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USNA Class of 2022 Select Honorary Classmates

  POSTED ON: Thursday, May 26, 2022 9:16 AM by

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 19, 2022) Each year, graduating U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) midshipmen nominate and select honorary classmates from various backgrounds and professional careers. They will be recognized along with the Class of 2022 during the graduation and commissioning ceremony at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, May 27.

This year, the three honorary classmates selected include civilians, Dr. Zachary Hough and Mae Blue, and one U.S. Navy Sailor, Senior Chief Hull Maintenance Technician William Sisk – all of whom had an impact on the soon-to-be commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers of the 2022 graduating class.

As a mathematics learning specialist, Hough supports the brigade by providing math assistance to midshipmen. He has been an instrumental contributor to the success of hundreds of midshipmen in regards to calculus and other math subjects.  

“The teaching I do here feels more meaningful as opposed to the civilian schools I have worked at,” he said. “There’s something very pleasant about knowing I am assisting future naval officers that I find very rewarding and exciting.”

Hough has been at USNA for more than four years, making the transition from North Carolina State University after getting his doctorate degree. The position here was perfect for him, because he not only was going to be teaching, but he would also be able to educate outside of the teaching forum. 

“I am very humbled by this,” he said. “It’s very exciting. I appreciate the Class of 2022 for giving me this honor.”

Another recipient this year is Blue, known to midshipmen, faculty, and staff as “grandma.” She began working in the Midshipmen Store as a cashier in 2016 after her son found the job and submitted an application on her behalf. It only took one midshipman calling her grandma for the name to stick. 

Since her arrival, she’s been building relationships with everyone who walks into the store. The most rewarding thing for her has been that she’s gained 4,000 grandkids and a lot of friendships throughout her time here at the academy.

“I don’t do things for recognition,” she said. “I do things because I know my son was in the military. I don’t know how he was treated when he was in training. These kids are away from home – a long way from home – and you want them to feel like they are home. You have to show them love.”

One midshipman even told her that when he was asked about who he would turn to for advice, he said grandma at the Midshipmen Store.

She’s seen midshipmen come and go over the course of six years, but she still keeps in contact with a lot of them through Facebook. 

“I feel like I am at home with my own children here,” she said. “I thank God for the love that I get from them. It’s overwhelming.”

On her list of people to thank, Blue wanted to recognize Midshipman 1st Class (senior) Karolyn Batista, who nominated her for this honor; her son, Rodolfo Lane; all of the midshipmen for their love and support throughout the years; and God. 

The third individual being recognized this year is Sisk, 20th Company’s senior enlisted leader. Since coming to USNA in 2019, he’s been able to bring his experiences from the fleet to his midshipmen, helping them understand what their role is within the bigger picture.

On the day his midshipmen graduate this year, he will officially retire after 24 years in the Navy. From teaching “A” school to leading future chiefs through chief season, he sought after the opportunity to make a difference on the wardroom in his final tour of duty.

From his perspective, you can teach leadership by PowerPoint all day long, but it’s better to give them a story that will resonate with them and provide them with the purpose behind it.

Throughout his naval career, he has many stories to share with his midshipmen, but one in particular was his time as a first responder to the USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) collision in 2017, in which he spent four days helping damage control efforts in order to save the ship. By sharing these pieces of his past with them, he has been able to open their minds. Additionally, he imparts on them the importance of failure.

“If they’re not learning it now, then when? I want them to fail here,” said Sisk. “A lot of them are afraid to fail here. No, because when you fail out there it’s unforgiven – equipment gets damaged, somebody dies. You’re the one who is going to have to hold that in your head for the rest of your life knowing that somebody’s daughter or son is dead because you led them or you made the call, and you were wrong. I hope none of them have to deal with that, ever. If there’s a little bit I can do here to bring that experience to the table to instill that in them, then mission accomplished.”

When Sisk found out he was selected as an honorary classmate, he couldn’t believe it. To him, he doesn’t feel worthy enough for this honor as there are people here who do more than he does on a daily basis; however, being selected means he’s had a positive impact on these midshipmen. 

“They could’ve chosen anybody on the yard and they chose two civilians and me,” he said. “It tells me that their class put some meaning and some thought into who truly made an impact on their lives. It blew me away because I thought my reach was only 4th Battalion.”

From a kid growing up on the south side of Chicago to being the senior samurai of 20th Company, Sisk has truly come a long way. 

“I will take off my uniform with a full heart knowing that I put everything I had into this command,” he said. “It’s always been about my Sailors and everybody else.”

Although he had many people he’d like to thank for this honor, one group stood out – his graduating class of midshipmen.

“I’d like to thank them for letting me be a part of their lives,” said Sisk. “We’ve cried together, we’ve laughed together, we’ve suffered together, and we’ve all grown together.”

Their stories may all be different, but together these three individuals have earned their selection as honorary classmates of the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2022.

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Category: People, General Interest, Press Releases