Five Former Yale Student-Athletes To Receive Bush ’48 Leadership Awards At Blue Leadership Ball

The Yale Athletic Department will honor the 2013 recipients of the George H.W. Bush ’48 Lifetime of Leadership Award at the gala Blue Leadership Ball on Nov. 22 at the William K. Lanman Center inside Payne Whitney Gym.  The class of 2013 Bush Award winners are Rear Admiral Richard Lyon ’45, Patricia Melton ’83, Bruce Alexander ’65, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn ’56 and Jerome Kenney ’63. It will be the seventh biennial Blue Leadership Ball, which brings together more than 700 alumni and friends of Yale Athletics.

“It is my privilege to chair the 2013 Blue Leadership Ball where we will be honoring five athletes that have gone on in life to continue to show the drive, determination and leadership that gave them such success while wearing the Yale uniform,” said Karen Yarasavage ‘87. “It is with pride that all that have worn the Yale blue can commemorate the honorees as members of our own Yale athletic family."

Lyon, the captain of the 1943-44 Yale swimming teams, spent 41 years with the United States Navy, attaining the rank of two-star Rear Admiral in 1974, the first special warfare (SEAL) officer to do so. He was a Navy Scout and Raider in the Pacific Theater and was in China as a scout intelligence officer during World War II. He later helped commission an Underwater Demolition Team 5 and served in the Korean War. In his distinguished career, he has been honored with the Legion of Merit, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon. In 1978, the Secretary of the Navy appointed him Deputy Chief of the Naval Reserve.

Following his service in the Navy, Lyon was elected as the Mayor of Oceanside, Calif., and served for eight years. In addition, he was a founder and Trustee President of Children’s Hospital, Orange County (CHOC).

At Yale, Lyon swam the anchor lap on the 1943 world-record setting 400-yard freestyle relay and was captain of Yale’s 1944 NCAA championship team.

Melton, primarily a sprinter on the track team in the early 1980s, now serves as Executive Director of New Haven Promise, a place-based scholarship created by the City of New Haven, Yale University and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. An award-winning educator, Melton’s career includes initiatives that have impacted tens of thousands of students. She has been instrumental in creating nine K-12 schools, been known for her reform work in Massachusetts, Indiana and Ohio, excelled at creating and implementing innovative startup ventures and served as Chief Academic Officer for Indiana’s third-largest district. In 1995, Melton was the first woman to receive the New England Independent Schools' Souders Memorial Award — which was given to George H.W. Bush in 1971. She was awarded the NCAA's prestigious Silver Anniversary Award in 2007.

Melton, who remains Yale's record holder in the 400-meter hurdles (57.86), was twice the Most Outstanding Performer at the Heptagonal Championships. A seven-time individual Ivy League champion, she captured All-America status in 1982 and was an Olympic Trials 800-meter finalist in 1988.

Alexander, who rowed for the Yale varsity lightweight crew, is Yale’s Vice President and Director of New Haven and State Affairs and Campus Development.  For the past 15 years he has led the University’s initiatives for the revitalization of New Haven, the strengthening of town-gown relations, and the extensive redevelopment of commercial properties adjacent to the Yale campus.

For 26 years Alexander was a senior executive at the Rouse Company, responsible for the development of urban retail and mixed-use properties throughout the United States including Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Harborplace in Baltimore, Miami’s Bayside, and Portland’s Pioneer Place.  Alexander, who retired in 1995 to devote his time to civic activities, served on numerous boards in Baltimore where the company was based including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; the Columbia Foundation, of which he was president; and Goucher College, where he chaired the Board of Trustees and was a recipient of the John Franklin Goucher medal for service to the institution.

Since coming to New Haven, Alexander has served on the boards of Yale-New Haven Hospital, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Science Park Development Corporation, Tweed Airport Authority, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, and Connecticut Public Broadcasting.  He received the De Tocqueville Award from the United Way for his contributions to the community, as well as the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce Community Leadership Award.

Esselstyn, who rowed on the legendary 1956 Yale crew that won a gold medal at the Olympics, is one of the nation’s leading experts on preventing heart disease. Dr. Esselstyn was associated with the Cleveland Clinic for more than 40 years. During that time, he served as President of the Staff and as a member of the Board of Governors. He chaired the Clinic’s Breast Cancer Task Force and headed its Section of Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery.

In 1991, Esselstyn served as President of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, That same year he organized the first National Conference on the Elimination of Coronary Artery Disease, which was held in Tucson, Arizona. In 1997, he chaired a follow-up conference, the Summit on Cholesterol and Coronary Disease, which brought together more than 500 physicians and health-care workers in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. In April, 2005, Dr. Esselstyn became the first recipient of the Benjamin Spock Award for Compassion in Medicine. He received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Cleveland Clinic Alumni Association in 2009. In September 2010, he received the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame Award.

His scientific publications number over 150, “The Best Doctors in America” 1994-1995 published by Woodward and White cites Dr. Esselstyn’s surgical expertise in the categories of endocrine and breast disease. In 1995 he published his bench mark long-term nutritional research arresting and reversing coronary artery disease in severely ill patients. That same study was updated at 12 years and reviewed beyond 20 years in his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, making it one of the longest longitudinal studies of its type. It is most compelling, as no compliant patients have sustained disease progression. Today, beyond 20 years compliant patients continue to thrive.

In 1968, Esselstyn was awarded the Bronze Star as a combat surgeon in Vietnam. He also was recently named as the recipient of the Heritage Award from Deerfield Academy.

Kenney played varsity football and lacrosse and was a member of the 1960 nationally ranked undefeated Yale football team.

He joined Merrill Lynch through an acquisition and was named CEO of Merrill’s fledgling institutional and investment banking business with the goal of building it into a major industry competitor.  He was also appointed to Merrill’s Board of Directors.  By the mid 90’s, Merrill had become the largest Fixed Income and equities firm and the No. 1 investment banking underwriter worldwide.  Kenney shifted to Corporate Strategy and Development to fully globalize Merrill and in 2002 became Vice Chairman responsible for major clients, especially in financial services.  Kenney recommended that Merrill merge its asset management business into BlackRock in return for a 50 percent ownership in the company. 

In 2008, he became employed as a senior advisor to BlackRock, which now is the largest asset management firm worldwide.

Kenney is currently on the board of Och-Ziff and was previously a Director of Invesco and Freddie Mac.  He is also a Trustee of Northwestern University and the Nightingale-Bamford School and serves on the Advisory Boards of Yale School of Management and the Kellogg School of Management.

“The Bush Lifetime of Leadership Award Committee has once again selected an outstanding class of honorees,” said Director of Athletics Tom Beckett. “We are thrilled to welcome these distinguished leaders back to Yale to share their knowledge and vision with our community. The Blue Leadership Ball is one of the highlights of the Yale-Harvard football weekend.”

For information on tickets to the Blue Leadership Ball, click here.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity

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