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Legacy of a Trident Scholar

Posted on: June 04, 2013 08:00 EDT by LT Teng K. Ooi and CAPT Linda J. Beltra

The Naval Academy Mathematics Department is honored to receive personal papers including books, photographs and other memorabilia of one of the USNA’s most successful Trident Scholars Adm. Donald Lee Pilling.

The items were donated by his widow, Mrs. Barbara Pilling, in a dedication ceremony held April 23 in Chauvenet Hall.

The Naval Academy established the Trident Scholar Program in 1963 to provide an exciting opportunity to a select number of exceptional midshipmen to pursue independent study and research during their senior year.  The program pairs each Trident Scholar with an assigned faculty adviser and other area specialists to coordinate and supervise a research project.  At the end of the academic year, the Trident Scholars present their findings at a research talk hosted at the Naval Academy.  The most outstanding research project is awarded the Office of Naval Intelligence Harry E. Ward Trident Scholar Prize.

A 1965 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Pilling graduated 4th in his Naval Academy class and was one of the first Trident Scholars. His Trident Scholar project, “Distributivity and Completeness in Implication Algebra,” involved the study of partially ordered systems. Under the direction of his adviser, the late Dr. James C. Abbott, Naval Academy Mathematics Department, Pilling won the Harry E. Ward Trident Scholar Prize. 

Pilling went on to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom in 1970 with a dissertation, “The Algebra of Operators for Regular Events,” under Dr. John H. Conway, University of Cambridge.   He enjoyed a distinguished naval career culminating with a tour as the Navy’s 30th Vice Chief of Naval Operations.  

Pilling passed away on May 26, 2008 and rests on top of a hill at the Naval Academy Cemetery, overlooking the scenic Annapolis Harbor.

The Mathematics Department is truly excited to add this collection of Pilling’s personal papers to the library’s holdings of materials that continue to motivate, inspire and guide midshipmen.  The papers will be immensely valuable to contemporary scholars including faculty, staff and midshipmen, who will have the opportunity to study these documents and use them to supplement their studies of defense acquisition, national security issues, and foreign policy implications for future naval forces.  Readers will gain an insight into Pilling’s decision making, logical reasoning, and methodical thinking process as well as his legendary intelligence and wit.

Barbara Pilling 

Mrs. Barbara Pilling (right) at the dedication ceremony attended by members of the Naval Academy class of 1965, the Mathematics Department faculty members and midshipmen. Courtesy photo by LT Teng Ooi.

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