Thursday, June 2, 2016

USNA's Class of 2016 Chooses Three Honorary Class Members

By MC2 Jonathan Correa

The U.S. Naval Academy’s Class of 2016 chose three individuals to be honored at this year’s USNA Graduation and Commissioning ceremony at the Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium May 27.

The selection of honorary members of the graduating class is designed to recognize individuals who have had an impact on the graduating class throughout their four years at the academy.

The honorary members of the Class of 2016 are James McNally, professor and head boxing coach; Dave Brandt, head men’s soccer coach; and Gunnery Sgt. Elizabeth Abbott, brigade drill master and 6th Company senior enlisted leader.

USNA Brigade Drill Master Gunnery Sgt. Elizabeth Abbott, one of the
Class of 2016's three honorary grads

“All three have had an effect on Midshipmen, whether it is through coaching, teaching in the PE Department or LEAD Division, instructing the brigade on drill, and mentoring midshipmen,” said Midshipman First Class Eric Kellogg, Class of 2016 president. “These three awardees went above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of midshipmen, and we are beyond excited to welcome them into our class.”

Each year it is the class president’s responsibility to coordinate the election and calculate the votes to determine that year’s honorary class members.

“As we get ready to graduate and everyone is congratulating us, it is important for the graduating seniors to recognize people who have helped guide us through our journey,” said Kellogg. “The academy can be a difficult four years, and no one makes it through alone.”

This year’s honorees were selected based on their unique contributions to developing midshipmen morally, mentally and physically.

Abbott has been at the academy for over a year and was hand-picked by Marine Col. Roberta Shea, former deputy commandant of midshipmen. Abbott works directly with midshipmen on a regular basis in drill instruction and professional training. Her’s leadership, dedication, and respect toward the midshipmen and are some of the reasons why she was picked to be an honorary member of the Class of 2016.

“I am more than honored and flattered that the Class of 2016 would even consider me,” said Abbott. “I feel as if I have bonded the most with 2016. Although I am happy to see them spread their wings and get out to the fleet forces to lead Marines and Sailors, they truly will be missed.”

USNA Boxing Coach James McNally, one of the Class of 2016's three honorary grads

McNally has been with the Acadamy for 30 years in physical education and is the head boxing coach at the academy. All midshipmen experience his boxing and martial arts classes, from Plebe Summer and throughout their four years at the academy. While coaching at Navy, his teams have won five national championships and been runner-up ten times. He has coached 43 individual national champions who have won 61 national titles.

“I am happy to have been picked by the midshipmen,” said McNally. “I like to think that they feel more confident in themselves having gone through my classes in boxing and martial arts. A great team player will be a major asset in their future.”

Brandt has been coaching the men's soccer team for seven years. In those seven years he has been a major influence in the success of the program. He is the winningest active coach in Division I men’s soccer and a four-time National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Coach of the Year. Brandt led the Naval Academy men’s soccer team to perhaps their greatest stretch of two-year play in the program’s history from 2013 to 2014. During this stretch, his team won a combined 27 matches – tied for the highest two-year win total in the program’s history.

USNA Men's Soccer Coach Dave Brandt, one of the
Class of 2016's three honorary grads

“I came to the academy because of what I felt was the very strong connection between my own values and philosophies of leadership and the institution's values and leadership emphasis,” said Brandt. “Teaching, coaching and mentoring has always been for me a dynamic relationship-oriented thing. There is constant give and take in that relationship, and we are constantly impacting and learning from each other.”

Brandt's selection as an honorary member of the class is especially poignant as he is leaving the academy this year to take a job as head coach of the pro team the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

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