Top Honors Conferred at June NWC Graduation

Jun 30, 2020

At the graduation ceremony on June 24th, the Naval War College (NWC) announced the two individuals who achieved the top academic standing in the College of Naval Warfare (CNW) and College of Naval Command & Staff (CNCS). Respectively, CDR John Sellwood of the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) received the Stephen Bleecker Luce Award and Maj Albert Louis Evans, USMC, received the William Sowden Sims Award.

CDR Sellwood is the first student from the Naval Command College (NCC) to receive the award. Each year, the NCC hosts senior officers from more than 40 countries at the College, immersing them in a program that encourages and fosters relationships between American and international officers. For Sellwood, these relationships were the highlight of his experience at the College. “The absolute best part for me was the incredible colleagues that I got to meet, both international and U.S. At this stage in my career, that’s really the value-add; it’s the relationships that you form and that you know you are going to be able to rely on for the rest of your career.” He continued, “Those bonds of friendships and mutual understanding and the chance to see others’ perspectives on the challenges we all face are for everybody’s benefit.”

For Sellwood, the presence of the international community is what makes the NWC experience special and unique. “I don’t think there’s anyone else in the world that does this or could do it in this way. Connecting us with each other here means that we are now connected to each other when we are out in the world.”

In addition to the Luce Award, Sellwood was also recognized with two prizes at the 2019-2020 NWC Writing Awards. His paper “The Influence of Geography on Great-Power Competitions” was the winner of the John J. D’Luhy Prize to Honor Excellence in Strategic Analysis and Thought, in honor of Professor Michael Handel. This prize is awarded to a resident student who writes an outstanding essay on a recurring strategic question for the final examination in the Strategy and Policy course. He also won the Matthew C. Perry Award for International Research, which is awarded annually for best College of Naval Warfare/Naval Command College research paper addressing the diplomatic, informational, military, or economic challenges (and recommended solutions) to a non-US country or geographic region. The Foundation is pleased to sponsor both of these awards.

Sellwood is the senior-most intelligence officer in the RNZN, and the NWC represents the last professional military education program in his career path as he approaches the flag rank. He returns to New Zealand this summer to join the Capability Branch in the Strategic Headquarters with a focus on long term force planning. He encourages inbound international students to seize upon the opportunities presented to them at the College. “Prioritize and focus. You don’t want to leave with a bunch of ‘might-have-beens, could-have-beens, should-have-beens’,” he shared.

In addition to the Sims Award, Maj Evans earned the Captain James T. Larkin Award for Academic Excellence by a Marine Corps student. During his time at the NWC, Evans traveled to Price Barracks in Ladyville, Belize to lecture Belize Defence Forces on international law and cooperation in conjunction with Defense Institute of International Legal Studies (DIILS). DIILS deploys around the world in global legal engagement efforts and capacity-building with international defense sector officials. While there, Evans met a member of the Belize Defense Force, who had been an international student at the Marine Corps Basic School. “Although we were not in the same company, finding shared experiences with a foreign officer thousands of miles from home is the very definition of a successful U.S. partnership,” said Evans.

He echoes Sellwood’s sentiments about embracing the educational opportunities at the College. His advice to future students? “Seek out professors and topics that interest you and do a research project as an elective. The only thing worse than an unscratched itch is an unfinished idea. It is your year and your education, take charge of it and do some deep thinking on an idea or problem you have encountered during your time in the service,” he recommended.

Outside of the classroom, Evans represented Team Navy in the Army-Navy Cardines Baseball Classic, an experience he considers one of the highlights of his time at the College. He received an honorable mention for his paper “’Speech-Centric Targeting’: Toward a Normative Framework for Targeting Speech in Armed Conflicts,” which he submitted for consideration for the Vice Admiral James H. Doyle Jr., Military Operations and International Law Prize. Evans will be stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico where he will serve as the Regional Defense Counsel for the National Capital Region.

For more on the 2020 NWC Graduation, visit


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