2006 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Effort, energy, commitment, and a willingness to go the ‘extra mile’ are the time-tested secrets to success."
Born in 1938 in Royal Oak, Michigan, Pete Dawkins is the second of four children. His father was a dentist who started his practice in that northern suburb of Detroit in 1928, just as the Depression took hold. Dawkins' mother worked as a salesclerk in a Detroit department store when he was very young. At that time, just after the start of World War II, Dawkins' father was drafted into the Army and he served in the South Pacific for nearly four years.
When Dawkins was four, his grandfather died, leaving his grandmother alone on their Michigan farm. From that point on, Dawkins spent his summers living with his grandmother and helping her with the farm. She taught him many simple but important life lessons such as being accountable for his actions and being self-reliant. Even though he worked from sun up to sun down all summer, Dawkins loved his time with his grandmother. As he grew older, she gave him five acres of his own to cultivate. He hand-ploughed the land and grew cucumbers, which he then sold to the local pickle cannery.
When Dawkins was 11, he contracted polio. His illness left him with a severe curvature of his spine. He started a rigorous two-hour, daily routine of physical therapy and after several years, greatly reduced the curvature.
In junior high school, Dawkins received a scholarship to a private prep school called Cranbook. It was a demanding curriculum and he worked hard to catch up with his peers. When he entered high school he began playing football and ended his senior year as an all-league quarterback. He was also captain of the baseball team.
Although he had been accepted on scholarship at Yale University, Dawkins chose to attend the U. S. Military Academy at West Point. His years there were the most formative of his life and he made the most of his opportunities. To this day, he was the only cadet to ever serve as Brigade Commander, president of his class, captain of the football team, and be a "star man," which means he was one of the top 5 percent academically.
At West Point, Dawkins was a running back on the football team. He was named a consensus All-American and won the Heisman Trophy as the Outstanding College Football Player in the nation.
Following his college graduation in 1959, Dawkins began the first of three years at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. After finishing his studies at Oxford, Dawkins began his military career in earnest. His early pattern of achievement continued in 24 years of exemplary military service. He retired early as a young Brigadier General. Since then, he has had a distinguished civilian career in the world of financial services.
Dawkins spent four years as a partner in the Wall Street firm of Lehman Brothers. Later, he joined the consulting firm of Bain & Company as managing director and head of the domestic consulting business. In 1991, he became chairman and CEO of Primerica Financial Services, Inc. In subsequent years, Dawkins held several senior positions in Citigroup. Today, he is vice chairman of Citigroup Global Wealth Management.
Looking back over his many successes, Dawkins believes the focus should be more on the process of achievement than on the consequences of success. "Americans are achievement driven," he says. "That's why the American dream is so potent. To me, the American dream means leaving a place better than it was when you came in."
Education has always been a passion for Dawkins. He found time in his busy career to earn a doctorate from Princeton because he believes you should never stop learning. Honored to receive the Horatio Alger Award, he says, "The work of the Association in identifying deserving young people and giving them the chance for a bright future is critically important. Getting a sound education is an indispensable ingredient in creating the opportunity they need to compete and contribute in today's challenging and competitive world."