Faces: Then & Now

Naval Postgraduate School:
A Look Back, the Way Forward


As 2021 comes to a close, we are taking this opportunity to look back on the accomplishments of the last year, NPS' 70 years in Monterey, and the Foundation's 50-year partnership with NPS. As we reflect on the rich history of NPS, we celebrate the impressive young leaders and innovative technologies that are and will continue making a difference for NPS, our Nation and our allies. 


A Message from NPS President Ann Rondeau as we Celebrate 70 Years of NPS in Monterey

"Throughout the years, landmark discoveries in the areas of robotics and unmanned systems, autonomy and cyber security, maritime logistics and operations, artificial intelligence, modeling and simulation, enabled NPS students and faculty to apply results to solve operational problems. Many NPS graduates have gone on to lead our military, government and businesses in the highest positions with honor and integrity forged in part by their NPS experience. In fact, current Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro was a 1989 graduate of NPS’ Space Systems Engineering program.

Ongoing support from local leadership committed to empowering NPS led to important collaborations in such areas as information technology, connecting several Department of Defense facilities on the Peninsula with advanced internet capabilities, and sparking the Monterey Peninsula Department of Defense Net and its ongoing council. Years of partnership, visionary leadership and commitment to our national defense continue today from current local, regional and national leaders who have helped to make NPS the leading institution it is while making faculty, staff and students feel welcome and proud to call Monterey home.

A big part of the secret to our magic is Monterey. NPS’ success is Monterey’s success, and one that we share wholly and humbly with all the area communities that have embraced and supported us for 70 years. We look forward to the next 70 years defending our nation, together!"


Dr. Peter Denning
NPS Distinguished Professor
Chair - Computer Science Department
Director - Cebrowski Institute for Innovation

Denning has been a leading engineer and scientist in computing since his graduation from MIT in 1968, where he discovered the locality principle for how computations access storage objects and from it invented the influential working set model for program behavior. Amongst his many achievements, he contributed important extensions to operational analysis, co-founded CSNET, and led the Digital Library project for the Association for Computing Machinery. He was also the founding Director of the Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science (RIACS) at NASA-Ames, one of the first centers in computational science. Denning held academic teaching and research roles at Princeton, Purdue and George Mason University before joining the Naval Postgraduate School in 2002. At NPS, he currently leads the Innovation Project, which is devoted to understanding innovation as emergence around contingencies and teaching innovation as a skill set that mobilizes people into emerging new practices. He also currently leads the Great Principles of Computing project, which has gathered and focused the timeless basic principles of computing, contributed to a new image and respect for computing, and seeded the national movement to revamp the high school AP Curriculum and the development of CS principles courses at major universities.

As one of the instructors for the Innovation Leadership course, what do you think NPS’ greatest strengths are when it comes to changing the military’s mindset about innovation and innovation adoption?

A great strength is the willingness of many students to learn the skills necessary to bring their innovations into adoption in their communities. With the skills we teach they can navigate the bureaucracies that tend to block changes and impede innovations. Our students will be the ones who change the "military mindset.” The goal is to make the Navy and Marine Corps more agile. We are already pretty agile here at NPS. Our students are bringing agile methods to their communities.

How can collaboration between Silicon Valley and NPS enhance innovation and adoption of emerging tech/capabilities for the U.S. Military?

Collaboration is good when it builds on each other's ideas and produces a better outcome than either alone. The main mechanism available to us is the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), which are difficult to set up because government IP rules differ from private industry.

Why is it important for NPS to develop partnerships and networks in order to maintain and drive America’s competitive advantage in this new world? 

One important skill for doing that is to learn to identify influential "voices" in the community and listen to what they are saying, even if you don't agree with them. Their assessments about what is happening reveal the directions of movement, and their declarations of new possibilities create new movement.

As we cross the threshold of celebrating NPS’ 70 years in Monterey, what are your hopes for the institution as it heads into the future?

I'd like to see the institution strengthen the partnership between the faculty, the command administration, and the Navy leaders who set policy.


An Interview with Luke Delaney
MS in Aerospace Engineering '16, 2021 NASA Astronaut Candidate

NPS Foundation Vice President Todd Lyons chats with NASA Astronaut Candidate Luke Delaney.

Delaney is a retired U.S. Marine Corps major and a distinguished naval aviator who participated in exercises throughout the Asia Pacific region and conducted combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Delaney most recently worked as a research pilot at NASA’s Langley Research Center, in Hampton, Virginia, where he supported airborne science missions. Including his NASA career, Delaney logged more than 3,700 flight hours on 48 models of jet, propeller, and rotary-wing aircraft.

Lt. Cmdr. Jessica Wittner
U.S. Navy, MS in Aerospace Engineering '18

Naval Postgraduate School alumna Lt. Cmdr Jessica Wittner, MS in Aerospace Engineering '18, was recently selected by NASA to join the 2021 Astronaut Candidate Class and reports for duty in January 2022. NPS' Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Chair, Dr. Garth Hobson, Associate Professor Dr. Chris Brophy, and former NASA astronaut, Space Systems Academic Group Chair, Dr. Jim Newman, recently had the chance to congratulate Wittner and learn about her path to where she is and her aspirations for the future. 

