The U.S. Naval Academy paid tribute to four of its alumni March 30 and 31 through the 2007 Naval Academy Alumni Association Distinguished Graduate Award program.
Retired Rear Adm. Maurice H. Rindskopf, retired Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, Ralph W. Hooper, and retired Adm. Leighton W. Smith Jr. received the Distinguished Graduate Award in a ceremony March 30, and participated in a leadership conference with more than 500 Midshipmen March 31.
During the ceremony, the Midshipmen learned about Rindskopf’s exploits as a submariner in the Pacific during World War II; Hayward’s experiences as Chief of Naval Operations; Hooper’s business, sailing and philanthropic interests; and Smith’s meteoric rise from a plebe nearly flunking out of the Academy to an admiral tasked with carrying out the Dayton Peace Accords in Bosnia.
After graduating from the Academy in 1938, Rindskopf was executive officer on USS Drum (SS 228) when the skipper left for an operation and never returned. Rindskopf was offered the opportunity to train another skipper or to take command, at the age of 26.
“That decision was easy to make,” Rindskopf said. As a result of that experience Rindskopf advised the Midshipmen, “Pick your mentor. Listen and learn because you never know when your turn is.”
Hayward graduated from the Naval Academy in 1948. He talked about the challenges he faced as Chief of Naval Operations from 1978-1982. The nation's attitude was anti-Vietnam, and the Navy was losing its quality enlisted men and senior officers. As CNO, Hayward wanted to eradicate drug use in the Navy, and did so with support from the Navy's chain of command.
According to Hayward, every chief petty officer, division officer and commanding officer throughout the fleet stood up and said, “Not in my squadron, not in my division, not on my ship.”
Hooper served eight years in the Navy after graduating from the Academy in 1951. He then joined his four brothers in running the family business, Insterstate Ocean Transport Company, which grew from 38 sailors to thousands, shipping more oil than any other freight company in the nation.
“How do you spell luck? W-O-R-K," said Hooper. "Make your own luck. Make the most of each and every minute.”
According to Smith, he found the reservoir of strength he had begun developing as a Midshipman paid dividends throughout his career.
“You take the necessary risks and are tested to the limits. You go beyond what you believe you’re capable of doing, and you do it because it’s expected,” said Smith, who graduated in 1962. “That’s the way it was, that’s the way it is, and that’s the way it will be. That’s what honor, courage and commitment is all about.”
Throughout his career, whenever he was faced with difficult and challenging situations, Smith would remember the words of his Commandant of Midshipmen. “You can do this. It’s all up to you.”
The Distinguished Graduate Award was established in 1999 and recognizes living graduates of the Naval Academy who have provided a lifetime of service to the nation or armed forces, have made significant distinguished contributions to the nation via their public service and have demonstrated a strong interest in supporting the Navy or Marine Corps and the United States Naval Academy.
Rindskopf, Hayward, Hooper and Smith join the ranks of previous awardees, including Heisman trophy winner Roger Staubach, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. William Crowe Jr., Apollo 13 astronaut Capt. James Lovell, former President of the United States, the Honorable James E. Carter, Medal of Honor recipient and Vice Presidential candidate Vice Adm. James B. Stockdale, and philanthropist H. Ross Perot.
By Martha Thorn, U.S. Naval Academy Public Affairs