After 38 years of service for the Navy, the military and the National Defense University, NDU president Vice Adm. Ann E. Rondeau requested permission to permanently go ashore.
Rondeau spoke of her never-ending appreciation to those who highlighted her military career before transferring NDU command to the university's senior vice president and former Bulgarian Ambassador Nancy McEldowney. After the ceremonial command exchange, Rondeau's emotion-filled voice broke as she piped ashore at the conclusion of the change of presidency and retirement ceremony at Fort McNair's Lincoln Hall on April 11.
A number of speakers took the opportunity to pay tribute to the retiring NDU president. Deputy Chief of Navy Chaplains, Chaplain of the Marine Corps Rear Adm. Margaret G. Kibben described Rondeau's work as a “selfless service to a nation.” Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr., who spoke on behalf of The Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, summarized some Rondeau traits with the words, “authentic, resilient and humble.”
Then Rondeau addressed an auditorium filled with past shipmate colleagues, NDU staff, diplomats, ambassadors, foreign servicemembers, friends and Family. Her remarks included a checklist filled with names and institutions that have earned her thankfulness.
“This is a day to understand what it means to have gratitude,” she said. “Gratitude is an extraordinary virtue. First I express my gratitude to God. I have gratitude toward a Family. I am a daughter, a sister, a niece and the aunt of military. I am also a citizen and a receiver of all the good things the military has done. It is with privilege that I say that I have gratitude to every war fighter, every warrior and every person who fought for peace and worked for peace and made this country greater.”
Rondeau also voiced her appreciation toward her friends, civil servants, the Navy, the military as a whole and her self-described team at the university.
“I am particularly grateful for those who made me look good every day. A lot of you did that,” Rondeau warmly told her colleagues. “These NDU enterprises – this Family, this faculty, these leaders, these commandants, these chancellors – are an extraordinary gift. They are a collective genius.”
Rondeau, the Daughter of an Army Corps of Engineers medic, additionally paid tribute to the “strong female stock” of her Family by presenting her mother Charlotte, sister Janice and niece Anne Marie bouquets of roses.
Before reciting her favorite poem, Walt Whitman's Joy Shipmate Joy, Rondeau closed her remarks by reflecting how she played a part in breaking the glass ceiling toward gender equality on her way to becoming the 13th president of the National Defense University.
“What a great 38 years of service it has been,” she reflected.
“In 1974…women were not allowed into the academies, were not allowed into the ROTC units and not allowed to wear slacks and we had to wear gloves. But the Navy always was progressive and moving forward.”
Rondeau's official retirement date is May 1 and at that point, McEldowney will assume command until U.S. Army Major General Gregg Martin becomes NDU president this summer.