George H.W. Bush honored by student leaders with an award for lifetime achievement

The Yale College Council (YCC) has presented its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award to former President George H.W. Bush ’48 in recognition of his accomplishment in and dedication to public service.

The Yale College Council Lifetime Achievement Award was recently established by the YCC and co-sponsored by the Yale President’s Office in order to recognize alumni for outstanding work in a particular field and to cultivate richer dialogue between current students and alumni. President Bush was a nearly unanimous choice of the Yale student leaders who made the selection for the inaugural award.

Five members of the YCC traveled to Bush’s Walker Point residence in Kennebunkport, Maine, on May 15 to present him with the award. They had lunch with the former president and First Lady Barbara Bush, and chatted informally with the couple during their visit. Barbara Bush also took the students on a tour of the residence.

“It was great to honor Bush not just for his service as president, vice president, and ambassador for the nation but also for his dedicated service to Yale,” says Joseph English ’17, the incoming president of the YCC.

The newly established YCC Lifetime Achievement Award is the first award in Yale’s history to come directly from students, notes English. Members of the YCC created the award with the goal of bringing prominent college alumni back to campus to interact with undergraduates both en masse and in smaller, more intimate settings. The award will honor alumni for their work in a specific field (Bush received the Yale College Council Lifetime Achievement Award in Public Service). Honorees will be recognized for having been a “passionate member” of the Yale community during their time in Yale College, for their “unparalleled and selfless commitment” to their field during their professional career, and for being a source of inspiration for Yale students.

This year, members of the YCC chose Bush for the award, but in subsequent years, the entire student body will be invited to submit nominations for the award, according to English. Originally, they hoped to have Bush come to campus, but guided by recommendations from his staff, it was arranged for the students to travel instead to Maine to present the award to the 90-year-old alumnus at his compound.

“It was wonderful to speak with President and Barbara Bush,” says English. “The former first lady shared a lot of great memories about their time in the White House and at Yale. … President Bush jokingly challenged us to a swim across the bay. It was a fun way to end the year.”

In addition to English, the other YCC members who made the trip to Maine are outgoing YCC president Michael Herbert, Sarika Pandrangi, Joel Bervell, and Madeline Bauer. Bush, who served in the U.S. Navy before coming to Yale, was “tickled” to see Herbert, an ROTC naval midshipman, dressed in his uniform, says Liz Quercia, a senior administrative assistant in the Office of the Secretary & Vice President for Student Life, who accompanied the students on the trip.

“Our visit lasted for about two hours, and it was really a special experience for the undergraduates to be able to visit the Bushes in their home,” she adds. “Students asked a lot of questions about their travels, and the President shared the names of the heads of state who have been to Walker Point. He and Barbara were very gracious.”

English says the YCC looks forward to bringing back other noted Yale alumni to campus in the future to receive the award and meet with undergraduates.

“We are excited to expand the program next year and to have students choose subsequent winners of the YCC Lifetime Achievement Award,” he comments. “It’s a great way for students to be in touch with individual alumni leaders as we honor them for their contributions. The award will help cultivate a greater sense of community between current students and the alumni community.”