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New Traditions at Naval Academy : Minorities Now Make Up a Quarter of the Enrollees

Charles Hillinger's America

November 06, 1987|CHARLES HILLINGER | Times Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The senior class president and the brigade commander, the two top offices at the U.S. Naval Academy, are currently held by black midshipmen.

Roger Isom, 21, of Monticello, Fla., one of nine children whose Charles Hillinger's America

father farms 63 acres, is this year's brigade commander. Kennon Artis, 22, of Washington, son of a patent examiner at the U.S. Patent Office, is senior class president.

The achievements by the two young men speak well for the minority program launched at the academy in recent years. In 1970, there were only 27 black midshipmen at Annapolis. Today there are 257. Although the academy was established in 1845, it wasn't until 1949 that Wesley A. Brown became the first black American to graduate from it.

Artis was not only elected senior class president, he was elected president of his freshman, sophomore and junior classes as well. Elections for class president at the academy are highly spirited and competitive.

"This last election was really tough. My three opponents were all good friends," recalled Artis, who had never run for an office before coming to Annapolis is his plebe (freshman) year. "I was never president of a high school class. I wasn't involved in school government until I came to the academy," he said.

On Track, Football Teams

Artis has been on the varsity track and lightweight football teams. He has been a company commander.

"I never had an interest in anything military until my mother and I drove a half hour from our home to see a parade at the Naval Academy when I was in high school. I liked what I saw. After I graduate in May, I hope to spend the next several years sailing the seven seas and driving ships," he confided.

Isom, holder of the highest midshipman military command, has three older brothers and a younger sister in the Army. He is the first in his family to go to college.

"A Navy recruiter came to my small high school and told us about Annapolis. I applied and here I am," said the tall midshipman who has maintained a 3.1 grade average and is an aerospace engineer major. He hopes to become a Navy pilot.

Isom has been a leader in the academy's military programs ever since he entered the school. He was brigade commander of his junior class as well.

"These have been very exciting years for me, and I'm eagerly looking forward to my career as a naval officer. You can imagine how pleased and proud my parents are. Mother and Dad have come up from their tiny farm in Florida three times. They love this place as much as I do," Isom said.

Of the 4,696 midshipmen enrolled at the Naval Academy, 1,162 are minorities--257 black, 256 Latinos, 209 Asian Americans, 28 American Indians and 412 women.

President Gerald R. Ford in 1975 signed legislation authorizing admission of women to the service academies. The first female midshipmen entered the Naval Academy in July, 1976, and graduated with the class of 1980.

Annette Schlutermann, 22, of Melbourne, Fla., is one of this year's 78 female seniors. She received a presidential appointment as a daughter of an active serviceman. Her father is an Army staff sergeant with 24 years service.

"I applied and was not appointed, so I accepted a scholarship to the University of Miami," said Schlutermann, a 5-foot-5, auburn-haired midshipman. "Toward the end of my first year at Miami I applied to the Naval Academy again. It is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. I decided to go for it. This time I got it."

She said she hasn't met any kind of animosity being a woman. "This place has enriched my life so much. It has been one adventure after another," she said, describing helicopter training at Pensacola, Marine Corps training at Quantico and four weeks aboard a destroyer during summer training programs.

Every one of the 4,696 midshipmen currently enrolled came to the academy by appointment, the largest number congressional appointments, five from each of the 435 representatives, and five from each of the 100 senators.

In addition, there are midshipmen appointed from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Panama Canal. The vice president is entitled to name five midshipmen, the President 100 annually, all sons and daughters of career military members.

Other appointments come from the regular Navy and Marine Corps, from the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve, from military schools and ROTC programs. Sons and daughters of disabled veterans and of POWs, and sons and daughters of people awarded the Medal of Honor receive appointments, as well as 40 midshipmen appointed from foreign countries.

Of the 15,565 who applied for appointments to the Naval Academy for this year's beginning class, 1,335 were accepted. At the end of four years, about 1,000 of these freshmen will graduate. The rest will drop out or fail.

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