Ring in Spring

Cadets Cheering at Ring Dance

If there’s one month on Taylor’s Point that really defines what the Academy is all about, that month is May, but not for the reasons one might think.

For most colleges it’s graduation season and students are already packing up for the summer. The big day at MMA is still six weeks away, and depending on who you ask, it’s nowhere near being over, there’s still an awful lot left to do. Senior (1/C) license track cadets are sitting for their Coast Guard examinations during the next week and a half, exams that will in many cases define their young futures. Other 1/C's are putting the finishing touches on capstone projects, delivering papers and presentations to their peers, faculty, and invited experts in their fields.

But if there is one event that starts this month of great anticipation on campus, it would be the annual Ring Dance held in early May where MMA’s junior classmates (2/C’s) receive their class rings. The event dates back to the early 1950’s when it was held in the fall of the senior year. Graduating cadets were mostly “shipping out” as 3rd Mates, 3rd Engineers, or headed into the service. Steeped in maritime heritage back then, the ceremony symbolized the commitment (or in some circles…marriage) to the ocean...a bittersweet night for sure for some cadets and their guests!

While today’s Ring Dance reflects those traditions, it is also about transitions, and looking at the past few years of hard work, sacrifice, and realizing that one has almost reached the pinnacle of the MMA journey. It’s at this occasion when the rising cadet leaders may wear the insignias of their newly appointed rank. Yet at a place where “respect is earned, not given”, the 2/C’s know that just wearing the ring or the rank in and of itself means little…they’ll need to earn it throughout next year in the classroom, the regiment, on Sea Term, Co-Ops, and civic engagement.

The Academy’s Change of Command ceremony takes place on National Maritime Day, May 22 when the mantle of responsibility officially changes hands. For the 2/C’s, that is when reality hits home...the ship will be theirs to guide throughout their senior year. It’s been that way for generations. And then maybe they will look at those rings and think, “We made it this far…we got this.”