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NPS Celebrates “That Was the Year That Was!” Centennial Finale

Article By: Barbara Honegger

It was the place to be Saturday night! The Barbara McNitt ballroom returned to the elegant glory of its past as more than 200 members of the NPS community danced the night away at the Centennial Finale Gala, raising their collective glasses in “Toasting the Next Century.”From a personalized message from the International Space Station to the final triumphant flourish of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” conducted by the composer’s great granddaughter, the Naval Postgraduate School celebrated the week that was, of the year that was, of the Century that was in its Centennial Finale, May 27-31.

As the Del Monte Brass band played “Anchors Away,” the close of the university’s first 100 years kicked off with a welcome by Centennial spokesperson and NPS National Reconnaissance Office Chair Dan Bursch in King Auditorium, May 27.

“Of all my accomplishments in 26 years of service as a naval flight officer and astronaut, one of my proudest achievements is earning my graduate degree [Engineering Science, 1991] from the Naval Postgraduate School,” Bursch told the packed audience of students, faculty and staff before introducing President Dan Oliver for the State of the School address, “A Year of Tradition: Celebration and Discovery.”

“Thank you for joining us on this remarkable weekend as we bring to a close our Centennial Celebration and embrace the beginning of our second century of providing unique, defense-relevant education and research,” Oliver opened. “It was one year ago that we gathered in this very auditorium to launch a year-long commemoration, and it has been a truly remarkable year.”

“This Centennial year has given us a renewed sense of purpose. We held our first-ever Alumni reunion and are building an annual tradition with the events you are all here for today. We showcased some of our university’s greatest assets – our students – to leaders throughout the defense infrastructure in Washington, D.C. We held an Astronaut reunion, inviting our long list of 38 space-travelling alumni back to campus, and hosted an educational event directly from the International Space Station to nearly 1,000 local 8th graders here in King Auditorium. We created a time capsule soon to be buried in the newly renovated Spruance Plaza that will offer future generations of the NPS family a snapshot of what our institution is like today … And we placed a lasting memorial timeline stretching the length of Root Hall that will forever honor our history.”

NASA Astronaut Navy Capt. Alan Poindexter, NPS alum and Commander of the recent Space Shuttle Discovery mission, served as a guest of honor for the Centennial Finale, outlining his latest mission to the International Space Station to attendees during his lecture in the ME Auditorium.To a backdrop of colorful and action-packed slides, Oliver showcased outstanding examples of defense-relevant research by the university’s “greatest assets,” its students and faculty; its state-of-the-art technology and infrastructure; and the strategic planning and resources that make NPS a uniquely successful graduate research university. He reviewed academic projects and programs “that represent a wonderful microcosm of the educational vitality unleashed on our campus on a daily basis,” including the NPS Graduate School of Business and Public Policy being ranked in the Top 50 graduate public administration programs – “a true mark of honor and a measure of our reputation with peer academic institutions” – and the Defense Resources Management Institute recently hosting 30 high-level officials from Iraq’s ministries of defense and interior.

Oliver noted the continuation of the school’s five-year Strategic Plan, “Vision for a New Century,” to guide and drive the university into its second 100 years, created under the direction of Executive Vice President and Provost Leonard Ferrari, and the creation of a new Committee on the Future chaired by NPS Undersea Warfare Chair retired Rear Adm. Jerry Ellis. The mission of the new committee – comprised of select NPS faculty and administrators, members of the Board of Advisors; visionaries from the defense network and armed services; high-level academics from other institutions; and the president of the student council – will be to unleash its collective intellect to envision the Navy, the Department of Defense and NPS five, 10 and 20 years out and to anticipate curricula to meet those future needs.

“I have never been more honored to be associated with an institution than I am with the Naval Postgraduate School,” Oliver said. “Our Centennial celebration has provided our entire campus community, both here in Monterey and our thousands of alumni across the world, with a tremendous sense of purpose and pride… I congratulate you for being part of NPS during this remarkable time, and ask you to join me as we cross this auspicious threshold into our second century.”

Bursch then introduced Director of Alumni Relations and Centennial Headquarters Kari Miglaw, who energized the audience with a “100 Years of NPS” review of the yearlong celebrations.  In addition to all those just mentioned by Oliver, they included the induction of NPS alumnus Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen into the NPS Hall of Fame, creation of the Alumni Relations online community, Earth Day and “Green” Energy Day.  Recognized as one of the Navy’s greenest shore facilities, NPS recently broke ground on the service’s first green building -- a high-tech classroom facility that will be Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design (LEED) certified. 

“NPS approached the Centennial as more than just a big birthday party,” Miglaw said. “We took this as a golden opportunity to highlight our heritage as the nation’s leading graduate-level, research-based defense university. Throughout this centennial year, we set the stage to ensure NPS’ next century is even more productive than its first.”

“It takes you, NPS’ innovators, to link the technological solutions to the critical challenges we face as a nation and as a global coalition,” she told the students. “Our legacy of instilling leadership, character and service that creates these vital innovators has kept and will keep the Naval Postgraduate School essential and relevant for another 100 years. You, who are here today, will carry the NPS torch and define the success of NPS in the future … One of you in this auditorium will be the next great leader and will be in the new NPS Bicentennial Hall of Fame. You will remind people of the value NPS delivers to the national and global stage. The next chapter of NPS history and the NPS legacy is now yours to write.”

