The Ties That Bind

A&SP outreach strengthens bonds among trustees

What started as a modest note of encouragement to Vice Admiral Jim Sagerholm ’52, USN (Ret.), quickly blossomed into a new friendship for Sharon Disher ’80.

Disher reached out to Sagerholm in April to check on him during the early weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak. He accepted her offer of a patriotic-themed facemask. When Sharon and Commander Tim Disher ’81, USN (Ret.), arrived at the Severna Park, MD, home, they were invited in and spent two hours swapping sea stories.

During the impromptu visit, Sagerholm revealed that Tim’s father, Vice Admiral John S. Disher ’57, USN (Ret.), worked for him when he was Chief of Naval Education and Training. John Disher was Chief of Naval Air Training in Corpus Christi, TX, at the time and would later be named Chief of Naval Education and Training.

Sagerholm shared that he was writing his third book and that in 2009 he finished his master’s degree in military history online from Norwich University. The Dishers heard recollections of the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Sagerholm’s diplomatic sea duties during Jimmy Carter’s presidency.

This uplifting encounter was an unexpected byproduct of a Naval Academy Athletic and Scholarship Programs (A&SP) initiative to connect with Emeritus trustees. COVID-19 social distancing and safety protocols have limited interactions for many seniors. Connections such as the Dishers’ with Sagerholm demonstrate the power of engagement and the thread of caring that runs through the Naval Academy community.

“At age 92, knowing that one has not been forgotten is a precious gift,” Sagerholm wrote to Sharon Disher.

Sharon Disher described her time with Sagerholm as “a truly magical afternoon.” Hers is one of several relationships forged during these uncertain times by Naval Academy alumni reaching out and looking out for one another.

“Despite the difficulties of what we are going through, the silver linings like those (experiences) have been so enriching for me,” she said. “It embodies the bonds we all share and the reality of how we truly are a Naval Academy family.”

A&SP Chairman Rear Admiral Thomas C. Lynch ’64, USN (Ret.), started calling Emeritus trustees as COVID-19 began spreading in the United States. An Outreach Committee was formed in April with 17 trustees serving as regional coordinators who contacted the trustees in their geographic areas. As part of “Operation COVID-19 Outreach,” trustees were offered free, washable patriotic masks.

Those reaching out to the 250 A&SP Trustees, 70 Emeritus Trustees and widows include Captain Edward C. Wallace ’72, USN (Ret.); Vice Admiral David H. Buss ’78, USN (Ret.); Michael D. Mahre ’81; Captain Harry E. “Rusty” Yeiser ’74, USN (Ret.); Robert K. Kuberski ’93; Brigadier General Robert D. Papak ’76, USMC (Ret.); David A. Greer ’88; The Honorable Maureen Cragin ’85; Becky I. Haase ’94; Lieutenant Commander Morgan P. Ames ’74, USN (Ret.); Lieutenant Eric N. Kettani ’09, USNR; Commander Alan B. Lerchbacker ’74, USN (Ret.); Daniel J. Quattrini ’81; Rear Admiral Richard J. Buchanan ’68, USN (Ret.); Nora C. O’Hara ’93; Captain Harry G. “Skip” Dittman ’67, USN (Ret.), and Robert V. Pragada ’90. The Outreach Committee is led by Commander Maurice Tose ’78, USNR (Ret.).

Outreach Committee members report building and strengthening relationships through phone conversations and emails. Some discussed plans to meet, dine or travel together after COVID-19 passes. Here is a sampling of the correspondences shared by the Athletic and Scholarship Programs Outreach Committee.

Checking in

Mike Yeager ’76 reached out to Rear Admiral Bob Shumaker ’56, USN (Ret.), by email.

“This is Mike Yeager, a fellow A&SP Trustee. I am just checking on a few of our fellow trustees to see how they are doing, so I wanted to drop you a note. I hope you and Mrs. Shumaker are doing OK and that you are following the rules at this critical time. I know this will pass, but it takes our patience to get to the finish line.

Let me know if you need any help with anything and we can get someone to assist. Again, just checking in. Drop me a reply when you can.”


—Mike Yeager ’76

Thanks for your inquiry about how my wife and I are doing. We’re doing fine, observing the rules, staying at home. As you may know, I had some training for this isolation thing. Just joking, I was a POW for eight years.


