Lexington, Virginia • April 29, 2009
Washington and Lee University will present former Sen. John W. Warner, a 1949 graduate of the University, with its highest honor - The Washington Award - on Saturday, May 2, at 10:30 a.m. during the annual meeting of the W&L Alumni Association in Lee Chapel.
The Washington Award recognizes distinguished leadership and service to the nation and/or extraordinary acts of philanthropy in support of Washington and Lee and other institutions. The award is a small copy of a marble statue of George Washington done by British sculptor Sir Francis Cantrey for the Massachusetts State House.
"Sen. Warner's life exemplifies the attributes of honor, integrity and civility that Washington and Lee strives to instill in our students," said Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio, who will present the award to Warner.
Warner began his public service during World War II, when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17. He served on active duty until the summer of 1946 and, following his honorable discharge as a petty officer third class, entered Washington and Lee, his father's alma mater, on the GI Bill and received the B.S. degree in basic engineering in 1949.
After graduating from W&L, Warner entered law school at the University of Virginia but left to begin a second tour of active military duty, this time as an officer in the Marine Corps, when the Korean War broke out in 1950. He served for two years in Korea before returning to U.Va. to complete his law degree in 1953.
From 1953 to 1956, Warner served as law clerk for the late Chief Judge E. Barrett Prettyman of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He was appointed an assistant U.S. attorney in 1956, and served four years in the trial and appellate divisions before entering private practice in 1960.
In February 1969, Warner was appointed undersecretary of the Navy and, three years later, he succeeded John H. Chafee as secretary of the Navy. He participated in the Law of the Sea talks and negotiated the Incidents at Sea Executive Agreement with the Soviet Union.
Warner was appointed by President Gerald Ford to coordinate the celebration of the bicentennial of the founding of the United States, directing the federal role at events in all 50 states and in 22 foreign countries.
Warner began his five terms in the U.S. Senate in 1978 and is the second-longest serving senator from Virginia in the 218-year history of the Senate. He formerly chaired the Armed Services Committee and served on the Intelligence Committee, on the Environment and Public Works and the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.
In August 2007, Warner announced his decision not to seek re-election to a sixth term. In remarks at his announcement, Warner said that the "communities of Charlottesville, Amherst and Lexington are, to me, hallowed grounds. My ancestors on my father's side go back many generations in Amherst; Lexington is home to Washington and Lee University, where my father graduated in 1903 and [where] I, following Naval service, graduated in 1949; and then to Charlottesville where I entered the Law School."
Warner served as a member of Washington and Lee's board of trustees from 1968 to 1980. He was awarded an honorary degree from the University in 2005.