Describe your path since graduating from Portsmouth Abbey School.
After graduating from the Abbey, I attended Villanova University on a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship and studied Civil and Environmental Engineering. For those who do not know what NROTC is, it is a phenomenal program where the Navy pays for much of your college and you pay back the tuition with several years of active duty service upon graduation. Ask your college counselor if you are interested. My senior year at Villanova I was assigned to serve in the Submarine Force, and I began preparing for that several months after graduation. For the next two years I attended submarine officer training schools in South Carolina, New York, and Connecticut—all designed to teach you how to supervise operation of a nuclear reactor and learn the basics of driving a submarine—followed by Navy Dive School in Panama City, Florida. From there, I moved to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where I served on the USS TUCSON (SSN-770) for 3 years and completed two deployments to the Western Pacific. I left the USS TUCSON at the end of last summer when I moved to Washington, DC and reported to the Pentagon, where I now work as the aide to the Director of Undersea Warfare. I will be here for two years and am still deciding what to do next, including the possibility of exploring career options outside the Navy.
How did your experience at Portsmouth Abbey School help you become the person & professional you are today?
The first thing that comes to mind (aside from the people of course) are the leadership opportunities available in the community. Portsmouth Abbey gave me so many chances to lead, and that allowed for a much more seamless transition into leadership roles in college and in the Navy. To link the Abbey to my current career, being so immersed in the culture, the student body, and the community as a whole is not unlike working on a submarine—both are very immersive, often difficult environments that few people outside of the community understand, in which you are striving to perform well every day in many different disciplines. Both are also small enough communities that a few select personalities can and do make strong impressions on the atmosphere. At Portsmouth Abbey, you have the unique ability to get very involved in a wide variety of things, and in doing so grow into a multi-faceted leader of your peers. You don’t just get to interact with people in class, in a club, or at practice—you see many of the same people in all of those things, and to top it off you (not me, I was a day student) live with them. Getting to know others and yourself in these different ways allows you to begin to hone leadership skills that will serve you well in the future, if you choose.
Portsmouth Abbey is also where I learned to write. I say that knowing some of the people who taught me to write are likely cringing as they read parts of this. But when I traded the liberal arts-focused curriculum at the Abbey for the College of Engineering and the Navy, it made all the difference. A little bit (okay, a lot) stuck with me through the hours of practice problems and labs in college. Future engineers, please don’t get me wrong: when you’re sitting in a classroom struggling with an exam on structural mechanics, heat transfer, or nuclear physics, no one cares if you can string a well-written sentence together. After all of that, though, it pays dividends. The ability to write has given me an advantage, and I have the Abbey to thank for that.
What is a piece of advice you’d give to current Portsmouth Abbey students?
Full disclosure: I’m not sure if anyone should be taking my advice… but for what it’s worth, first of all thank your parents for caring enough about you to send you to the Abbey. After you have done that, seek responsibility and lead: strive to make an impact on the community. Finally, if you’re like me and can often be a little high-strung, it’s worth taking a deep breath every once in a while and realizing how many incredible opportunities are available to you.