Rochester, N.Y. (NNS) -- The commander of Naval Personnel Command challenged students to get involved and give back to community, their neighbors and their country, while speaking at his own alma mater in Rochester, N.Y., May 29.
Almost 34 years to the day after he graduated, Rear Adm. Donald P. Quinn returned home to address students at East Rochester Junior/Senior High School in East Rochester, N.Y. He shared the story of his own personal Navy career with the students and urged them to get involved with the world at large.
In front of an attentive high school student body, Quinn outlined the numerous career opportunities and life experiences that people from all walks of life get from serving in the U.S. Navy.
"My advice to you is to engage," he said. "Don't be afraid to try. You all will face choices on how you will use your talents. Don't be afraid to try, to chase your star. Pick your path, and put your heart and soul into it."
Quinn urged the students to step up to challenges facing America.
"You're part of a unique country. Our government is unique; democracy is unique," he said. "And we will not survive, democracy will not survive, if you are not involved in service -- military service, government service, service to your neighbors."
Quinn's visit was part of the first Navy Week held in Rochester, N.Y. -- one of 21 Navy Weeks across America in 2009 that are designed to tell the Navy's story: what Navy personnel do, why the Navy is important to the defense of America and what opportunities exist in today's Navy.
Quinn recounted the size and scope of the Navy and the varied opportunities that are readily available to
those who join the sea service.
Calling his own personal decision to join the Navy 34 years earlier "an accidental discovery," Quinn said even though he had served in 20 countries, led six commands, made 13 moves and enjoyed numerous unexpected opportunities, in the end, it was the thousands of shipmates he served alongside for more than three decades that brought him the most satisfaction.
"Those are the strongest and longest-lasting friendships that will last you a lifetime," he said. "Dare to try, engage, chase your dreams. I will tell you this: whether you serve two years or 32 years, if you jump into the military, you're going to learn a lot of great things. You're going to learn to be part of a team; you're going to learn discipline; you're going to learn to set goals. So I encourage you to think about that."
Quinn is a native of East Rochester, N.Y., and attended the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science in Oceanography. He was designated a naval flight officer in 1980.
By September 2005, Quinn was promoted to flag rank. He has commanded the Naval Air Training Command and Strike Force Training, Atlantic. His awards include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal and Meritorious Service Medal.
Quinn has deep roots in the Rochester area. His father was a popular football coach at the school for about 30 years and still lives in the home where Quinn grew up, a short walk from the campus. His father was so popular, in fact, that the school's football stadium still bears his name. Quinn's sister coaches the school's Class C state Champion lacrosse and field hockey teams.
So it's not surprising that his first address to students at his own alma mater was much like a homecoming for Quinn.
"I'm excited about today's event," he said. "These are my roots. I've enjoyed coming back here to share what I've learned from serving in the Navy with the kids that are here and maybe spark some interest with the folks here, either in the Navy or any military service."
In the front row, Ashley Moulton, 18, is one East Rochester High School senior who had special reason to be excited about Quinn's visit; she is his niece. She is graduating this month and will attend Loyola College starting in the fall semester. She said she was thrilled that her uncle was there to speak to her fellow classmates at her school.
"I'm really proud of him. He's really accomplished a lot in his career," she said. "It's cool to have all my classmates see how proud I am for all he's done for our country, for him to come back here and speak to us."
The school principal and the school district superintendent both gave "thumbs up" endorsements to Quinn's influence on the student body, for instilling pride and for demonstrating a great example of what one can accomplish with a career in the Navy.
Following his presentation, Quinn introduced the Naval Academy Band's "Electric Brigade" to the enthusiastic students.
Later that same day, Quinn was the featured Navy speaker at the Kodak VetNet Dinner, during which he spoke to about 80 people attending a special ceremony at the Irondequoit Country Club. His comments centered on leadership and commitment to Navy core values.
For more news from Navy Office of Community Outreach, visit www.navy.mil/local/navco/.