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Supporting the Academy: Past, Present and Future

Jeff Neufeld '76 and Gayle Plato

Jeff Neufeld and Gayle Plato

Jeff Neufeld '76 and Gayle Plato

Jeff Neufeld '76 and his wife, Gayle Plato, may not have met at the Naval Academy—she launched her Navy career at Officer Candidate School in 1974, before women were admitted to the Academy—but both appreciate the role the Naval Service has played throughout their lives. And they are eager to continue showing their support for the Academy.

"The big drive for us is investing in midshipmen," said Neufeld, who followed 10 years in the Marine Corps with positions at GE Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Citibank and Fidelity. Plato spent 11 years in the Navy, becoming a lieutenant commander before beginning her career with GE Aerospace.

"We know how essential leadership development was to both of us. The Academy, the Navy and the Marine Corps prepared us for all that followed: leading sailors and Marines, getting things done, making mistakes and learning from some great leaders," she said.

Neufeld and Plato began making relatively modest contributions to the Naval Academy Foundation back in the 1980s.

"We did what we could at first, eventually giving at the President's Circle level," Neufeld said. "President's Circle and its programs are what really brought us back in and reminded us of the role the Academy and the Naval Service play in developing leaders and of how much our time as officers influenced our later careers."

Returning to live in Annapolis in 2009, the couple's relationship with the Academy deepened, with Neufeld taking on a role as a USNA adjunct instructor of leadership for seven years after "retirement," and witnessing how much the impactful programs supporting experiential leadership development had on midshipmen.

Jeff Neufeld and Gayle PlatoThe two, both of whom majored in computer-oriented fields at Naval Postgraduate School and had met the legendary RADM Grace Hopper, USN, also became intrigued by the Academy's growing cyber programs.

Neufeld eventually took on a volunteer leadership position with the Naval Academy Foundation's Council on Annual Giving, which encourages support for the unrestricted Naval Academy Fund.

"Through Jeff's involvement on this Council, we really learned the value of supporting the Naval Academy Fund to support USNA's 'margin of excellence' for midshipmen," Plato said.

They've documented their intentions with the Foundation, and the gift from their estate will be recognized as part of Called to Serve, Daring to Lead: The Naval Academy Campaign.

"We began estate planning 20 years ago and update it every five years," Neufeld said. "We decided it was time to make a commitment to the Academy from our charitable gift fund. A large percentage of our new commitment is to the Naval Academy Fund. We've learned how important it is and how much leverage it has in advancing the whole philanthropic mission for the Academy."

Invest in the Future of the Naval Academy

If you are interested in extending your commitment to the Naval Academy, let's talk. There are many ways to make a future gift that can meet your needs and ours. Contact Patti Bender at or 410-295-4187 to start the conversation.

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