ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The 61st superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy took command Tuesday, pledging to make ethics a priority after financial irregularities were discovered by Navy investigators under his predecessor.
Vice Adm. Michael Miller, who served as Navy chief of legislative affairs in Washington, took over at a change-of-command ceremony from Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler.
In a speech at the ceremony, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, vice chief of Naval Operations, emphasized the complexities of the superintendent's job. He compared it to the Hydra of Greek mythology, a seven-headed serpent that grew two more heads every time one was severed.
"It's like the Hydra of mythology, right? It's complicated," Greenert said. "It's dynamic. It's herding cats. It's strategic, operational and tactical, and that's all in one day, and it's not for the meek, for sure."
Fowler kept his remarks under seven minutes, reminiscing about family and friends who helped him through his 32-year Navy career.
"I have no regrets," Fowler said. "I have such happy, amazing memories."
Miller, who is a native of North Dakota like Fowler, said he would make ethics a top priority.
"I am convinced that an ethical foundation must come first, and that will be our starting point while I'm here," he said.
Fowler made diversity a top priority of his tenure in an effort to make the school's student body representative of the Navy, and the academy has made big gains. Minority applications for the class of 2014 were the most in the school's history, with 5,379.
Greenert also praised Fowler for increasing midshipmen's exposure to Navy experience outside the classroom and for pushing to create a Center for Cyber Security Studies on the school's campus.
"Jeff sees the future," Greenert said. "He knows it's about cyber, among other things, and he did something about it."
Fowler's tenure, which began in 2007, was clouded by spending irregularities that included a "sham" slush fund, according to a report completed in November by the Office of the Naval Inspector General. Although the Navy emphasized that Fowler didn't benefit from the irregularities, investigators criticized the fund and the improper solicitation of gifts relating to efforts to retain the school's football coaches.
Wesley Brown, the first African-American to graduate from the Naval Academy in the Class of 1949, praised Fowler for his work on diversity. Brown, an 83-year-old alumnus who was in the audience at the ceremony, said he didn't think Fowler deserved to go out this way.
"I'm very sorry to see that he was smeared at the end there," Brown said. "A lot of the alumni feel that way."
U.S. Naval Academy: http://www.usna.edu