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Alumni Mark Becker and James Stith honored with Distinguished Alumni Award

30 January 2023

Two Eberly College of Science alumni are among eight to have been selected by the Board of Trustees to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, the University's highest honor presented to its alumni. The award salutes the achievements of outstanding alumni whose "personal lives, professional achievements, and community service exemplify the objectives of their alma mater."

This year’s recipients in the college are Mark Becker, a 1985 Ph.D. graduate in statistics, and James Stith, a 1972 D.E. graduate in physics. Both will return to the University Park campus in June 2023 to attend the Distinguished Alumni Award ceremony.

Mark Becker

Becker is the president of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities. During his presidency at Georgia State University, Becker made a commitment to address diversity, equity, and inclusion. Under his leadership, the university established the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. He also organized a 10-year strategic plan that helped Georgia State emerge as a national model for student success, with record-setting graduation rates, strong ties to the civic community, and a multimillion-dollar research program.

James Stith

Stith is vice president emeritus at the American Institute of Physics. Stith attended a segregated school, and later used this experience to assist with opening a desegregated school in Virginia. Leading physics organizations have repeatedly turned to Stith for guidance and leadership. He retired as colonel from the United States Military Academy and was the first African American to earn tenure at West Point.

Established by the Board of Trustees in 1951, the Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor Penn State bestows upon an outstanding alumna or alumnus. The award is commemorated by the presentation of both an inscribed certificate and an engraved bronze medallion displayed in a box handcrafted from the wood of the historic Penn State American elm trees that once flourished on the University Park campus.