The U.S. Department of the Navy has presented Harvard President Drew Faust with the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, its highest civilian honor, for the “selfless determination” she displayed in leading the move to formal recognition of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) on Harvard’s campus after the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was repealed in 2011.

“Dr. Faust’s leadership and total commitment to the NROTC [Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps] and Harvard University have strengthened our military and national security by ensuring it reflects our nation’s diversity,” reads the citation signed by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

Mabus, who worked closely with Faust to restore formal relations between NROTC and the University in 2011, presented her with the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award in a surprise ceremony during a visit to his Pentagon office. Past recipients of the award include Joe Rosenthal, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who captured the iconic photo “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.”

“I was surprised and honored by the award,” said Faust. “I am proud of the renewed relationship that we have established with ROTC, and am deeply grateful for the men and women, some of them our students, who heed the call to public service by serving in our armed forces.  The program broadens the pathways for students to participate in an honorable and admirable calling and in so doing advances our commitment to both learning and service.”

In 1926, Harvard was one of the first six institutions to host NROTC units, but formal recognition of the program was waived amid the tensions of the Vietnam era and not restored until after the Defense Department ended the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to allow gays and lesbians to participate fully in military service.

The citation accompanying the award recognized Faust’s “extraordinary vision and selfless determination to enrich the experiences open to Harvard undergraduates.”