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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense and Pullman native James Mattis to receive inaugural Foley Distinguished Public Service Award

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis talks during a news conference in 2022 at the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at WSU in Pullman.  (Geoff Crimmins/For The Spokesman-Review)

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense and four–star Marine Corps General James Mattis will be the inaugural recipient of the Thomas S. Foley Award for Distinguished Public Service.

Mattis, who was born in Pullman in 1950, will be honored by the Washington State University institution on April 9 during a ceremony at the John Hemmingson Center at Gonzaga University.

The new award will be given annually by the Foley Institute to individuals who have demonstrated integrity, courage and a commitment to democratic values in public service, according to a news release.

Mattis enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1969 and participated in tours in Afghanistan and Iraq before retiring from active service in 2013. He served as U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2017 to 2019 under President Donald Trump before resigning his post in protest when Trump announced he would pull U.S. forces out of Syria.

“We wanted somebody with a national reputation, whose life was dedicated to public service, but we also wanted somebody like Tom Foley with local roots to be the inaugural recipient,” said Foley Institute Director Cornell Clayton. “Mattis not only has local roots, but dedicated his entire career to public service and personified the values of Foley and the Foley Institute, courage, bipartisanship, integrity and honor.”

The award has been envisioned for years, but its inauguration was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Clayton noted. Nominations for the award were vetted by a 22-person advisory committee headed by former Spokane Mayor David Condon. Future recipients will not be limited to those with local roots.

The award ceremony is being sponsored by philanthropists Ed and Beatriz Schweitzer and The Spokesman-Review, and will serve as a fundraiser for the Foley Institute. Mattis will deliver a keynote speech, followed by a question-and-answer session, and will sign copies of his book, “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead,” which he wrote with Bing West in 2021. West served as assistant secretary of defense for International Security Affairs under the Reagan administration.

Those wishing to purchase tickets can contact the Foley Institute at or by calling 509-335-3477.