On a beautiful but chilly evening, alumni from the Pine Beach, New Jersey campus of Admiral Farragut Academy gathered on Friday, April 24th at the former campus, where they raised the flag and christened the newly renovated docks that were a part of the school.
The Farragut Dock, which was a signature element of the North campus for nearly 60 years since the school’s opening in 1933, had succumbed to years of neglect after the school’s closing in 1994 eventually becoming an eye-sore for the community. About two years ago, the Borough of Pine Beach received approval for, and began construction on a new pier at this site. The Borough spent $1.2 million cleaning up the waterfront, installing new docks and a gazebo, and beautifying the location with landscaping efforts. In October of 2014 the Borough announced a resolution to name our Academy’s former waterfront “Admiral Farragut Point.” Alumni took action to raise funds and install four beautifully designed bronze plaques on the dock space provided by the Borough telling the story of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut and the story of Admiral Farragut Academy’s time on the banks of Tom’s River. One of the markers commemorates the legacy of Admiral Farragut Academy.
The evening’s guest speaker was Charlie Duke ‘53S who is one of the 12 men to walk on the surface of the moon. Duke shared his story about how he arrived at Farragut. He wanted to go to the Naval Academy so his parents found Farragut his junior year. They sacrificed a lot for him to attend and were hopeful it was the right step towards the Naval Academy. He said his best memories are the friends he made during the two years he spent on campus. After graduating from the Naval Academy, astigmatism in his eyes prevented him from qualifying to be a naval aviator. However, the Air Force had the foresight to accept him into their aviation program.
Duke said, “Keep in mind when I graduated from Farragut people did not know what an astronaut was, it was not something you prepared for, but Farragut prepared me for life. I am so thankful to my parents for making the sacrifice for me to go to Farragut. It prepared me for the Naval Academy and for life after it.”
In addition to discussing the benefits of having attended Farragut, Duke spent a good portion of his speech describing his journey as an astronaut.
“In 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon, and we did it,” Duke said. “I was part of the Communication Command when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. I was actually talking to him. During that time, I thought I had two chances to go to the moon – slim and none, but being a part of NASA during that time was amazing. I was part of a team, a true team and every day was an adventure. We worked hard, worked together, aimed high and obeyed the rules. When I was selected for Apollo 16, I was given the tremendous opportunity to walk on the moon. My first thought when I stepped on the moon was – I’m on the moon! I was overwhelmed at the beauty of the moon. It was always daylight with the blackness of space; it was truly awesome. When the earth rose, my first thought was – I am a long way from home.”
The history of the dock renovations and plaque installation was read by David Lipsky ‘75N. The flag was lowered and given to Headmaster Robert J. Fine, Jr. to raise on the first day of school for the 2015-2016 school year in St. Petersburg. This will symbolize the coming together of the schools to become one.
During the ceremony, special thanks was paid to the efforts of the late Arturo Diaz ‘75N, who sadly passed before the project was complete. Diaz along with fellow alumni Robert “Nick” Morris ‘59N, Mark Hollern ‘74N, and David Lipsky ‘75N made the project become a reality.
After the ceremony on Friday, alumni then gathered at a local restaurant to continue their fellowship.
On Saturday, April 25th, alumni had the opportunity to visit Atlantic City, go to “Shooters”, a local shooting range, or play a round of golf at the Sea Oaks Country Club course. All groups had an enjoyable time. That evening, the 6th Annual Pine Beach reunion was held at the beautiful restaurant at the Sea Oaks Country Club where over 140 alumni, families, friends and school administrators gathered for dinner.
We look forward to seeing our alumni next year for the 7th Annual Pine Beach Reunion. Dates will be announced.
Thank you to all who attended!