With teamwork and the inevitability of change as central themes of the day, the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) recognized its 2023 Spring Quarter graduates on June 16 during a ceremony at King Hall Auditorium.
Keynote speaker Gary Wipfler, who served as vice president and treasurer for Apple Inc. from 1997 to 2021, lauded the achievements of the quarter’s 349 graduates, among them six recipients of doctoral degrees and 25 international students representing 16 countries.
"Today marks your graduation day from NPS, which has also prepared you to be lifelong learners," Wipfler said. "What better skill and capacity can you walk away from here today, than with the capacity, and the mind, to keep learning – especially in times of change?”
Retired Vice Adm. Ann E. Rondeau, president of NPS, opened the ceremony by acknowledging the graduates’ hard work and investment in themselves and the respective missions of their services and nations. She also reminded the graduates that they achieved their goals together.
“This has been a team sport,” said Rondeau. “You cannot do this alone. We cannot lead alone. We cannot learn everything that we need alone. We can do some solitary work, about gathering of knowledge and information; but problem solving, solutions creation, and truly coming to different ways and approaches to the challenge in front of us every day … That is a team sport.”
Rondeau highlighted a few key areas of research that the new alumni focused on through their degrees, including artificial intelligence, cyber warfare, and logistics. She also recognized three historic firsts, acknowledging the first female graduates from Pakistan (Army Maj. Rukhsana Zenab) and Trinidad and Tobago (Coast Guard Lt. Sherisse Moore) and the first NPS graduate from Belgium (Army Maj. Cedric Craninx).
“This is what we do in our military services, whether or not you’re from the U.S. or from one of our international partners,” said Rondeau. “This is about the team getting things done.”
A key figure in many of Apple’s achievements since he first joined the company in 1986, Wipfler shared several anecdotes from his 35-year tenure, citing specific examples of how Apple and co-founder Steve Jobs epitomized change in Silicon Valley. He encouraged the Spring Quarter graduates to likewise embrace change and innovation.
"Change is inevitable – don't get stuck and complacent in the status quo," he said. "Ask yourself: is there a better path forward?"
But Wipfler also advised the graduates to be on the lookout for opportunities throughout their careers. He used the metaphor of sliding doors – seemingly inconsequential moments that nonetheless alter the trajectory of future events.
"Each and every day will present opportunities and sliding doors for you," said Wipfler. "It is only later that you will recognize the profound impact of a decision that might seem ordinary."
Throughout his remarks, Wipfler referenced critical points in his life and career at Apple, including challenges which had a significant influence on his personal and professional journey.
"Times of difficulty and challenge will often yield the best learning and opportunities," said Wipfler. "If when things get easy, put those curious minds to work, look around the corners, seek the challenges, and you will be rewarded. …
"You are all leaders – capable, smart, ready for what comes next,” he continued. “And in times like these, where change is increasing in breadth and speed, the world needs good leaders. And the world needs you!"
For more information about the Spring Quarter class, visit the NPS Graduation website at https://nps.edu/graduation.