It has been 11 years since Florida State University bestowed its highest distinction, the James D. Westcott Distinguished Service Medal. This month, President John Thrasher honored two new recipients of the award.
The James D. Westcott Distinguished Service Medal recognizes a “person whose distinguished service merits exceptional recognition and whose life and work exemplifies the Vires, Artes and Mores, which the university seeks to nurture in its students.”
Thrasher honored Professor Emerita Myra Hurt with the medal in a private ceremony Sept. 2 at the College of Medicine. Thrasher presented the medal posthumously to President Emeritus Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, who died in May 2019, during a Sept. 22 ceremony held at the College of Law. Patsy Palmer accepted the medal in her late husband’s honor.
Only eight other individuals have ever received the rare distinction.
“Myra Hurt is one of those exceptional people,” Thrasher said during Hurt’s ceremony. “Her life’s work at this school and the many accomplishments and the many lives she has touched has made such a big difference. She has exemplified the university’s highest ideals and her distinguished service will have a lasting and enduring impact on Florida State University and certainly this College of Medicine.”
Hurt, who retired earlier this year after more than 33 years of service to Florida State, served in multiple roles prior to assuming her most recent post as the College of Medicine’s Senior Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences.
“I want to thank the administration and the college for helping me to meet my life’s mission, which is to help students find the pathway to success,” she said.
D’Alemberte served as dean of the College of Law from 1984 to 1989, and then as president of Florida State University from 1994 to 2003, overseeing a period of remarkable growth and revitalization for the school. As president, he undertook a major campus beautification project, acquired the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and established the Seven Days of Opening Nights festival of the fine and performing arts, now known as Opening Nights.
He also helped to establish the College of Medicine and the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, which has helped victims of human trafficking, torture and war crimes in more than 90 countries.
“President Emeritus Talbot ‘Sandy’ D’Alemberte was an academic, a statesman, a brilliant lawyer and an international champion of human rights,” Thrasher said. “His life and work exemplify the university’s highest ideals, and he left an incredible legacy.”
Palmer thanked Thrasher and FSU officials for honoring D’Alemberte with the prestigious university award.
“It means so much to me and the D’Alemberte family that this university, which Sandy cherished, has chosen to put him among the company of Westcott Medal holder, an honor that was first bestowed on his hero, Gov. LeRoy Collins,” she said. “I can attest that Sandy did embody the virtues of Vires, Artes and Mores — strength, skill and character — both at home and in his public life.”
Westcott Medal Recipients
Governor T. LeRoy Collins – 1989
Representative Herbert F. Morgan – 1991
Dr. Augustus B. Turnbull, III – 1991
Senator Robert M. Johnson – 1995
Dr. Norman E. Thagard – 1995
Dr. Steve Edwards – 2003
Louise Jones Gopher – 2007
David Coburn – 2009