Past Naval War College Presidents

From the time of its founder and first president, Rear Admiral Steven B. Luce in 1884, U.S. Naval War College has been capably led to excel as the Navy's "Home of Thought". The vision and efforts of its storied presidents have ensured the college's place at the forefront of educating leaders, defining the future Navy, and informing decision making at the highest levels of government.

U.S. Naval War College president coins
Adrian Lamb, 1971
Vice Admiral Richard G. Colbert
Richard G. Colbert
Vice Adm.
President August 30, 1968 - August 17, 1971

Richard Gary Colbert (1915 – 1973) graduated from the Naval War College in 1956. Staying on he became the first director of the new senior foreign officers’ course, eventually named the Naval Command College, that began in 1956 and had its first graduates in 1957. As the College’s thirty-fifth president, he consolidated and strengthened the academic programs initiated by his predecessor, and he set in motion the construction program for Spruance, Conolly, and Hewitt Halls. Colbert also laid the groundwork for the Naval Staff College course for intermediate-level international officers, established the Naval War College Foundation, and instituted the International Seapower Symposia.

Commander Edmond J. Fitzgerald, USNR, 1968
Vice Admiral John T. Hayward
John T. Hayward
Vice Adm.
President February 15, 1966 - August 30, 1968

A high school dropout and a batboy for the New York Yankees, Vice Admiral John T. Hayward (1908 – 1999) began his naval career in May 1925 as a recruit at the Newport Naval Training Station. As the thirty-fourth Naval War College president, he introduced a dynamic program to make over the Navy’s highest professional school along the lines of civilian colleges. The focus on professional curriculum, student requirements and faculty was complemented also by a program for appropriate facilities that would ultimately lead to the construction of Spruance, Conolly and Hewitt Halls during the 1970s.

Commander Edmond J. Fitzgerald, USNR, 1965
Vice Admiral Charles L. Melson
Charles L. Melson
Vice Adm.
President July 31, 1964 - January 25, 1966

Vice Admiral Charles LeRoy Melson (1904 – 1981) graduated from the Naval War College in 1948 and served on the staff the following year. As the thirty-third president, Melson supported greater emphasis on basic naval subjects, and he expanded the use of the Naval Electronic Warfare Simulator (NEWS) for the use of war gaming in both the senior and junior courses. It was during his term also that an addition was made to Mahan Hall for an expanded library collection. Before coming to the presidency of the Naval War College, he was Superintendent of the Naval Academy, 1958 – 1960; Commander, First Fleet, 1960 – 1962; and Commander, Taiwan Defense Command, 1962 – 1964.

Commander Edmond J. Fitzgerald, USNR, 1961
Vice Admiral Bernard L. Austin
Bernard L. Austin
Vice Adm.
President June 30, 1960 - July 31, 1964

Vice Admiral Bernard Lige Austin (1902 – 1967), the College’s thirty-second president, remained in office for four years, the longest tour in College history up to that time. Austin came to the College with impeccable credentials in naval warfare. In the Second World War he served as a destroyer captain and squadron commander and sailed with Arleigh Burke’s “Little Beaver” squadron in the Solomon Islands campaign. Subsequently, he joined the staff of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander, Pacific Fleet, becoming the youngest flag officer in the Navy when he was spot-promoted to commodore.

Commander Edmond J. Fitzgerald, USNR, 1958
Vice Admiral Stuart H. Ingersoll
Stuart H. Ingersoll
Vice Adm.
President August 13, 1957 - June 30, 1960

Vice Admiral Stuart H. Ingersoll (d. 1983) became the thirty-first president of the College in August 1957. In 1944, he had commanded the carrier USS Monterey (CVL 26) in the Leyte campaign and through “Halsey’s Typhoon.” When he came to the Naval War College, he had served for twelve years as a flag officer and commanded both the Sixth and Seventh Fleets. He brought tothe College a broad background in planningand leadership in postwar unified commands. It was during Ingersoll’s administration that war gaming at the College made a significant change from a manual procedure
to computerization.

Commander Edmond J. Fitzgerald, USNR, 1957
Rear Admiral Thomas H. Robbins
Thomas H. Robbins
Rear Adm.
President September 05, 1956 - August 01, 1957

Thomas Hinkley Robbins (1900 – 1972) had many years of service with the Naval War College before becoming the thirtieth president in September 1956. He was a member of the graduating class of 1937, served on the staff 1938 – 1939, was acting president during 1953 – 1954 and chief of staff in 1955 and 1956. Robbins inaugurated the senior foreign officer course, later the Naval Command College, in 1956 and when he left the College in August of the following year, he
became Commandant of the Potomac River Naval Command—making him the first president since the Second World War who did not immediately leave active service.

Commander Edmond J. Fitzgerald, USNR, 1957
Vice Admiral Lynde D. McCormick
Lynde D. McCormick
Vice Adm.
President May 03, 1954 - May 16, 1956

Lynde Dupuy McCormick (1895 – 1956) graduated from the NWC in 1938 and went on to a very distinguished career, serving for a time as Vice Chief of Naval Operations (1949) and Acting Chief of Naval Operations (1951). Promoted to four stars in 1950, he served as Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet and Atlantic Command—in which position he became the first Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic. On becoming the twenty-ninth president of the Naval War College, he reverted to three-star rank. In 1956, during the second year of his presidency, Admiral McCormick took the initiative to establish a new course for senior officers from other navies, the present-day Naval Command College.

Commander Dwight Shepler, USNR, 1952
Vice Admiral Richard L. Conolly
Richard L. Conolly
Vice Adm.
President December 01, 1950 - November 02, 1953

In World War One, Conolly earned the Navy Cross when his ship, the transport USS Westerbridge, was torpedoed in 1918. As a lieutenant commander, Richard Lansing Conolly (1892 – 1962) graduated from the Naval War College in 1931 and then went on for a year to teach strategy and tactics on the College’s faculty. In 1942 – 1943, Conolly was assistant planning officer on the staff of Admiral Ernest J. King and planned the invasion of Guadalcanal and North Africa. In 1943, he served as Commander of Landing Craft and Bases during the invasions of North Africa and Italy, then commanded the Amphibious Assault Group at Kwajalein in 1944.

Lt. Col. John Capolino, USMCR, 1950
Vice Admiral Donald B. Beary
Donald B. Beary
Vice Adm.
President November 01, 1948 - May 28, 1950

Donald B. Beary (1888 – 1966) was awarded the Navy Cross for convoy duty in World War One. When the United States entered World War Two in 1941, Beary commanded the Fleet Operational Training Command, Atlantic. Later, during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1944, he was serving as Commander, Service Squadron 6, and was assigned the task of providing at-sea support to the Third and Fifth Fleets. At the Naval War College, Vice Admiral Beary undertook to broaden the students’ views by bringing to Newport a wide variety of business authorities and leaders to meet and have discussions with students.

George Sottung, 1983
Admiral Raymond A. Spruance
Raymond A. Spruance
President March 01, 1946 - July 01, 1948

Spruance graduated from the Naval War College in 1927 and returned to serve twice on the faculty, first as head of correspondence courses in 1932 – 1933, then as head of tactics instruction for the junior class in 1935 – 1936, and for the senior class in 1936 – 1937. Finally, as the twenty-sixth president of the College in 1946 – 1948, Spruance lent dignity
and prestige to the College as it led in educational preparations for the Cold War era. He laid the groundwork for a wide number of innovations, including a much broader curriculum, establishing academic chairs for a distinguished civilian historian and a political scientist, and what eventually would become the Naval War College Review.