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NPS Says Farewell to Historian, Union Leader

Article By: Kenneth A. Stewart

A who’s who of distinguished local leaders, colleagues and retired admirals gathered on the Quarterdeck of the Naval Postgraduate School’s (NPS) Herrmann Hall to recognize NPS Dudley Knox Library Special Collections Manager and unofficial university historian John Sanders for his three decades of federal service, Oct. 30. Guests at the retirement ceremony were given the opportunity to have their photo taken with cut-outs of Sanders, dine on a 50-foot-long sandwich made in his honor, and read an original cartoon by Broadside creator Jeff Bacon, written just for the occasion.

“There are a lot of things I am going to miss about NPS. There’s the camaraderie and this remarkable historic property that we have. But I think at the very top, I will miss seeing the people who work so diligently at shaping the future with such an amazing level of commitment. I will miss being a part of that purpose and motivation,” said Sanders.

In addition to his work at both the NPS Public Affairs Office and the Dudley Knox Library, Sanders was a long-time member of the National Federation of Federal Employees’ Local 1690 and served as its vice president for nine years.

“John Sanders stands as the most eloquent and polished union official I have worked with. You couldn’t help but respect him in his tireless zeal to represent the people at NPS and the [Naval Support Activity Monterey],” said Local 1690 President Pete Randazzo. “I remain focused on his happiness in retirement so that I will not have to think about how much he will be missed.”

Prior to the commencement of Sanders’ retirement ceremony, he insisted that attendees “roast and toast” him in a celebration of not only his career, but of all the people that contribute to the university. He was adamant that there be “more roasts than toasts.” His son Aaron Sanders was the first to comply.

NPS Dudley Knox Library Special Collections Manager and unofficial university historian John Sanders and his wife Linda share a toast during his retirement ceremony on the Herrmann Hall Quarterdeck, Oct. 30. Sanders has been an NPS employee, and one of the institution’s staunchest supporters, for more than three decades.

“I would like to tell you some of the unpublished stories of John Sanders. He worked at NPS for 31 years so my brother and I pretty much grew up here.

“If you have been here for a while, you remember that there used to be a pool. My brother and I looked forward to going to it every single summer. That was our oasis. Our father was like a celebrity. When dad walked out in his bathing suit, cameras would flash and security guards would try to keep kids from falling into the pool as the paparazzi fought to get a shot of the sasquatch!” Aaron Sanders quipped.

Others were quick to note on Sanders’ penchant for being long-winded, and his dry sense of humor. Still, despite some funny anecdotes and light-hearted banter, the vast majority of people who spoke at the ceremony did so with admiration.

NPS Photographer Javier Chagoya’s prepared remarks are illustrative of the group’s general sentiment.

“No one knows or cares more about NPS than John. When he left the Public Affairs Office to begin work establishing the Special Collections Branch of the [Dudley] Knox Library, it couldn’t have been a better fit,” he said. “As a matter of fact, NPS’ deep history would be lost if it were not for John’s inner calling as an archivist, treasure hunter of artifacts, and his penchant for being a packrat.”

Sanders came to NPS as a writer/editor with the Public Affairs Office in 1984. He served in various public affairs capacities over a 24-year period appearing on CNN and occasionally hosting the local, “Your Town” television program. Throughout Sanders’ long career, he has done everything from helping an iconic cartoonist launch his career to impersonating Bob Hope. But Sanders is most proud of his contribution to educational initiatives, like the Discovery Day program.

“We had some 5,000 kids here exploring science and technology,” recalled Sanders. “Discovery Day was for the curious and imaginative. It captured what NPS was able to do for this community. There were even bus loads full of kids coming down from Oakland and San Francisco to participate.”

Sanders is also proud of the tribute he offered to Bob Hope in recognition of his service to members of the Navy and his many visits to NPS. During the tribute, he impersonated the comedian in military uniform with Hope’s trademark golf club in hand.

“It took a lot of courage for me to arrive with my golf clubs. Imagine me showing St. Peter I’m a golfer, then trying to convince him I’ve never told a lie,” joked Sanders during his monologue.

“When I finished the tribute, [retired Navy Capt.] Carol O’Neal struck up the Del Monte Brass. Then, with the spotlight still on me, former NPS President Patrick Dunne and Professor Gordon Eubanks got up and shook my hand. That really meant a lot to me,” recalled Sanders.

But Sanders also faced challenges while serving at NPS. Professionally, he watched as administrations, professors, students and colleagues came and went. Personally, he fought a long battle with cancer, and won. Through it all, Sanders has kept a tremendously positive attitude and an endearing sense of humor. He attributes much of that to the good times he shared at NPS.

“As much as anything, it’s the laughter in this place [that makes it special]. If you let yourself feel it, NPS resounds with the laughter of so many people, like Bob Hope, who came here to entertain troops after WWII. These buildings echo with the joy of those times,” said Sanders.

Now that Sanders has retired he intends to focus on his quality of life by spending time with his family and friends, focusing on his ongoing recovery from cancer, and writing a few books that he has been flirting with for some time.

Posted November 4, 2015

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