Though Stephen Scholl will move out of Annapolis for the first time this summer after graduating from the United States Naval Academy, he won’t be traveling far.
Scholl, 21, is among 25 first-class midshipmen from Anne Arundel County who graduated Friday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Most of the 1,000 midshipmen from the Class of 2023 were commissioned in either the Navy or the Marine Corps. Scholl will attend Uniformed Services University in Bethesda for medical school in hopes of becoming a flight surgeon.
Among the local graduates, 11 were from Annapolis, five from Severna Park, three from Arnold, two from Millersville and one each from Crownsville, Pasadena, Gambrills and Edgewater.
Scholl was a home-schooled student raised in Annapolis. With the Chesapeake Bay on the horizon and the Blue Angels flying above every year during Commissioning Week, it’s no surprise he would develop a passion for air and sea. It didn’t hurt to see midshipmen in their uniforms on leave from the academy roaming throughout his hometown.
“Seeing the mids out in town, having sponsor mids over to my house” piqued his interest in the academy, Scholl said.
“Also the call of the ocean ... aka the Severn River,” he joked.
[ United States Naval Academy Graduation 2023 | PHOTOS ]
Scholl was accepted into the academy in 2019, one of 1,185 students admitted from well over 16,000 applicants. He said goodbye to his family on Induction Day in June and spent six brutal weeks being initiated into the service academy. During that time, known as plebe summer, the first-year midshipmen give up access to TV, music, movies, the internet and even their watches. In early August, the plebes and their families were treated to a joyful reunion on Family Day as thousands of visitors returned to the Yard to witness the freshly drilled midshipmen.
That first semester is about where normalcy ended for Scholl’s class. The COVID-19 pandemic arrived in March 2020 and the midshipmen were sent home after spring break. Plebe year staples like the annual Sea Trials and Herndon Climb were canceled, denying Scholl’s class the chance to participate in team-building exercises other midshipmen have done for decades. The Class of 2023 would eventually complete the Herndon Climb at the end of its second year in August 2021, scaling a greased granite obelisk in just over three hours.
“You were just starting to feel like a family. But you hung in there and took care of each other,” said U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III Friday during his graduation keynote address. Despite those challenges, Austin assured the graduates, “You are ready.”
[ ‘You are ready’: Secretary of Defense lauds 2023 Naval Academy class for persevering through challenging four years ]
“You chose to come to this academy and despite challenges that nobody imagined, you chose to keep coming back,” he said.
In addition to Scholl, the other Annapolis residents to graduate were Rebecca Vavasseur, Elise Lindsay, Jackson Sky Smith, Gerard Berzins, Edward Randolph, Jordan Blair, Ava Lusby, James Romo, Luke Davis and Aidan McNally.
Vavasseur, an Annapolis High graduate, was 12th company commander and led the group in the annual color parade on Thursday. Romo, a St. Mary’s High School graduate and offensive lineman for Navy football, is the grandson of legendary head athletic trainer Leon “Red” Romo.
McNally, a star on the Navy boxing team, grew up around the academy thanks to his father, longtime Navy boxing coach Jim McNally. The younger McNally became a four-time winner of the Navy’s Brigade Boxing Championships in February.
“It’s pretty surreal being a part of this whole thing,” McNally said on graduation day. “I grew up coming to these graduations every year. So many of the guys were my heroes growing up. Now it’s amazing just seeing how everything has come to fruition.”
Other local graduates include Arnold residents Finn Garner, Maura Dawson and Kody Milton; William Henry Rentz, of Edgewater; Maggie Aumiller, of Crownsville; Gabriela Lavin, of Gambrills; Andrew Hernandez, of Pasadena; Severna Park residents Charles Marculewicz, Samuel Kriel, Hannah Sweeney, Garrison Clark and Kevin Kobosko; and Millersville residents Jackson Schultz and Sarah Blank.
In February, Blank was the first Anne Arundel resident to receive her ship assignment at the annual Ship Selection celebration. Of the more than 250 midshipmen to receive assignments, she was the fourth midshipman to choose her posting. She selected the USS Dewey, a destroyer based in Yokosuka, Japan.
Rentz selected the USS Ronald Reagan, also based in Yokosuka.
“I’m lost for words at the moment. This has been a long four years but also [Induction] day feels like just yesterday,” Rentz said. “It’s bittersweet to leave, we’re ready, but I’m going to miss my friends. It’s OK though; I know we will go on to do great things.”
Berzins, a Saint Mary’s High School graduate with deep ties to Annapolis and the academy, is the most recent sibling in his family to attend the academy. His brother Timber attended the academy a few years earlier. The former men’s lacrosse player will be assigned to the USS Jason Dunham in Mayport, Florida.
“Today is the culminating event of all of our hard work,” Berzins said. “Today is what I’ve been looking forward to since I got here.”
Aumiller, another St. Mary’s graduate, selected the USS John P. Murtha, stationed in San Diego. Smith, a Key School graduate, selected the USS Delbert D. Black, based in Mayport.
Though the Naval Academy was both physically and intellectually challenging and at times frustrating as his class weathered the start and end of the pandemic, Scholl said it was all well worth the work he put in.
“The general day-to-day military and academic rigor has led to me being pushed outside my comfort zone continuously and I think I’m much more prepared for anything,” Scholl said. “The last time we sing ‘Blue and Gold’ will be very sentimental.”
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While the Naval Academy has allowed Scholl to travel to Oklahoma, California, Hawaii and the Bahamas, and observe a surgery aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean, he has dreams of larger exploration, perhaps beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
“It would be cool to go to space or something,” Scholl said. “Surgery in space. That would be cool. Why not?”