Rickover Naval Academy ceremony serves as history lesson to students
by BRIAN NADIG
The commissioning ceremony on Nov. 7 for the new location of the Rickover Naval Academy at 5700 W. Berteau Ave. served as a history lesson on the high school’s namesake, known as the "Father of the Nuclear Navy."
"(Hyman) Rickover knew how to make a dream come true (and) to take an idea and make it come into realty," retired U.S. Navy Admiral John Richardson said. "It takes … a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication."
The Chicago Public Schools academy relocated from Senn High School, 5900 N. Glenwood Ave., in the summer to the former site of Luther North High School, which closed in 2017.
Richardson said that Hyman’s research while director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program "changed the world," impacting not only how submarines are powered but also helping to develop improvements in X-ray technology and in other aspects of life.
Rickover’s family emigrated from Russia to the United States in 1906, settling in Chicago. He graduated from Marshall High School in 1918 and was commissioned as an ensign in 1922.
He later attended Columbia University, where he earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering, and, after serving in World War II, he was assigned to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Laboratory in Tennessee.
As director of the Naval Reactors Branch, Rickover developed the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine and his work lead to significantly increasing the amount of time submarines could stay out at sea. He then directed all aspects of building and operating the nuclear fleet, and in 1980 Rickover received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Cecil Haney told students that he knew Rickover, who died in 1986. "I have so much admiration for what he achieved," Haney said. "Admiral Rickover came from a very humble background."
Haney said that Rickover would be proud of the "hands-on experience" which the school’s curriculum offers students. "He cared so much about education," Haney said.
When it opened in 2005, the Rickover academy had 120 cadets and 12 staff members but now has more than 450 cadets and a staff of 35, with room to grow to an enrollment as high as 700, according to school officials.
Academy superintendent Michael Biela said that the new location will allow the school "to reach its full potential … a place students can call their own." About $22 million of infrastructure improvements are being made to the building.
Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said that he is "excited" that the building was transformed into a public school, giving area families another option for their children. "I’m honored to be at this event (and) see smiles on all the young men and women," he said.