The Caltech Distinguished Alumni Award

The Caltech Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor the Institute bestows upon a graduate, and is in recognition of "a particular achievement of noteworthy value, a series of such achievements, or a career of noteworthy accomplishment."


A living alumnus or alumna who has attained any degree (B.S., M.S., Engineer's, or Ph.D.) at Caltech or Throop Institute may be considered eligible for this award. Graduates who currently are on the faculty or staff of Caltech are not eligible, with the exception of those who have achieved the rank of Emeritus/a Professor. Members of the Institute Board of Trustees are not eligible until they have achieved the rank of Life Trustee. Selections are made by the President of Caltech based on recommendations from a committee comprising faculty, staff, and alumni; the President’s recommendations are confirmed by the Board of Trustees.

Since the award's inception in 1966, Caltech has recognized a total of 256 alumni as standouts in science, engineering, business and the arts.

the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award Winners

Caltech has announced that Gary Demos (BS '71), Gary A. Flandro (MS '60, PhD '67), Jessica Tuchman Mathews (PhD '74), Arthur B. McDonald (PhD '70), and Ronald H. Willens (BS '53, MS '54, PhD '61) are this year's recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award.

The Caltech Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor the Institute bestows upon a graduate. Given in recognition of a particular achievement of significant value, a series of such distinctive achievements, or a career of noteworthy accomplishment, it celebrates the diverse impact of our alumni on science and society. Caltech will present the awards to this year's winners on Saturday, May 19, 2018, as part of the Caltech Alumni Association's Seminar Day.

The 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are:

Gary Demos (BS '71, Engineering and Applied Science)
Image Essence LLC

For his pioneering achievement in the development of computer-generated images (CGI) for use in motion pictures, and in digital film scanning and recording.

Gary A. Flandro (MS '60, PhD '67, Aeronautics)
Professor Emeritus, University of Tennessee Space Institute; Chief Engineer and Vice President, Gloyer-Taylor Laboratories

For his seminal contributions to the design and engineering of multi-outer-planet missions, including the Grand Tour, the course set for the epic explorations of the Voyager spacecraft.

Jessica Tuchman Mathews (PhD '74, Biochemistry)
Distinguished Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

For her contributions to shaping and advancing cooperation between nations on international policy in the areas of nuclear proliferation, human rights, global health, and the environment. 

Arthur B. McDonald (PhD '70, Physics)
Professor Emeritus, Queen's University

For his discovery of neutrino oscillations and demonstration that neutrinos have mass, both of which have changed our understanding of the building blocks of particle physics and of the cosmos as a whole. In 2015, McDonald was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Ronald H. Willens (BS '53 Physics, MS '54 Mechanical Engineering, PhD '61 Engineering Science)

For his innovative and revolutionary contributions to advanced internet connectivity and telecommunications. He pioneered the Remote Authentication Dial-in User Service (RADIUS) as an access server authentication and accounting protocol, which was adapted by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards.


Recent Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients