DAHLGREN, Va. – How did theoretical physicist Albert Einstein and two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington make a difference in the lives and careers of Navy civilians?
What is the Leonardo da Vinci connection? How did the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) get involved?
The riddle was solved at the 2017 Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Academic Awards Ceremony held at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren campus, Sept. 19.
Wilfredo Padilla-Vargas and Jose Martinez-Casiano did not say a word. Nevertheless, they answered the Einstein, Washington, and Naval Postgraduate School questions before a packed audience.
As Padilla-Vargas walked up to the stage to receive his academic award from NSWCDD Commanding Officer Capt. Godfrey ‘Gus’ Weekes, NSWCDD Technical Director John Fiore, and Cmdr. Andrew Hoffman, commanding officer of NSWCDD Combat Direction Systems Activity Dam Neck — words appeared on the big screen.
"Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death."
This Albert Einstein quote inspired Padilla-Vargas as he pursued and completed his master’s degree in systems engineering from NPS.
When Jose Martinez-Casiano was honored for his NPS master’s degree in systems engineering, the audience read a Denzel Washington quote that encouraged the NSWCDD engineer as he worked on his graduate degree program.
"Nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success."
“We gave all of our employees that earned degrees the option of sending in quotes,” said Kim Thornton, NSWCDD’s academic programs manager. “The quotes could reflect their time working on the degrees, they could be quotes that were particularly inspiring to them, or they could be advice for those that may be following in their footsteps and considering pursing degrees. The quotes do not necessarily reflect the views of the government or the Navy or NSWCDD Dahlgren, but they do reflect the individuals and the diversity of our organization, which is fantastic.”
In all, NSWCDD leadership honored 111 employees for their academic and professional achievements at the command’s 21st annual celebration of academic success.
They recognized scientists and engineers as well as business and technical leaders who completed professional certifications or academic milestones covering the spectrum of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.
NSWCDD employees were recognized for earning three doctoral degrees, 52 master's degrees, and 36 baccalaureate degrees between August 2016 and August 2017.
The majority of the bachelor's degrees earned were by employees participating in student programs such as the Pathways Internship Program — established to provide degree-seeking students with exposure to public service while enhancing their educational experience, and possibly providing financial aid to support their educational goals.
In addition to core engineering disciplines — mechanical, electrical, and systems engineering — this year's graduates earned degrees in diverse fields such as aerospace engineering, cybersecurity, chemistry and biology, national security and strategic studies, human factors and applied cognition, accounting, geology, and computer forensics.
The awardees included 13 academic fellows and eight professional or academic certifications ranging from a cyber security — chief information security officer certification to two defense financial manager certifications.
"Our academic program is a robust developmental investment," said Thornton after the ceremony. "It offers the opportunity for our employees to take academic courses or pursue a degree to enhance or further our mission of technical and business excellence."
Among the awardees were 13 government civilians selected for the fiscal year 2018 Academic Fellowship Program. The competitive program accelerates academic and professional growth of employees and contributes to the increase of degrees awarded at Dahlgren. This year, nine of the selected employees are progressing in their master's degree programs in fields of study that include cyber security engineering, business administration, systems engineering, engineering management, and computer science.
One selected employee is working on a bachelor's degree in physics through the program. The command's academic fellowship program is also helping three engineers complete doctoral degree programs — one in electrical engineering, another in engineering management and systems engineering, and the third in modeling and simulation.
Weekes and Fiore, in their welcoming and closing remarks respectively, praised the awardees for their dedication, time, and sacrifice necessary to complete their degrees and enhance their capabilities to support the Fleet and the warfighter. They also commended the families, friends, and colleagues who supported NSWCDD employees in their pursuit and achievement of the milestones for which they have been recognized.
“We all realize that when one of our employees is pursuing a degree or certification, they are only able to do so with the patience and support of those around them, so thank you all for your contribution to these successes,” said Weekes.
Finally, on the back of the program — below a list of the honored NSWCDD civilian employees with their degrees or certifications and corresponding academic institutions — the Leonardo da Vinci connection was made through words borrowed across five centuries.
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them,” began the da Vinci quote. The Italian Renaissance polymath known for his discoveries in science, mathematics, and engineering, as well as his works in painting, sculpting, architecture, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, history, and cartography finished his thought: “They went out and happened to things.”