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A Look Back at USNA Superintendents, Part I

Mar 29, 2023 10:00:00 AM

A Look Back at USNA Superintendents, Part I


It’s one of the most prominent and respected roles at the U.S. Naval Academy, usually filled by Admirals who serve for four years. Over 60 people have held this post since the Naval Academy’s founding in 1845. It’s the office of the Superintendent of USNA, the equivalent to a civilian college’s president, and we’re going to take a look at the people who’ve defined this role and in doing so, helped shape the entire Academy over the course of its history.

A Wealth of Naval Leadership Experience

Each person who represented the Naval Academy in this role was noteworthy in many ways. Their prior experience earned them the honor of serving at the highest position, and their subsequent dedication to improving the Naval Academy during their tenure solidified it. It’s impossible to highlight all of the 60 plus superintendents in a couple of posts, so we have selected a number of superintendents based on their historical prominence, as well as their inclusion in what the USNA Alumni Association has called “Distinguished Graduates,” a program established in 1998 “to honor graduates who have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to service, personal character and distinguished contributions to our nation.” We’ll cover them over three articles.

Not all USNA superintendents have been USNA graduates, so this list is by no means exhaustive. Also, while many of the more recent superintendents may still be inducted into this Distinguished Graduates group, the following highlights some already given this accolade. All of the USNA superintendents are incredibly notable and we are humbly grateful for their dedicated service.

Related: History of USNA

Superintendents of USNA have a number of responsibilities, among them supervising a civilian Academic Dean, academic program and the faculty, as well as the Commandant of Midshipmen, who is the dean of students and oversees all professional and military training. Together with the academic division directors, all three are on the academic board that defines USNA academic standards. USNA superintendents’ roles also go beyond these functions to play a vital role in the midshipmen’s social, cultural and academic experience by hosting them at their home and participating in various other events throughout the year.

Related: Superintendent’s Residence Highlight

Let’s take a brief look at some of the superintendents who’ve served the Academy over its long history.

Franklin Buchanan

September 17, 1800 - May 11, 1874
Served as Superintendent: September 3, 1845 - March 14, 1847 (1st)

The first superintendent to take the reins of the newly formed U.S. Naval Academy (then called the Naval School), Buchanan distinguished himself through his naval service from 1815-1845 and was the originator of  the National Naval Academy. He fought in the Mexican War in 1847-48 and journeyed with Commodore Matthew C. Perry to Japan in 1852-54. As an admiral during the Civil War, he was in battle in Mobile Bay in August 1864. He became a businessman in Mobile, Alabama, after the conflict, he returned home to Maryland and passed away in 1874. Three U.S. Navy destroyers bear his name, and his legacy as the first leader of the Academy endures.

Edward Walter Eberle

August 17, 1864 - July 6, 1929
Served as Superintendent: September 20, 1915 - January 30, 1919 (24th)

Edward Eberle had a long and distinguished naval career, starting with his attendance at the Naval Academy from 1881-1885. He learned about naval gunnery while working at the Washington Navy Yard, and this became a lifelong passion. Over the course of his service, Eberle did tours with USS Lancaster and sailing sloop-of-war Marion in Asiatic waters, and later the battleship Oregon in San Francisco, overseeing the forward gun turret. His ship rose to the challenge when Congress declared war on Spain, racing from Puget Sound to the Caribbean, and Eberle caught the eye of senior officers with his skillful turret handling during the conflict. 

He was promoted to lieutenant and later became aide to the superintendent. He next became an instructor at the Naval War College. Then in 1915 he took the reins as USNA superintendent, serving for one of the longer terms until he left to command the battleship divisions of the Atlantic Fleet and earned the title of Rear Admiral. On June 30, 1921, Eberle took command of the Pacific Fleet. He rose to Chief of Naval Operations and worked to accomplish several important goals, among them expediting the aircraft carriers Lexington and Saratoga, maintaining the Navy’s air arm and handling pressing legislative matters. On August 9, 1928, Rear Admiral Eberle retired from the Navy; he died the following year but left an indelible mark on the Academy and the U.S. Navy.

Charles Stamps Minter, Jr.

January 23, 1915 - April 18, 2008
Served as Superintendent: January 11, 1964 - June 12, 1965 (43rd)

A member of the Class of 1937, Minter shone at crew and football during his time at the Academy. After graduation, he earned his aviator wings in 1941 and was thrust into World War II, flying missions around the world. He was Air Operations Officer for Randolph, a ship that deployed air strikes on Tokyo, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He became a test pilot, then joined the war efforts in Korea. After, Minter served as Commanding Officer of USS Albemarle; Commanding Officer of USS Intrepid; Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Logistics); Commander, Fleet Air Wing, Pacific; and Deputy Chairman, NATO Military Committee.

He was the Commandant of Midshipmen from June 2, 1961 through January 11, 1964, when he took over the Office of Superintendent, serving through 1965, the only officer of his contemporaries to hold both posts. Vice Admiral Minter continued to work as president of the USNA Alumni Association and Retired Officers Association after his retirement in 1974. He was named a USNA Distinguished Graduate in 2002. 

History Marches On

We’ll explore the next set of USNA superintendents in our next two posts in the series. We are grateful for their dedicated naval service and their inspired leadership at the Academy. When you come visit you can see the Superintendent's Residence, their historic residence during their tenure, and a place for midshipmen to gather—sometimes with their families—and always to celebrate the long and storied history of the Naval Academy. Your visit supports the midshipmen. Come take a tour!

See the Superintendent's Residence

Bill the Goat
Written by Bill the Goat

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