldCanvass guests are Ellen Hazelkorn, policy advisor, Higher Education Authority, Ireland; Barbara McFadden Allen, executive director, Big 10 Academic Alliance; Downing Thomas; Ben Hassman, lecturer, UI Department of Rhetoric; and Anis Shakirah Mohd Muslimin, member, UI International Student Advisory Board.

Kerr served on seven U.S. combatant ships in both the Pacific and Atlantic fleets. He was commanding officer of two ships and commodore of a destroyer squadron.  He served in Vietnam and on the executive staff of the chief of naval operations; was military aide to Vice Presidents Spiro Agnew and Gerald Ford, and President Gerald Ford; and worked in the West Wing as executive assistant to a counselor to the president, providing information and advice to support the president and commander in chief.  Kerr earned two graduate degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and, following his Navy career, was the president of two corporations with international business, served on several boards, and was elected to three terms as mayor of Lake Forest, Illinois. Closer to home, Kerr has shown lifelong devotion to the UI, particularly the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, returning often to lecture to students in political science and serve on the Dean’s Advisory Board.

“Howard combines a unique appreciation of academic education with fascinating experiences in the real world and government,” says UI Associate Professor Brian Lai of the Department of Political Science. “Whether serving on the front lines of U.S. strategy during the Cold War, helping military leaders understand the situation in Vietnam, advising presidents and vice presidents on military and naval matters, or consulting with thought leaders on international affairs, Howard has provided a significant international impact.”

But it’s the impact he can have on today’s students that excites Kerr the most. It may be a cliché to say that today’s students are the leaders of tomorrow, but Kerr knows from personal experience just how true that is.  “I’m grateful to the UI and all the people who’ve supported it over the years. The education I received here prepared me for a life of challenges and international involvement.  I’m confident today’s students will one day look back at their time at the UI with the same gratitude.” 

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