Friday, October 10, 2014

169 Years of the U.S. Naval Academy: Proud Past … Bright Future

Today marks the official founding of the U.S. Naval Academy.  169 years ago, Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft secured 10 acres of land in Annapolis, Md.

When the founders of the academy were looking for a suitable location, it was reported that then Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft decided to move the naval school to “the healthy and secluded” location of Annapolis in order to rescue midshipmen from “the temptations and distractions that necessarily connect with a large and populous city.”

Through Bancroft’s efforts, the Naval Academy – then called the Naval School – was established at Fort Severn on the shores of the Severn River in Annapolis, Maryland, on Oct. 10, 1845. The school boasted a class of 50 midshipmen along with seven professors, and the curriculum included classes in mathematics, navigation, gunnery and steam, chemistry, English, natural philosophy and French.

Five years later, the Naval School became the United States Naval Academy. A new curriculum went into effect requiring midshipmen to study at the academy for four years and to train aboard ships each summer. That format is the basis of the curriculum at the Naval Academy today.

 As the U.S. Navy grew over the years, the academy expanded. The campus of 10 acres increased to 338. The original student body of 50 midshipmen grew to a brigade size of approximately 4,500.  Granite buildings replaced the old wooden structures of Fort Severn.

Congress authorized the Naval Academy to begin awarding Bachelor of Science degrees in 1933. The academy later replaced a fixed curriculum taken by all midshipmen with the present core curriculum plus a variety of major fields of study….fields of study today that include Nuclear Engineering, Cyber Operations and Aerospace Engineering.

The development of the United States Naval Academy has reflected the history of the country. As the United States has changed culturally and technologically, so has the Naval Academy, while maintaining its ultimate mission to ready students morally, mentally and physically for future leadership to the Navy, Marine Corps and this nation.

The Academic mission area at the Naval Academy is as strong as ever.  USNA was recently ranked as the #1 Public Liberal Arts school in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, and was ranked #1 among guidance counselors for recommendation to high school students.

Of the 25 majors currently offered, 19 are in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. Twenty-eight midshipmen in the class of 2016 are currently enrolled in the new cyber operations major, serving as the “plankowners” for that major, setting the course as plans are finalized for a future Center for Cyber Security Studies on campus.

The academy’s Community Relations Program has won the Navy’s annual Thompson-Ravitz Award for outstanding shore based community relations two years in a row, largely due to the efforts of the more than 500 midshipmen who volunteer to help the community through the Midshipman Action Group. Last year, the mids contributed more than 24,500 hours of service on both the local and national scale.

Earlier this fall, midshipmen spearheaded a bone marrow drive, collecting 2,014 donations to the C.W. Young DoD Bone Marrow Registry.  They led a community clean-up effort in Annapolis’ Jonas Green Park during the 9/11 National Day of Service, and they have started the effort to best last year’s 60,000+ lb food donation to the Harvest for the Hungry charity.

Athletic competition serves as the foundation for the skills needed for leadership in the Fleet and the Marine Corps, and the opportunities here are unlike any available anywhere else in the country.  With 33 varsity sports, the Naval Academy offers the third largest number of Division I sports teams in the country – behind Ohio State University and Stanford – for a student body of only 4,500. At the Naval Academy, every student participates in athletics. 

USNA continues to excel.  Navy totaled nine Patriot League scholar-athlete of the year award winners during the 2012-13 academic year. The Naval Academy has earned the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy nine of the last 11 years, and has bested Army on the football field 12 straight years.

Moral, mental and physical excellence.  That is the foundation of 169 years of proud legacy on the banks of the Severn River.  And the future looks even brighter. The 1,191 members of the Class of 2018 entered the academy July 1, boasting the largest percentage of women (25%), the highest average SAT scores and largest high school/prep athletic letter recognition of any incoming class.

 The Naval Academy continues on an upward trajectory.  The future is bright.  On this Founder’s Day, we remember names like Franklin Buchanan, Cornelius Stribling, David Porter, William Lawrence and Charles Larson as part of a proud past.  But with eyes fixed firmly on the future, the Naval Academy will continue to meet the demand signal of the fleet for officers of consequence and character.  


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