Dr. Robert Ballard, Renowned Oceanographer and Marine Geologist,  to Receive 2024  Horatio Alger Award  

The Horatio Alger Association names 11 outstanding individuals, each of whom has overcome adversity to achieve professional and personal success, to its Member Class of 2024 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 6, 2024) – Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization honoring the achievements of outstanding individuals and encouraging youth to pursue their dreams through higher education, today announced that Dr. Robert D. Ballard, distinguished explorer, discoverer, and historian,has been selected for membership in this prestigious organization. Dr. Ballard joins 10 other exceptional business, civic and cultural leaders from across North America in receiving 2024 honors. For more than 75 years, the Horatio Alger Award has been annually bestowed upon esteemed individuals who have succeeded despite facing adversities, and who have remained committed to higher education and charitable efforts in their communities.  

Dr. Ballard grew up in San Diego and lived only a short walk from the Pacific Ocean where he spent most of his free time walking along the beaches, learning to swim and then later to scuba dive. He attributes his interest in underwater exploration to watching Walt Disney’s movie “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” While he was in high school, his father connected him with oceanographers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and he participated in several short research expeditions. He first went to sea on an oceanographic cruise at 17 years old, which catapulted his interest in the field of oceanic exploration. Dr. Ballard received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara in geology and chemistry. He was working towards a PhD in marine geology at the University of Southern California in 1967 when he was called to active duty. At his request, he was transferred from the Army into the U.S. Navy as an oceanographer. The Navy assigned him as a liaison between the Office of Naval Research and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where he went on to spend 30 years of his career after entering the Naval Reserve in 1970. He also received a PhD in marine geology and geophysics at the University of Rhode Island. 

Best known by the public for his 1985 discovery of the RMS Titanic, Dr. Ballard has succeeded in tracking down numerous other significant shipwrecks, including the German battleship Bismarck, the lost fleet of Guadalcanal, the U.S. aircraft carrier Yorktown (sunk in the World War II Battle of Midway), and John F. Kennedy’s boat, PT-109. Dr. Ballard also led the important discoveries of hydrothermal vents and “black smokers” in the Galapagos Rift and East Pacific Rise in 1977 and 1979. A pioneer in the development of deep-sea submersibles and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) systems, Dr. Ballard has taken part in more than 165 deep-sea expeditions throughout his career.   

Throughout his early life and career, Dr. Ballard was acutely aware that the ways he learned and saw things around him were different from others. However, it wasn’t until the age of 72 that he was formally diagnosed with dyslexia. With that new piece of information, many events from his past suddenly made sense. Dr. Ballard now credits his dyslexia for fostering the skills and the innovation that were needed to make some of the biggest discoveries in maritime history. The heightened visual and spatial awareness that comes naturally to people with dyslexia played a significant role in his celebrated career. Dr. Ballard is now a vocal advocate for people with dyslexia, seeking to ensure that younger generations know it’s possible for them to do amazing things and have the careers that they want despite this adversity. 

“We couldn’t be prouder to welcome Dr. Robert Ballard as a 2024 Horatio Alger Member,” said Terrence J. Giroux, executive director, Horatio Alger Association. “He overcame early challenges with dyslexia to become one of the most accomplished and well-known deep-sea explorers in the world. His passion for constantly learning and embracing complex challenges will greatly benefit the Scholars we serve.” 

In 2008, Dr. Ballard founded the Ocean Exploration Trust and acquired the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus, which continues to explore the world’s oceans with the Nautilus Corps of Exploration. In addition, Dr. Ballard is a National Geographic Society Explorer-at-Large and a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. He is also a Senior Scientist Emeritus in the Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Ballard has 22 honorary degrees and six military awards. He received the National Geographic Society’s prestigious Hubbard Medal in 1996 for “extraordinary accomplishments in coaxing secrets from the world’s oceans and engaging students in the wonder of science,” and was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014. 

“Becoming a Horatio Alger Member alongside such a brilliant roster of Americans is a true honor,” said Dr. Ballard. “I look forward to furthering the Association’s important mission and encouraging the Scholars to fiercely pursue their passions even if they must overcome challenges in the process – a lesson that I’ve learned many times in my life.” 

2024 marks the 40th year that the Association has awarded annual need-based scholarships to high school students who have displayed dedication to pursuing higher education despite significant obstacles throughout their lives.  The Association, which aims to preserve and protect the American Dream for future generations, also seeks to educate young people about the endless opportunities available by the free-enterprise system through commitment, honesty, and diligence. The scholarships are made possible thanks to the generosity of Horatio Alger Members, who will have collectively provided more than $245 million to over 35,000 students.

 “It is our utmost honor to present the Horatio Alger Award to these 11 outstanding leaders who have exemplified perseverance, passion and a deep appreciation for higher education,” said James F. Dicke II, chairman, Horatio Alger Association and 2015 Horatio Alger Award recipient. “These influential leaders not only spearhead their own businesses, but they give generously to causes, organizations and communities in need. Our 2024 awardees embody the Association’s mission and are proof that the American Dream is within reach for anyone who seeks it.” 

  Dr. Ballard and the Member Class of 2024 will be formally inducted into the Association on April 4-6, 2024, during the Association’s annual Horatio Alger Award Induction Ceremonies in Washington, D.C. The three-day event is an annual ceremony to honor both the achievements of Members and National Scholars, who will have multiple opportunities to meet, interact and exchange stories of perseverance.  


For more information about Horatio Alger Association and its Member Class of 2024, please visit www.horatioalger.organdfollow the organization on Facebook, X, LinkedIn and Instagram.  




About Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans:  

Founded in 1947, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc. is dedicated to the simple but powerful belief that hard work, honesty and determination can conquer all obstacles. The Association honors the achievements of outstanding leaders who have accomplished remarkable successes in spite of adversity by bestowing upon them the Horatio Alger Award and inducting them as lifetime Members. Horatio Alger Members support promising young people with the resources and confidence needed to overcome adversity in pursuit of their dreams through higher education. Through the generosity of its Members and friends, in 2023, the Association awarded more than $18 million in undergraduate and graduate need-based scholarships to 1,800 students across the United States and Canada, and provided college support and mentoring services to its Scholars. Over the past 40 years, more than $245 million has been awarded in undergraduate, graduate, military veteran and career and technical education scholarships to more than 35,000 deserving students. For more information, please visit www.horatioalger.org.