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On the shoulders of Giants
As twenty of the top collegiate rugby teams descend on Philadelphia this May 31st – June 1st, they will be competing to win the Pete Dawkins trophy honoring not only a great icon in sports history, but also a truly great American.
For the 19 and 20-year-olds competing in this year’s tournament, each and every one of them can learn an invaluable set of life lessons from the exceptional life Pete has led.
Even at an early age he was destined to be a remarkable individual. His ability to not only overcome adversity, but to thrive, began early on as a child when he overcame polio and beat the odds to go on to become a high school star athlete.
From high school, Pete attended the United States Military Academy at West Point where he became the only cadet to serve as first captain, class president and captain of the football team. During his time at West Point, he won the 1958 Heisman Trophy, one of the most coveted honors in collegiate sports.
For most of the college athletes competing at this year’s tournament, collegiate success is measured by earning a four-year degree, with a small percentage going on to pursue advanced degrees.
For Pete, he not only graduated from one of the most venerable institutions of higher learning, he went on to pursue his graduate studies at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar earning masters degrees in philosophy, politics, and economics.
It was at Oxford where Pete began playing rugby; during his time in England, he won three rugby blues and became the first ever to introduce the overarm throw in a rugby match. So, for every line out executed during this year’s tournament, each player has Pete to thank for challenging the status quo and raising the bar to make the game of rugby more exciting.
Soon after Oxford, he was called upon his country to serve in the Vietnam War. Upon completing Airborne and Ranger school, he commanded a rifle company in Vietnam where he earned two bronze stars for Valor.
Pete’s service to his country continued well after Vietnam. Upon his return, he authored plans to convert to an all volunteer Army, served as a White House Fellow, earned a masters degree and PhD in public administration from Princeton, and became the youngest Brigadier General in the U.S. Army.
After retiring from the military in 1983, Pete turned his unparalleled leadership skills and attention to the private sector where he became a partner at Lehman Brothers, vice-chairman of Bain and Company, and CEO of Primerica.
Pete’s dedication to his country, relentless pursuit of higher standards, and uncompromised leadership in both the public and private sector has raised the bar to a level all Americans should aspire to.
Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulder of giants.”
So as the players take the field this May 31st, every rugby player, student-athlete, soldier, businessman, aspiring leader, and American should know that Pete Dawkins is a giant we have to thank.