NROTC captain retires from Navy
White tents, Navy uniforms, drums, and celebratory marches took over the CFA Lawn Saturday as the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps honored retiring captain Keith Bowman. Bowman has served as professor of naval science and commanding officer of the NROTC unit at Carnegie Mellon since July 2006. His appointment was the last part of his 31-year Navy career.
Bowman graduated from the Naval Academy in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in ocean engineering. He then received a master’s degree in business administration from Rollins College.
He has served on five submarines and one aircraft carrier, and has received a number of Navy awards, including the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Navy Commendation Medal.
“What’s kept me in it is the mission, ennobling nature of service and sacrifice, and, probably most importantly, the quality of the people,” Bowman said.
Midshipmen and friends spoke highly of their interactions with Bowman.
“He really talks to you on a personal level,” said Jonathan Licht, a sophomore mechanical engineering major and midshipman. “He really convinced me to join.”
Fellow naval officer and current chairman and chief executive officer of Legacy Pharmaceuticals Michael Danzey was the ceremony’s guest of honor and first speaker.
“Of course Keith wanted me not to talk about him, but about what I got out of the Navy,” Danzey said, noting Bowman’s humility.
Danzey spoke of Bowman as a brother for the past 26 years.
“Keith is the smartest, most honest, and caring person I have ever met,” Danzey said.
Danzey met Bowman while serving on the submarine USS Pogy from 1982 to 1985.
Bowman mentioned the excitement he feels when he gets an e-mail from midshipmen from even 10 years ago saying that Bowman made a difference in their lives.
“That’s part of my legacy — hopefully a positive influence on them,” Bowman said. “I hope to be able to track their progress whether they stay in service or become civilians.”
While speaking at the ceremony, Bowman started crying about midway through his speech.
“I would not be surprised if my midshipmen entered a betting poll on if I would get too misty,” Bowman said.
Bowman inserted humor throughout his speech.
“I started writing my speech this morning. I reckon Lincoln wrote his Gettysburg speech on the train, so why should I do anything different?” Bowman said.
Over his 31-year career, Bowman has traveled to Australia, San Diego, Hawaii, and South Carolina, among other places. He has worked with the Naval Nuclear Power School and a mission in Afghanistan, among others.
“The sacrifices are borne by the entire family,” Bowman said.
Bowman is married and has three children. His son Jacob is currently enrolled at the Naval Academy.
“I didn’t want my son to do something out of obligation for me,” Bowman said, but he mentioned that he is very proud of him.
Bowman noted the changes in the military since his own times at the Naval Academy.
In the late 1970s, the military was run by conscription and now it is on a volunteer basis. Bowman said that this switch has resulted in a much higher regard for military personnel.
He noted a negative effect of the switch as well.
“Society and military have grown further apart,” Bowman said. “Now it is much more likely you won’t know someone in the military where with conscription, it was just the person down the street.”
In his retirement, Bowman said he hopes to continue his involvement with people. He plans to either go into education or to start a small business offering alternative energy.
“For me, there’s two bottom lines with the small company — profit and loss, and the impact on society,” Bowman said.
Bowman also hopes to spend time with his family. He said that his family has made sacrifices and now it is time for him to focus on them.
Bowman will be succeeded in his Carnegie Mellon post by Gregory Billy.
Billy is a 1981 graduate from the Naval Academy and has served on a number of submarines in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean.
“I’m both honored and privileged to command the ROTC unit at CMU,” Billy said at the ceremony.
Billy’s parents both went to Carnegie Mellon, and he spoke highly of his own experience here.
“My grandmother took out life insurance on my father when she heard he was driving a buggy at Spring Carnival,” Billy said.
Billy ended his speech by saluting Bowman on his post and career.
Bowman gave out his last business card on Wednesday.