Systers received a special invitation from the Grace Hopper Heritage Committee to attend Grace Hopper’s Wreath Laying Ceremony in Washington, D.C. The community was excited and many area D.C. Systers planned on attending and RSVP early. The significance of this event came full circle for the community as the first Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing was held in Washington, D.C. in 1994. The wreath laying ceremony was scheduled to take place at the grave site in Arlington National Cemetery, however, due to inclement weather, the ceremony was held inside at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial; most fitting for Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.
When I arrived at the Women’s Memorial, what a pleasure it was to be greeted by Grace Hopper herself. There were memorabilia, Officer of silhouette posters and young seaman that are probably learning firsthand about Grace Hopper, who she was and her significant contributions that pioneered computing. Captain Michael Studeman, USN Active, was the master’s in ceremony and Commanding Hopper Information Services Center.
Captain Studeman recognized Dr. Telle Whitney, Dr. Anita Borg, Anita Borg Institute, Systers and their respective affiliations, among others as well as special guest fromVassar (Grace Hopper’s Alma mater), the Honorable Lurita Alexis Doan (left) African American philanthropist, public speaker, former small business owner and former head of the U.S. General Services Administration.
“As a Vassar Graduate and as a member of the Vassar Board of Trustees, I have always been proud of the Grace Hopper – Vassar Connection, and the belief that “a Vassar grad can do just about anything”—something Rear Admiral Hopper proved repeatedly. As a surveillance technology entrepreneur in a predominately male field, always, I have been inspired by Grace Hopper’s accomplishments and her legacy of leadership, empowerment and excellence. “ The Honorable Lurita Doan
We had the honor of viewing Navy footage of Grace Hopper’s lectures and certainly viewed interview with David Letterman which is always is a big hit. One take away we heard and is a famous quote of Grace Hopper is “One of the most dangerous phrase in the industry is…We’ve always done it this way.” But what is new is she goes on to say “It’s never allowed in my office.”
A great moment for Systers was meeting Commander Sandra Lawrence, USN Retired. She actually worked with Grace Hopper. Sandy Lawrence is a retired Navy Commander with over 24 years of service. All her jobs were in Information Technology, primarily in the operations and security of Command and Control (C2) Systems and Command wide networks. Sandy was the first Combat Systems Officer on the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and did a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf. What was even more surprising is that she pulled out a nanosecond from her purse, the infamous nanosecond Grace Hopper showed David Letterman on his show in 1982. We were all smiles! Commander Lawrence was all smiles as she was very proud to be part of this ceremony. She gave Systers a special tour of the Women’s memorial where she proudly serves as a volunteer.
Sandy shared a very special photo with us at the top where RADM Hopper and her mom (Helen Lawrence) during a promotion ceremony from LTJG (Lieutenant Junior Grace) to Lieutenant. This was summer of 1983.
The Cake Cutting and Grave Site
If you haven’t been to Arlington National Cemetery, it is located directly across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial. A reflective representation of the history of our country and the many lives sacrificed while serving our country. One of the most moving events of the day is the actual laying of the wreath at Grace Hopper’s grave site. The respect and honor bestowed upon her by the US Navy salute was touching. An icon in her own right, but one who probably would wonder what all the fuss was about. It was just an honor to be in attendance.
Every member has their own explanation as to why they became Systers as well as Anita addressed this question in an article many years ago. We also asked the Navy, why Systers to participate in this event. The special invitation came from Petty Officer Michael Connolly, Electronic Technician Second Class, USN Active. Checking in regularly, Petty Officer Connolly was instrumental in Systers attending this special event.
“When we first formed our Grace Hopper History and Heritage committee a little over a year ago, one of our first goals was to try to establish relationships with other Hoppertonian organizations. Obviously this led us straight to the Anita Borg Institute and the Systers by extension! We were very excited to learn about the Systers group because (at least for me) they are the most tangible representation of Grace Hopper’s legacy. This is why we invited the Systers and were ecstatic to have so many attend our event.” Petty Officer Connolly
Honoring Grace with Code
Our Systers community is more than 4,500 members strong from more than 45 countries around the world. We continue to honor Grace Hopper on her birthday in celebrating Computer Science Education Week, which is always held the week of Grace Hopper’s Birthday. This year, many of our members, including myself, has committed to Hour of Code through various activities. One of our Systers, Priscilla Oppenheimer (@priscillaoppy), “wrote a Grace Hopper Age COBOL program and it compiled and ran!” Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper continues to inspire us in many ways, but it was her service to her country that she was most proud of in her life.
Photos credits: Coutesy of 2nd Lieutenant Jennifer Ackley