Growing up not far from the Naval Postgraduate School, Wittner always dreamt of becoming an astronaut. Working on motorcycles with her dad as a child led to an early interest in engineering and the curiosity of always wanting to know how and why things work the way they do. Wittner's grandfather, a career Navy submariner, ignited her interest in joining the Navy. Wittner enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2001 as an aviation machinist mate, where she worked as an aircraft mechanic before acceptance in the Navy's Seaman-to-Admiral-21 Commissioning Program in 2006. She earned her commission after graduating from the University of Arizona in 2009. She then attended U.S. Navy flight training and earned her wings in 2011. Wittner has served operationally flying F/A-18s with VFA-34 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and VFA-151 in Lemoore, California. A graduate of U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, she worked as a test pilot and project officer with VX-31 in China Lake, California. 

Wittner earned her master's degree from the Naval Postgraduate School while working as a test pilot for the Navy. "Those two things combined, working through and developing new systems and gaining an understanding of the background of why these systems are the way they are, through [NPS], made it real for me." Wittner continued, "after I finished my test pilot tour and graduated from the Navy Postgraduate School, I put my name in the hat for this job, and here I am."


Hear from Wittner on her path to becoming a NASA Astronaut Candidate. Watch the Video. 


The 2021 NASA Astronaut class consists of 10 astronaut candidates selected from a field of more than 12,000 applicants. Upon completing a two-year training program, they will be assigned to missions including research aboard the International Space Station (ISS), launching on commercial spacecraft as a part of a commercial-government collaboration, and deep space missions to destinations including the Moon. When asked about her future aspirations with NASA, Wittner remarked that any one of the assignments would make her happy. "Not only are we doing the ISS work with our international partners, but NASA is also proceeding on the Artemis Missions to the Moon and eventually Mars. There are so many exciting things to be a part of." 

Wittner's message to the NPS community is to always keep moving forward:

"Regardless of what your goal is, you work hard and you make the best of the opportunities that are given to you, like the great opportunities at NPS. If you do those things, you can get where you want to go. 


Valerie Jensen
Special Projects Coordinator, NPS Foundation

Valerie (Val) Jensen began working for the Naval Postgraduate School Foundation part-time in 1991 and has contributed to the growth and success of the Foundation’s work in more ways than can be counted. She is also the longest serving employee of the Foundation as she is now completing her 30th year. Val has played a significant role in planning the Foundation’s annual events, managing the America’s Heroes Charity Golf Tournament and playing a significant role in the Grand Winter Ball since the beginning. Val has also served as a volunteer in the military community for many years. She is a member of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), and the Del Monte Club, an organization comprised of staff and faculty members of the Naval Postgraduate School. She is also the 2021 recipient of the NPS Foundation’s Mauz and Warner Distinguished Leadership Award.


"I was shocked, dumbfounded, and I certainly never expected to receive the Mauz-Warner Award. Being linked with Adm. Mauz and Bill Warner, along with the first two recipients, Don Beall and Karen Hargrove, is a very special privilege."


How did you first come to NPS and what made you stay?

I first came to Monterey on my return from teaching in a DOD school in Yokosuka, Japan. I met my future husband, Jack, who was stationed there and then came to NPS as a student. I arrived in Monterey a year later and we were married in the chapel at NPS. Jack expected to return to Monterey, so we bought a piece of land. We returned to Monterey for Jack’s final tour as CO at Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center. After his retirement, he built the house he had been designing for the 25 years during his navy career.

What is your favorite memory from the Naval Postgraduate School?

There isn’t one thing, there were many. But the people are most important. We lived in quarters, one of the cottages, and made life-long friends of many of our neighbors. Students, faculty, and staff of NPS added to life here. 

What was the most impactful moment for you during the last 30 years?

Now ending 30+ years with the Foundation, being hired by Vice Adm. Richard A. Miller and Jane Butler (former NPSF presidents) for the part-time position was the beginning of any impactful activity that followed. I believe that the Quarterly Evenings we held for several years were important. Student participation in “Stories from the Frontlines” was amazing and informative of their deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, while the other evenings focused on research or current events were great introductions for the community to NPS.

How have the Foundation’s annual events evolved over the years, and what is your hope for these events going forward?

The first Winter Ball was planned by friends of the Foundation. As interest in the event grew, planning and work was moved to the Foundation staff, and then to a contracted organizer. After a few years, we added student volunteers to help with decorating. The ball is a lovely start to December. I look forward to having the guest numbers increase again following the restrictive guidelines of this year.

America’s Heroes Charity Golf Tournament began as a one-time event to help wounded warriors and all proceeds went to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. One staff member was given the responsibility for planning, but none of us had a clue about golf tournaments! The next year a second charity was added, and the Foundation received only expenses. Several different charities were included in a part of proceeds for a while, and they changed for each event until the seven we support now became set four years ago. The very generous supporters and players have made AH a success. We have had several good sponsors over the life of AH, but I would hope corporate sponsors will take a larger role. It would also be great to see more Fund-a-Cause designation donations. The purpose of supporting charities that help service members and families is important, and I hope it continues.


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