American Defense Secretary James Mattis was awarded the 2017 Excellence in Public Service Award from Ohio State University’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs at the National Press Club on Tuesday for his “commitment to citizenship and public leadership.”

Mattis told the audience that he was humbled by the award, claiming, “It’s not about me. It’s about public service. We’re trying to build a country here, and it’s never done.”

Mattis, as well as Trevor Brown, the dean of Glenn College, both used their opportunities to speak to discuss the college’s namesake, recently departed U.S. Senator John Glenn.  Glenn, who made history as an astronaut when he became the first American ever to orbit the earth, also served as a Marine fighter pilot in World War II and Korea.  He earned six Distinguished Flying Crosses and several Air Medals before making the move to NASA, and eventually the Senate.

According to the dean of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, it was particularly important to him this year that the award go to someone Glenn had a great deal of respect for, and that man, according to Brown, is fellow Marine James Mattis.