—Bob Shumaker

Tremendous Conversations

Chadwick K. Watson ’88 connected with former Naval Academy Athletic Director Jack Lengyel

“I had a tremendous conversation with Jack Lengyel … we shared stories about USNA, Marshall and of times we sat together at A&SP dinners. He was quick to say that although he is Emeritus status, he still feels like he is active! I told him he is in our ‘inactive active’ group … we both laughed.

Just so happens he lives just around the corner from the building I own on Bestgate. Told him I can come to see him and Sandra to visit, and we were here to assist if they are in need of anything … a ride to a meeting, football game or a lax game. He was so happy I reached out and said to thank everyone. We have a date once this COVID-19 situation subsides.

Anyway, the 30 minutes made my week.”

—Chadwick K. Watson ’88

“Quintessential Energizer Bunny”

Rear Admiral A.B. Cruz III ’80, USN (Ret.), phoned Admiral Henry G. “Hank” Chiles ’60, USN (Ret.).

“I reached out to all Central Texas Trustees and Virginia Trustees emeriti—and I’ve had an over 60-percent response rate so far!

Admiral Hank Chiles ’60, USN (Ret.), indicated that he’s running every day at 0615 instead of his normal 0700 to practice safe distancing and avoiding running into people along his running path. I traveled throughout Europe with Hank in 2015.

His story about running at zero-dark-thirty in the morning doesn’t surprise me in the least. He’s the quintessential energizer bunny even at 82 years or thereabouts.”

—Rear Admiral A.B. Cruz III ’80, USN (Ret.)

Means a lot

Lieutenant Commander Morgan P. Ames ’74, USN (Ret.), talked with Linda Hogan, widow of Rear Admiral Ned Hogan ’54, USN (Ret.), and Georgeanna Kelso, widow of former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Frank Kelso ’56, USN (Ret.).

“I had a great hour-long chat with Linda, who lives out in Sun Valley, ID. She’s doing great and walks the 18 holes of the golf course she borders daily with a friend. Her county was hit hard by the virus due to so many skiers/virus carriers coming from Washington State and elsewhere.

Also, we reminisced about my father and mother, Morgan and Jane, as Dad, though a Yale alumnus (’41) and 6’-7” center, had been adopted by the Class of 1954 as their Honorary Classmate—which made Dad feel 13 years younger!— and how that made dad the tallest member of their class, which Ned had been as Navy’s basketball center before Dad’s joining their ranks ... and MORE!

Mrs. Kelso exchanged voicemails with me from her home in Fayetteville, TN, and reported that she is ‘doing fine while staying inside.’ She was very happy for the outreach call and said it means a lot to her, and it ‘proves that Navy stays in touch!’”

 —Lieutenant Commander Morgan P. Ames ’74, USN (Ret.)

Terrific Evening

Captain Randy Bogle ’68, USN (Ret.), met with Colonel Bob McElroy ’49, USMC (Ret.), and Bill Moore ’61.

“Colonel Bob McElroy ’49, USMC (Ret.), and I had a nice chat after a couple of attempts to connect via phone. Bob played football at Navy, both offense and defense as was the norm in his day, and following graduation flew fixed wing aircraft in the Marine Corps. He served tours of duty in the Western Pacific, to include Korea and Japan.

He completed his 29-and-a-half years of service as Naval Attaché in Paris. He told me he is being considered for Emeritus Status and has been contacted by Rear Admiral Voelker ’72, USN (Ret.), about doing so. He and his spouse, Mary, are doing well. I did provide him the minutes from our spring meeting, which he was unable to attend virtually. Wonderful gentleman, and I hope we might be able to meet personally at our fall meeting should we not have to hold that meeting virtually.

The second trustee I spoke with was Bill Moore ’61. After we spoke on the phone, Joanie and I had dinner with Bill and his spouse, Sandra, at their home in Trent Woods. Social distancing was expertly practiced, and we had a great BBQ dinner while getting better acquainted and sharing stories of years gone by and friends/shipmates we had in common. It was a terrific evening and they are both doing well. Bill and Sandra are outstanding supporters of the Naval Academy.

These calls were a great idea and definitely worth the time and effort to connect with those who truly love our alma mater!”

—Captain Ra

Source: July-August 2020 Shipmate