Navy leader and Yale alum returns to campus for tour and annual Birthday Ball

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Franklin Parker ’96 (in blue cap) is pictured atop Saybrook tower with Navy ROTC leaders and midshipmen.

One of the highlights of the 241st Annual Navy and Marine Corps Birthday Ball at Yale were remarks by Franklin Parker, assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs.

The ball, held on Nov. 4, was the culmination of a daylong visit to Yale by Parker, who is a 1996 Yale graduate and Saybrook College alumnus.

During his visit, Parker met with the midshipmen and staff of Yale Naval ROTC, and then toured Saybrook College. During the tour, Parker saw how the space had changed since his time there. The group visited the college offices, the common room and dining hall, the Underbrook Theater, the recording studio, and two gyms. Parker and the group then climbed eight flights of stairs to get a roof-top view of Yale and New Haven from Saybrook tower.  

After the tour, Parker had lunch at the Afro-American Cultural Center, where he participated in an informal discussion with students and staff, including Burgwell Howard, associate vice president of student life & dean of student engagement; and Risë Nelson, director of the Afro-American Cultural Center and assistant dean, Yale College. Discussions included the Department of the Navy’s “1 Small ACT” initiative, which was introduced in 2015 with the goal of encouraging simple actions that can inspire hope and make a difference in the lives of others through daily actions as leaders, family, and friends.

Just prior to the Birthday Ball, Parker participated in a leadership discussion with the entire Naval ROTC battalion, addressing questions about graduate education, practicing law, and opportunities for government service.

During his visit to campus, Franklin Parker met with students and staff at the Afro-American Cultural Center.

One of the original six NROTC units, Yale’s NROTC unit was established in 1926 but was disbanded in 1972. Recognizing the need for diversity of thought in the officer corps, the Navy led the way to bring an ROTC unit back to Yale when they reestablished it in 2012. Yale NROTC welcomed its first class of incoming midshipmen in over 40 years in 2012.

“Before Secretary Parker departed, I emphasized that NROTC students at Yale are exceedingly intelligent and have unlimited potential in our Navy and Marine Corps, and that the support for ROTC from Yale faculty and staff cannot be stronger,” said Captain Wayne Grasdock, commanding officer of the Yale Naval ROTC unit.

Yale’s NROTC program has a long history and tradition of service to the United States. Throughout World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, Yale alumni and faculty served the nation in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. Of the almost 30,000 Yale alumni who served in those conflicts, 796 lost their lives in combat.

Parker’s visit highlighted Yale’s commitment to supporting the military on campus. Yale currently has 11 U.S. military veterans enrolled in Yale College — three Army, three Navy, three Air Force, and two former Marines. The university joined an initiative with Service to School last year called Vetlink. And for the past few years, Yale has been a major supporter of the Warrior Scholar Project, an academic bootcamp for veterans founded by a Yale College graduate and veteran.

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