Building on a 40-Year Legacy
Eighty-one women arrived in Annapolis on July 6, 1976, the first female members of the Brigade of Midshipmen. Thousands have followed in their footsteps, with women now comprising more than a quarter of the Brigade, holding leadership positions as midshipmen, serving with distinction in the Navy and Marine Corps and rising to the highest ranks of military, government and corporate service. A growing number of female Naval Academy graduates are looking for ways to give back to an institution that helped them prepare for such extraordinary success.
As the Academy marks the 40th anniversary of women midshipmen, the Naval Academy Foundation also celebrates the generosity of a few of the first female alumni to join the Robert Means Thompson Society, recognizing those who have included support for the Academy in their estate plans.
"The Academy gave me a great start in life," said Commander Katie Thurman '83, USN (Ret.). Thurman and her husband are longtime President's Circle donors, recognizing those who contribute $2,500 or more each year. "We give what we can now, and through our estate we can offer a final thank you for all the Academy has provided us, our family and its future."
The Thurmans established a bequest that ensures a portion of their estate will support the Academy. Their commitment to the Academy deepened when their son, Lieutenant Junior Grade Ryan Thurman '14, USN, currently a student naval aviator in advanced jet training, became a midshipman.
"He saw right away that there were other people like him at the Academy, with similar goals, passions and a desire to make the world a better, safer place," said Thurman. "We want to foster the environment to ensure future generations have the opportunity to serve and the tools to excel as they adapt to our country's evolving circumstances."
Maureen Cragin '85 hadn't considered attending an Academy until Navy recruited her to swim. "I am who I am first because of my parents and family, but a close second is the Academy," said Cragin. She and her husband have also committed a portion of their estate to support the Academy. "It helped me go out and see the world and grow as a person and a professional. It's important to make sure the Academy has all the opportunities midshipmen need to be the best officers the world can offer."
Cragin's classmate, Commander Christy Sahler '85, USNR (Ret.), is also a member of the Robert Means Thompson Society.
"I was in 8th grade when the academies first admitted women, and I thought going to one would be a really cool adventure and a great way to help pay for college. I applied to Navy, West Point and Air Force, and Navy recruited me to play basketball," she said.
Both of Sahler's sisters (Captain Erica Sahler '87, CEC, USN, and Duska Pearson '89) followed her to the Academy, as did her own daughter, Midshipman Tahler Bandarra '17, and niece, Midshipman Annika Pearson '19.
"The Naval Academy opened so many doors for me," said Sahler, who has also established a bequest of a portion of her estate. "All our lives have been touched in a positive way. It's important for me to give the Academy the funds it needs to help someone else."
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