Auburn Alumni Association honors lifetime achievers

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The Auburn Alumni Association has selected four Auburn University graduates as recipients of its highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award. They are: Tim Cook ’82, CEO of Apple Inc.; Pat Sullivan ’72, 1971 Heisman Trophy winner and current head football coach at Samford University; Larry Benefield ’66, dean emeritus of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering; and John Brown ’57, chair emeritus of Stryker Corp., one of the world’s leading medical technology companies.

Cook succeeded Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple Inc. in 2011 after serving as the chief operating officer from 2005 to 2011. He was listed in Time magazine’s annual “100 Most Influential People in the World” list in 2012 and has been an independent director of Nike Inc. since November 2005. He is the founding chair of the Auburn University Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering’s Alumni Council, founded the ISE Endowed Fund for Excellence and the Tim Cook Leadership Scholarship, established the Tim Cook Endowed Professorship, and was selected as the distinguished Auburn Engineer and Outstanding ISE Alumnus of 2000. He also gave the 2010 Auburn University commencement address.

Sullivan was a three-year starter at quarterback for the Tigers and was named an All-American and the SEC Player of the Year in both 1970 and 1971. Following his senior season, he was named the MVP of the 1972 Senior Bowl, and he played in the College All-Star Classic, taking on the Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys. Sullivan played professional football for five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers. He is a member of six halls of fame, including Senior Bowl, Gator Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Alabama Sports, National Football and National High School. He is currently the 35th head football coach at Samford University. Sullivan and his wife, Jean, reside in Birmingham.

Benefield retired in 2012 after a distinguished career of more than three decades at Auburn University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Auburn and spent four years as a civil engineering officer in the U.S. Air Force, where he was awarded the Bronze Star for service in Vietnam. As dean, Benefield led the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering to significant advances, attracting the attention of peer institutions and moving Auburn engineering to the highest rankings in its history. He is a member of the board of directors of Alabama’s Engineering Hall of Fame and a board member and vice chair of the National Center for Asphalt Technology. Benefield was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2013. He and his wife, Mary, reside in Auburn.

Brown became chairman emeritus of Stryker Corp. in January 2010 after a 32-year career as president and chief executive of the medical equipment maker. He transformed the company from a $17 million hospital bed producer into one of the world’s leading medical technology companies, with $8.7 billion in revenue in 2012. The company makes joint replacements, software and surgical cameras. In 2011, he and his wife, Rosemary, pledged $10 million to Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in memory of a college friend and longtime faculty member. An endowed eminent scholar chair in chemical engineering funded by Brown has expanded the department’s capabilities to advance teaching and research in biomedical engineering.

Cook, Sullivan, Benefield and Brown will be honored at a dinner and induction ceremony in March at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Hotel and Conference Center at Grand National. For more information about the Auburn Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Awards, go to

(Written by Carol Nelson.)

Contact: Danielle Fields, Office of Alumni Affairs, (334) 844-2985 (,
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (