ANNAPOLIS, MD -- The U.S. Naval Academy honored one of its pioneers with the March 25 groundbreaking of the Wesley Brown Field House, a 140,000-square-foot athletic facility named for the Academy’s first African American graduate.

Lt. Cmdr. Wesley A. Brown was the sixth African American to enter the Naval Academy, and in 1949, he became the Academy’s first African American graduate (Photo: Capt. Bruce Grooms stands with Ret. Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Brown at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Wesley Brown Field House at the U.S. Naval Academy. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd class Matt Jarvis).

“This world is changing very quickly,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen, guest speaker at the groundbreaking ceremony. “But when you think about change with respect to diversity in our Navy and in our nation and you hearken back to the time when Wesley came to the Naval Academy, what a heroic step, what a courageous move, and what a long lasting and historic contribution he made.”

Brown, who served in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps for 20 years, is the namesake for the new field house that will contain facilities for physical education, varsity and intramural athletics, club sports and personal fitness. It will also offer a centralized medical facility within proximity to outdoor fields.

The mission of the U.S. Naval Academy is to develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically to prepare them to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government. U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt believes athletics play a key role.

“It teaches teamwork, leadership, determination, and all those characteristics that we are looking for in young officers,” Rempt said. “It teaches our Midshipmen how to be combat leaders and how to persevere in the fate of a good leader. It is fitting that this new field house be named after a man who epitomizes the spirit of perseverance.”

The $45 million construction contract will take about two years to complete.