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The History of the Naval War College Foundation

In the Fall of 1969, Admiral Richard G. Colbert (USN), President of the Naval War College, wrote a letter to the Chief of Naval Personnel, stating:

“Several present friends and possible future benefactors of the Naval War College have recently recommended the organization of a nonprofit corporation to act as a conduit for donations of both personal and real property for the support of the traditions and mission of the Naval War College.”

He elaborated to indicate that the functions of this organization might include: “Provision of financial support to bring distinguished foreign military officers from abroad to the War College for conferences, speaking engagements, etc.; acquisition of books of historical significance for the War College libraries; solicitation and acquisition of archival material; acquisition of artifacts, furniture, paintings, memorabilia, memoirs and other papers of distinguished naval leaders for the enhancement of historical resources, traditions, and mission of the Naval War College; solicitation of funds and other personal property for the support and enhancement of the traditions and objectives of the Naval War College.”

Fifty years later, we celebrate the anniversary of the establishment of that proposed organization, the Naval War College Foundation. Certified by the Secretary of State of Rhode Island on 28 November 1969, the NWCF was the brainchild of the Honorable John Nicholas Brown, Rear Admiral Richard W. Bates (USN), attorney Richard B. Sheffield of Newport, former US Ambassador to Great Britain, Winthrop W. Aldrich of Providence, and Robert Leeson of the Lessona Corporation. Since its inception, the Foundation’s mission has held steady: to enrich and enhance the programs offered by the NWC. As Founder President Brown wrote in 1969:

All educational institutions are finding their expansion jeopardized by continuously rising costs. While the government appropriates all necessary funds for the running of the Naval War College, there are many areas which, in this era of government austerity, the governmental budget simply cannot cover. These are the reasons why the Naval War College Foundation, Inc. was established.

The original 176 members recognized the unique situation that the NWC faced as an institution of higher education: that instead of deriving its funding from student tuition and private endowments, the NWC was solely dependent on financial support from appropriations made by the United States Congress. Driven by a patriotic and philanthropic spirit, the founding members made a commitment to enhance and enrich the educational excellence of the NWC by providing additional financial support. Each founding member was asked to contribute at least $1000 to fund a modest endowment to be managed by the Foundation.

More than fifty years later, the NWCF still counts on the patriotic and philanthropic spirit of its members and donors to further the mission of the NWC. Today, the Foundation has grown to over 4500 active members with an investment pool of nearly $50 million, thanks to the generosity of people like you.


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