Naval Academy rebuilding to rely on alumni donations Big fund drive to pay for sports facilities, other improvements

December 12, 1998|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

Six months after his arrival at the helm of the U.S. Naval Academy, Vice Adm. John R. Ryan announced yesterday an ambitious plan to begin seeking private donations for new athletic facilities and other improvements.

The money would pay for a new soccer field, a tennis center, upgrades at the sailing center, and possibly a parking garage and some academic improvements. The donations would free up federal funds for more than $300 million in needed repairs and modernizations, especially at academic buildings.

Because the academy isn't permitted to solicit private donations directly, the Naval Academy Alumni Association would seek the funds but follow a plan established by the institution.

It not clear how much money is to be raised. The academy is to set a fund-raising goal once it establishes the detailed modernization plan.

The fund-raising effort and modernization were unveiled by Ryan yesterday to the academy's Board of Visitors. They were his first major steps as academy superintendent, ones he believes will begin an era of rebuilding after years of crisis and scandal from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.

The backlog in maintaining and upgrading facilities began about 10 years ago after Congress slashed the academy's budget, currently $170 million a year. The cost of deferred maintenance, particularly in academic buildings, is expected to reach $346 million in two years, Ryan said.

"Our laboratories are the same laboratories that 30 years ago I was taking organic chemistry and physics in," Ryan said.

Buildings decayed while attention in recent years was focused on the institution's scandals. A cheating scandal in 1992-1993 set off a restructuring of the school's leadership and curriculum. In 1994, Adm. Charles R. Larson was brought in to right the listing ship, only to be confronted with other scandals involving drug use, car thefts and sexual assaults on female midshipmen.

"You can't do strategic planning when an institution is in crisis," Ryan said. "A lot of the actions we've taken in the past have been in reaction to events."

Ryan said the academy will soon hire a consultant to develop long-term goals. In the short term, the alumni association will begin soliciting private donations to pay for the athletic facilities, a new academic center and a Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics, which opened this fall at the academy but which is expected to expand.

Retired Adm. Ronald Maryott, a former superintendent and now president of the Alumni Association, said the fund-raising plan would bring the school into step with the rest of the nation's colleges and universities, which rely heavily on private endowments.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., recently began a private, $150 million fund-raising campaign. Virginia Military Institute receives an annual endowment that averages about $10 million, and schools such as Harvard and Yale have endowments worth billions.

Warren J. Bryan, vice president of the VMI Foundation in Lexington, Va., said the $8 million to $17 million donated privately each year accounts for nearly 30 percent of that state school's budget.

The Naval Academy Alumni Association has about $2 million in the bank, Maryott said.

Navy Secretary Richard Danzig has given his support for the private fund-raising effort, especially because the academy's congressional appropriation is not expected to rise significantly, Ryan said.

In other academy business, an annual survey of midshipmen conducted in August and released yesterday found a drop in their satisfaction with the academy, which officials attributed to restrictions placed this fall on weekends off campus and on wearing civilian clothes.

The survey also found an increased perception that athletes receive special treatment.

Pub Date: 12/12/98

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