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First woman installed as head of US military service academy

US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz adjusted her uniform hat before yesterday’s change of command ceremony. US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz adjusted her uniform hat before yesterday’s change of command ceremony. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day/Via Associated Press)
By Stephanie Reitz
Associated Press / June 4, 2011

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HARTFORD — One of the earliest female graduates of the US Coast Guard Academy returned yesterday to take over its top spot, becoming the first woman selected to lead one of the nation’s five military service academies.

Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz was installed as the academy’s 40th superintendent in a change-of-command ceremony on the New London campus. She graduated from the academy in 1982, the third class to include female cadets.

Stosz, a native of Takoma Park, Md., takes over at the academy amid a push to draw more women and members of underrepresented minority groups into the cadet corps.

This fall’s incoming class has the most cultural and ethnic diversity in the academy’s history. Coast Guard Commandant Robert J. Papp, who presided over the ceremony, said maintaining and expanding that diversity is key to the Coast Guard.

“That’s the priority I am going to give her,’’ the admiral said of Stosz.

Stosz, 51, previously was the Coast Guard’s director of reserve and leadership and also commanded two cutters during her 12 years of experience at sea. They included an assignment as the first female commander of a US icebreaker, the 140-foot Katmai Bay, in northern Michigan.

Stosz was a high school discus and swimming standout and a top scholar in her graduating class when she enrolled at the academy in 1978, two years after it began admitting women.

She said her return 33 years after her enrollment is a sign of how far women have come in the service.

“I’m proud to be a role model,’’ Stosz said Thursday. “But this really is part of a natural progression.’’

The academy has about 1,030 cadets in its four-year program. Students graduate with a bachelor’s of science degree and an obligation to serve five years in the Coast Guard. Many, like Stosz, make it their career.

“Personally, of course, I am very, very proud to be someone who is coming back as a role model,’’ Stosz said. “It means a lot to me that I am able to continue to contribute and give back. I’m able to now develop these leaders of character so that we have the outstanding men and women to replace me someday.’’