Fifty years ago, in the summer of 1969, the idea to form an independent organization which would support cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy was born.
The seeds for the organization were planted some twenty-five years earlier during World War II. On board the Coast Guard transport HUNTER LIGGETT, a young Coast Guard lieutenant, George Holtzman met two Coast Guard members who would later become his lifelong friends, Samuel J. Silberman (Bud) and Fairleigh S. Dickinson, Jr.
In 1969, then-retired Captain Holtzman turned to his friends for support when he proposed a plan to help his alma mater, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. The school needed support, and Holtzman believed private resources could be cultivated to enrich cadets’ quality of life and enhance academic and athletic programs.
At the first board of directors meeting of the newly incorporated Coast Guard Academy Foundation, forty volunteers from all across the country gathered at the Coast Guard Academy. In addition to the three founders mentioned-Holtzman, Silberman and Dickinson- in attendance were G. William Miller, then-president of Textron and later U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Arnold Sobel, a retired Reserve Coast Guard Rear Admiral, and John Church, then active in the Coast Guard Auxiliary and a philanthropist with a strong interest in supporting education.
At the time, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy was a lean institution. Because of the Academy’s size, resources for other than government funding were limited. The Alumni Association could be counted on for its support, but the Academy needed resources for larger projects that could provide additional margin-of-excellence programs for the cadets.
Those first years resulted in solid activity and programming. Land was purchased in Stonington, Connecticut, to provide off-site cadet recreation and outdoor education space; and a Shipmate Lodge, donated by WWII Coast Guard shipmates and Foundation founders Silberman and Dickinson, was built on that land.
Other projects followed that supported academics and athletics, including distinguished lecture programs and learning-based field trips. Big projects that added to the Academy’s infrastructure included a Visitors’ Center, Robert Crown Park, the Rowing Center, and the Seamanship/Sailing Center. Vans were purchased for off-campus transportation. The library received the first of its many research books.
For 17 years, the spirit of the Coast Guard Academy Foundation made real and lasting contributions to the Coast Guard Academy and the education and athletic development of cadets enrolled there. This success was thanks to support from a caring public who understood the important role of the Academy in the development of Coast Guard leaders.
With this success, the Foundation was asked to broaden its scope to include the entire Coast Guard family. The challenge was significant, but the opportunity to answer the call for Coast Guard members across the country and sustain support for the Academy became the Foundation’s new mission.
In 1986, the Coast Guard Academy Foundation became the Coast Guard Foundation, and thanks to public support, has continued its commitment to both the Academy and the Coast Guard’s men and women and their families.
We plan to take the opportunity throughout this year to share stories, including pictures and video, of what fifty years of support to the U.S. Coast Guard has looked like, and share our vision for the future.
We are grateful to our founders and their families, we are thankful to all who have volunteered over these last five decades, and lent their expertise and passion for giving back to those who serve in the U.S. Coast Guard — and we are indebted to the thousands upon thousands of people, corporations, and foundations who have supported us and made our work, and our mission, possible.
None of this, of course, would be possible without an incredible partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, from the most senior leaders in Washington D.C. and commanders all across the country, to new recruits in boot camp, and swabs entering the Coast Guard Academy, and everyone in between.