The United States Naval Academy was founded in 1845 to provide a place where young men could learn the ways of the sea and the necessary traits of a future combat leader in an environment where a misstep could be tolerated here and there. Here and there, mind you. Not often. More than 150 years later, Navy offers both men and women undergraduate degrees in nineteen majors. While math and engineering receive the primary emphasis academically, there are several majors offered in the social sciences and humanities, including history, political science, and English. Everyone who is offered an appointment to Navy is admitted on full scholarship. The Navy pays for your room and board, tuition, medical and dental bills, and even gives you a modest monthly stipend. The academy has baccalaureate accreditation with both ABET and CSAB to go along with its regional accreditation. The Nimitz Library, built in 1973, acts as a second home for many of the academically taxed midshipmen at the Naval Academy. It has 636,500 volumes and subscribes to 2,000 periodicals, as well as possessing such computerized library sources and services as the card catalog, interlibrary loans, and database searching.
If life is measured by unique experiences, you just can’t pick a better place. In my four years, I went to Navy firefighting school, spent six-weeks of one summer in San Diego training on an amphibious vessel, sang for the president five times as a member of the Men’s Glee Club, skippered a forty-four-foot sailboat from Annapolis to Newport, Rhode Island, and back, spent another month one summer with an F/A-18 squadron in Virginia Beach, went to Dublin, Ireland, to watch the Navy football team play Notre Dame, got my scuba qualifications, was in four musical productions, did aerobatics in a T-34 (one of the Navy’s training planes) in Pensacola, Florida, and went under the waves in a submarine for a few days. Sound fascinating and eclectic? It was. And I recommend it to any of you.
Special learning facilities include a learning resource center, planetarium, wind tunnels, radio station, propulsion laboratory, nuclear reactor, oceanographic research vessel, towing tanks, flight simulator, and a naval history museum called Preble Hall.
The Naval Academy has a unique clarity of purpose, expressed in the school’s official mission: “To develop midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically, and imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor, and loyalty in order to provide graduates who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship, and government.” That puts everyone—faculty, staff, and midshipmen—on the same wavelength. It also encourages a sense of spirit and pride found at few other schools.
The Navy campus, known by the Brigade of Midshipmen as the “Yard” is located in Annapolis, a small Chesapeake Bay sailing mecca and the capital of Maryland. The city is located about thirty miles southeast of Baltimore and thirty-five miles east of Washington, D.C. The Yard covers 338 acres, and is home to twenty-five historic buildings including Bancroft Hall, in which all midshipmen live, which happens to be one of the single largest dormitories in the United States (4.8 square miles of hallway).
One thing you can look forward to if you become a midshipman at the Naval Academy is making some of the best friends of your life. Your classmates will hail from all fifty states and more than twenty foreign countries. A recent high school graduate will have classmates here who have spent some time at other colleges or in the operational Navy as enlisted sailors or marines. The diversity is extraordinary, and refreshing. Religiously, many midshipmen practice traditional Judeo-Christian religions. Every major religion in the world is represented within the Brigade. Whatever else may happen, you can be sure that your horizons will expand tremendously.
Attending the United States Naval Academy is a decision that, if you come expecting a challenge, you will never regret. It is a small, insulated, often unforgiving place that pushes you to your limits. For twentythree hours, fifty-five minutes a day in a regular school week during your four years there you might hate it. But that other five minutes comes about once a day when something happens that reminds you of how much you owe to the place. Maybe it happens walking to class in the morning and looking out at the beautiful campus for a minute, or seeing one of the many close friends you’ve made there, or going into Memorial Hall and seeing the memorial register of past graduates who sacrificed their lives for our country in all of the major wars that America has been involved in since 1845. Those moments are special. They make it all worthwhile.
What the academy did for my classmates and me was that, through all of its stifling regulations and regimentation, it set us free on the playground of life. It opened up to us a wealth of opportunities that will take some of us to the top of the military profession and to the highest levels of government, and others in altogether different but exciting directions. And we all set out on our journeys armed to the hilt with weapons not often found in our society today: self-awareness, self-reliance, and determination. We were forged in the fire of four years by the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, four years that often hurt, but also purified and strengthened the good in us, and gave us the tools to attack life and its hurdles with gusto and confidence.
And let’s face it…there are more pluses than you could hope for at most other schools: Your education is paid for, you are in a great and historic town, you make lifelong friendships, visit exotic places, try things you’ve never previously dreamed of, and get a degree out of all of it. You’ll have all the tools you need to be a success once you are done here. So how could you really go wrong?