Following the State of the University address by President Dan Oliver, NPS officials braved a little wet weather while dedicating the Centennial Time Capsule in Spruance Plaza. Shown, from left to right, are Director of Alumni Relations and Centennial Planning Kari Miglaw, Oliver, Centennial Spokesman and NPS Chair Professor Dan Bursch, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Kerri McCann, Public Works Officer in Charge Matt McCann and NPS Base Director Pete Dausen.Memorabilia from the first 100 years of that history will be buried in a Centennial Time Capsule in the center of the newly renovated Spruance Plaza in a dual dedication ceremony June 9, the actual 101st anniversary of the founding of NPS at Annapolis in 1909.  The capsule, capped by a giant bronze Centennial seal with the School’s informal peacock mascot is intended to be opened by NPS students, faculty and staff 100 years -- and 400 NPS classes -- in the future.   

On May 28, campus leaders officiated at a ground-breaking ceremony for NPS’ new Centennial Park next to Lake Del Monte. When completed, the grassy park will sport benches and a Sept. 11 statue containing a piece of steel from the World Trade Center.

In the afternoon, NPS graduate (Aeronautical Engineering, 1995) and Astronaut Navy Capt. Alan “Dex” Poindexter regaled an audience in Mechanical Engineering Auditorium with his experiences as the commander of the recent STS-131 Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS).  Just seven weeks earlier, it was Poindexter who led the live downlink from the ISS to local grammar school students in King Auditorium. 

Poindexter noted a number of firsts for the mission, including the first time the combined weight of the Shuttle and Space Station reached one million pounds and a record of four women astronauts on board.  Commenting on a NASA video of breathtaking views of the Earth from horizon to horizon taken from the Station’s new cupola window, Poindexter stressed the international dimension of the Space venture to achieving a geopolitical breakthrough. 

The NPS Color Guard, in perfect unison, kicks off the 2010 edition of NPS’ popular annual Concert on the Lawn. The yearly tradition packed the grounds surrounding the front of Herrmann Hall while the Monterey Bay Symphony played a variety of patriotic music“When you see the Earth from space, you don’t see political boundaries,” Poindexter stressed in a prelude to his keynote address at the Centennial Finale Gala dinner and dance the following evening. “You don’t see Asia and Africa and America as being different. If five international space agencies can partner and work together in space for common goals and purposes, which we’re doing in the International Space Station, there has to be a way to fix the political differences here on Earth.”

The day was capped by an evening Centennial wine and beer tasting and “Sip the Peninsula” charitable auction under a grand tent on the east lawn of Herrmann Hall, co-hosted by the Alumni Relations Office and NPS Officer Students’ Spouses’ Club. The event featured live music and more than 20 Central Coast vineyards and breweries, with the funds raised going to military family scholarships and local and military charities.

The “Crown Jewel” of the Centennial Finale was a Gala dinner dance in the Barbara McNitt Ballroom of the Old Del Monte Hotel on the theme “A Toast to the Next 100 Years.” Centennial spokesperson and master of ceremonies Dan Bursch played a surprise videotaped message from the International Space Station before ringing the elegantly dressed guests to their seats. “We made a cosmic request a few months ago,” Bursch quipped, “and luckily it was approved.”

“Greetings from the International Space Station,” Col. T. J. Creamer, an Army aviator and Flight Engineer on Expedition 23, said from the big screen in Herrmann Hall’s grand lobby. “Although my path to the stars didn’t include the Naval Postgraduate School, I know that NPS was the path for 38 of my fellow Astronauts. I want to wish the Naval Postgraduate School congratulations on the accomplishments of your first 100 years. Enjoy the Centennial Finale Gala, and here’s to the bright future of NPS and space in the next 100 years!”

One of the Concert on the Lawn’s guests of honor, Monterey Mayor Chuck Della Salla, welcomed the near 2,000 guests filling the grounds near Herrmann Hall.Following a hearty welcome by President Oliver, Bursch led the 200 guests in a Centennial toast:  “I would like to propose a toast to those who made the first 100 years of the Naval Postgraduate School a magnificent century of discovery and dedication.  Here is to the Naval Postgraduate School and the next 100 years!”  

Bursch then introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Capt. Poindexter, who captivated the guests with highlights from his career as a Naval Astronaut, again stressing the importance of the international dimension of Space exploration and the International Space Station for the future of humanity.  

While the band played, guests enjoyed a sumptuous four-course dinner topped by an Angel food dessert crowned by a chocolate Centennial peacock mascot, and everyone danced until the stroke of midnight.  

As a prelude to Memorial Day, the school held a special non-denominational Service of Remembrance for all those who have served the nation on Sunday, May 30, led by NPS Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Statler.

The Finale of the Finale was a special Memorial Day Concert on the Lawn on the theme “A Day to Remember” with the Monterey Bay Pops Orchestra jointly celebrating the Naval Postgraduate School’s 100th year and the 25th anniversary of the Monterey Bay Symphony. NPS flung open its gates to more than 2,000 members of the local community who basked on a sea of brightly colored blankets while listened to rousing marches. A highlight was the inaugural performance of a special tribute to local poet Robinson Jeffers of his stanzas set to original music by Robert Nelson, read by narrator Taelen Thomas.

'A Day to Remember,' it truly was. In a perfect ending to the Centennial Finale, John Philip Sousa’s great granddaughter led the orchestra in an encore of her great grandfather’s stirring march “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

For more information about the NPS Centennial, go to

Posted June 2, 2010


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