Class History: 1959

General

The Class of 1959 entered the Naval Academy on 27 June, 1955. Additional members continued to arrive over the summer until our class grew to a total of approximately 1,200.

798 classmates graduated on 3 June, 1959. 639 entered the Navy, 58 became U.S. Marine Corps officers, 83 entered the U.S. Air Force, 6 entered the U.S. Army, 4 foreign nationals returned to their home nations, and 8 were not physically qualified for a commission in the military.

Class members served in the armed forces during the Cold War—the sustained buildup of the military strength of the U.S. to combat the power of the Soviet Union, which included the Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam conflict. The Cold War was one of endurance and lasted nearly 40 years. In some respects, the long conflict is similar to the situation that faces our Link in the Chain Class of 2009 with the War on Terrorism.

During our time in the military, 31 members of the class were selected for flag rank, with two reaching the level of four star Admiral. One flag officer was Marine Corps, and four were Air Force. Thirty-six members who graduated in the class died while serving on active duty. The last class member retired from military service in November 1994.

Several members of the Class served the nation in high governmental positions to include: National Security Advisor to the President of the United States; Assistant Secretary of State; Assistant Secretary of Commerce; Assistant Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, and United States Ambassador. Many were successful in private business serving as chief executive officers of various companies and corporations.

One class member represented the United States in the 1960 Olympics and one member was selected as the 18th Academy graduate to be elected into the College Football Hall of Fame.

USNA Days

During our years at the Academy, a variety of unique events occurred. A record heat wave covered the East Coast of the United States during July and August, which caused Plebe Summer to be a traumatic and dramatic time. That Plebe Summer began to forge the bonds among classmates that have continued to grow over the 50 years since our graduation. In July 1955 the Class participated in a history-making event when Admiral Arleigh Burke, USN, was sworn in as Chief of Naval Operations in Annapolis. He was the first CNO ever to take the oath of office outside of Washington, DC and the Class provided the formation for his military review. The President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief, General Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the Academy during our time as Midshipmen.

The appearance of the Yard began to change significantly in 1957 when the landfill needed to expand the grounds was initiated. Subsequently, following graduation, the 7th and 8th wings of Bancroft Hall, Chauvenet and Michaelson Halls, the Nimitz Library and other facilities were built on that new ground which was previously part of the Severn River. Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium was built during that period also with the first game played in the facility in September 1959 shortly after the Class graduated. As Midshipmen, ‘59ers attended one game a year in smallish Thompson Stadium (now demolished) in the Yard and all other home games in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium (also now demolished).

The U.S. Navy was also changing during our four years as midshipmen. Nuclear power as a propulsion system for ships began to be installed in submarines. Missiles began to replace or supplement guns as weapons systems on ships, and the angled deck super aircraft carrier was introduced. The USS FORRESTAL (CVA-59) was the first of the new super carriers and was chosen as the centerpiece of the Class of ‘59 crest and is prominently displayed on our class ring.

Service Time

Members of the Class of 1959 filled a productive thirty-five year span of service in the armed forces. The changes initiated in the Navy during Midshipman days continued. Nuclear power was extended to surface ships when the USS LONG BEACH (CGN-9) was commissioned in September 1961. A member of the Class implemented the order to “post the watch” as the first officer of the deck when the ship went into full service. Many classmates saw action in Vietnam, at sea, in the air, and on the ground. Other class members served as commanding officers of nuclear submarines and surface ships including the super aircraft carriers. Class members who chose the Marine Corps, the Air Force and the Army also distinguished themselves in numerous command positions. Some flag officers served as battle group commanders with ships of the “modern” Navy comprising the assigned ships. This was the Navy that played a key role in the defeat of communism and the winning of the Cold War. President Ronald Reagan described the Cold War as the most important war ever won, perhaps the most important victory in modern history.

Support to the Naval Academy

The Class of 1959 has generously provided the following gifts to the Naval Academy: Alumni Hall Plaza and park area; the refurbishment of the Chancellery area of the Chapel and restoration of the Chapel altar; 19th Company sponsor; and 36 chairs in Alumni Hall in memory of graduated classmates lost on active duty. Annually, a watch is presented to the outstanding lineman on the football team in the name of a class member; several lockers in the football dressing room are named in honor of classmates. In celebration of our 50th reunion in 2009, the Class is helping to significantly upgrade the Naval Academy Columbarium. Class members have served as Candidate Guidance Officers in the Blue and Gold program and recommended students who were admitted to and graduated from the Academy. Some have served in the Alumni Association as nationally elected officers.

Class Organization

The management of all class activities is directed by an Executive Committee, which consists of five members with elections every two years. Some members have served multiple terms for extended periods on the Executive Committee. Approximately 50 classmates have filled officer leadership positions on the Executive Committee since it was established.

A Class website has been created with the address: www.usna.com/classes/1959.

At graduation, permanent “honorary” class officers were elected. Vice Admiral Francis R. Donovan, USN (Ret.) is the Class President, serving as the Class spokesman and participating in a collaborative role with the Executive Committee.

Service to the Nation and to the Naval Academy has been the hallmark of the Class of 1959.

 

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