In graduation ceremonies that began with two low high-speed passes by the Navy's Blue Angels jet team, 1,032 midshipmen received their Naval Academy diplomas today from President Reagan. Then, sworn in as Navy ensigns or Marine second lieutenants, they whooped, leapt and tossed their hats in the air.
Reagan was welcomed at the ceremonies here with a 21 gun salute and recalled for the midshipmen his own adventures portraying a naval officer in the film "Hellcats of the Navy," in which Nancy Reagan played a Navy nurse. He told them they were joining the Navy in a time of expansion, and would enjoy "a new appreciation" by the country for men and women in uniform.
Then, in an effort lasting more than an hour, he shook each of their hands as they received their diplomas. Many midshipmen leapt into the air after shaking the president's hands, and let loose loud whoops. One midshipman exchanged a jubilant "high fives" hand-slap with Reagan.
A crowd of 18,000 family members and friends in the stadium stands bellowed support to their favorite graduates, but none received the acclamation accorded David Atkinson of Boston, the unofficial "anchorman" of the class. He was the lowest-ranked midshipman to graduate today -- although 297 midshipmen dropped out of the accademy and 12 in the class have yet to graduate -- and received a standing ovation.
Class President Charles Sharkey presented Reagan with a Navy velour bathrobe deocrated with the cuff-stripes of a 5-star admiral, with "COMMANDER IN CHIEF" printed on the back and "BEAT ARMY" embroidered in the lining. And at the end of the ceremony, the new ensigns hurled their midshipmen caps high in the air, and proud mothers and girlfriends set about fastening the star and bar ensign shoulder-boards on their new sailors.
"It feels great," said Chet Kolley of Harrisburg, Pa., as his girlfriend Tracey Cover prepared to install his shoulder-boards. After a brief stint as a recruiting officer, Kolley will join a ship in Newport, R.I. "We're going to miss him," said his mother Phyllis. "Use your head," she added, turning to her son, "and you'll make out okay."
Things fared less well for Midshipman Jay Linder of Los Angeles, who was barred from graduation because he could only do five pull-ups, and not the six required by the academy for graduation. Academy spokesman Dennis Boxx said Linder appeared before an academic board on Tuesday and explained he is still recovering from a shoulder injury suffered last year.
Boxx said academy officials expect Linder, who could not be reached for comment, will pass the test in six weeks, after physical therapy, and then receive his diploma.