AURORA | A Gateway High School graduate made history this week when she became the highest-ranking woman in the history of the United States Navy.
Michelle Janine Howard, a 1978 Gateway graduate, was promoted to the rank of four-star admiral on July 1, according to a statement from the Navy.
With the promotion, Howard is the first female four-star admiral in the 238 year history of the Navy.
The promotion makes Howard the No. 2 admiral in the Navy behind Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who presided over the ceremony and administered the oath of office to Howard, said Howard’s promotion is an important step for the Navy.
“Michelle Howard’s promotion to the rank of admiral is the result of a brilliant naval career, one I fully expect to continue when she assumes her new role as vice chief of naval operations, but also it is a historic first, an event to be celebrated as she becomes the first female to achieve this position,” he said in a statement. “Her accomplishment is a direct example of a Navy that now, more than ever, reflects the nation it serves – a nation where success is not borne of race, gender or religion, but of skill and ability.”
A 1982 graduate of the US Naval Academy, Howard’s military career has been marked by firsts, according to the Navy. In 1999, she took command of USS Rushmore, becoming the first black woman to command a ship in the Navy.
When she commanded the Expeditionary Strike Group Two from 2009 to 2010, that too marked the first time an African-American woman commanded a Strike Group at sea.
“Michelle’s many trailblazing accomplishments in her 32 years of naval service are evidence of both her fortitude and commitment to excellence and integrity,” Greenert said in the statement. “I look forward to many great things to come from the Navy’s newest 4-star Admiral.”
According to Aurora Public Schools, Howard was recognized as one of Gateway’s “Top Ten Achievers” with a 3.922 GPA when she graduated.
She chose a quote from Satchel Paige to accompany her picture in the 1978 yearbook. The baseball great’s quote read: “Never look back! Something may be chasing you (and it may be gaining).”