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2011 Zenith Medal for Service: Damon Butler

Damon Butler (BS ’96, Applied Mathematics) was selected as the recipient of the College’s 2011 Zenith Medal for Service. Established in 2005, this award recognizes alumni or friends of PAMS for distinguished contributions or advocacy that significantly advance our ability to make powerful impacts on science, the economy, the environment and the quality of human life.

Upon his graduation from NC State in 1996, Butler joined the U.S. Air Force. He spent six years as a space and missile operator with top secret security clearance in Air Force Space Command, eventually rising to the rank of captain.

He continued his formal education during his military service, earning a master’s degree in aeronautical science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. After his separation from the Air Force, Butler went on to earn an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in 2004.

Butler then moved to New York City to join New York Life, where he has since risen to corporate vice president, with current responsibilities in optimizing productivity, analyzing competitor underwriting guidelines, designing workflow enhancements and evaluating performance metrics.

In addition to his professional accomplishments, Butler has had a profound impact on PAMS and its students. In many ways, that service began while he was still an undergraduate major serving as a math tutor to his fellow students. Today, he serves his fellow former students as well as the college as a member of the college’s Alumni and Friends Advisory Board.

While he has been extremely generous with his time, money and talents, Butler’s greatest contribution to PAMS has been as a leader in the ongoing efforts to increase participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) opportunities among underserved and underrepresented populations. He regularly returns to campus at his own expense – and often on short notice – to serve as a motivational speaker and role model for future STEM leaders.

He has engaged elementary and middle school students through Imhotep Academy and Kyran Anderson Academy. He has addressed prospective and current PAMS students through the Multicultural Affairs Visitation Day, freshman diversity classes and last fall’s Department of Mathematics graduation ceremony.

Butler also recently established the Butler Summer Academy. Modeled after Imhotep and Kyran Anderson academies, two highly successful PAMS programs, the Butler Summer Academy will enhance the STEM knowledge and leadership and etiquette skills of rising 6th graders from underserved populations in and around Wake County.

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