It was with great sadness that my family and I learned of the passing of Rear Admiral Stephen Kent Chadwick, USN (retired). In addition to being a good friend to me and my family, he was a mentor, philanthropic board colleague, one of Enterra Solutions® initial plank-owner investors, and member of Enterra’s Board of Directors. Born in Birmingham, AL, on November 1, 1938, Steve demonstrated his love of country from an early age. The day after graduating from Phillips High School — and with parental permission because he was 17 — he enlisted in the Marine Corps. After a summer spent at bootcamp at Parris Island, SC, he attended Birmingham Southern College and subsequently received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. He entered the Academy in July 1957 and graduated in 1962. Nine months prior to graduation, Steve met his future wife, Maureen Burke, on a blind date. They were married in Upper Nyack, NY, on May 2, 1964.
It did not take long for Steve to witness history. In July 1962, the freshly commissioned Ensign reported to the destroyer-class namesake Gearing (DD-710) in Norfolk, VA. In October 1962, Gearing played a vital role during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The destroyer sortied with the Essex (CVS-9) anti-submarine group and helped establish a U.S. Navy quarantine around Cuba to prevent the Soviets from bringing nuclear ballistic missiles to the island. During the following 28 years as a Surface Warfare Officer, he served in numerous capacities both at sea and ashore. He commanded two Navy warships and a combat advisory group in the Republic of Viet Nam. He also earned a Master of Science Degree in Materials Management at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.
As a Navy Captain, Steve commanded a Tactical Destroyer Squadron of up to fifteen ships in the Atlantic and Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean) area of operations. He was also responsible for the in-port Navy-wide training of home-ported ships assigned to the Atlantic Fleet as well as of all personnel involved in mine counter-measures warfare. One of the highlights of his career was returning to Annapolis for duty as the 71st Commandant of Midshipmen where he was selected for Flag Rank. The commandant of midshipmen is the second-in-command at the United States Naval Academy and is responsible for the professional development and day-to-day activities of all 4,500 Midshipmen in the Brigade. That position equates to a dean of students at a civilian university. The Commandant reports to the Academy’s Superintendent. This was a fitting role for Steve because he was a natural leader of people. He exemplified the phrase “duty, honor, and country.” In his role as Commandant, and using his superb leadership skills, he was able to help shape and influence the lives of many Academy midshipmen during his tenure.
Following his tour at the Academy, he became the Head Detailer at the Bureau of Naval Personnel. During his final tour, he assumed command of the Navy Region Hawaii and all surface ships assigned to the Mid-Pacific Group. Rear Admiral Chadwick’s service awards included the Legion of Merit (at least four awards); Bronze Star with Combat “V”; Meritorious Service Medal; Navy Commendation Medal; Combat Action Ribbon; Navy Unit Commendation (two awards); Battle Efficiency Ribbon; Navy Expeditionary Medal (Lebanon); National Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Cuba); Vietnam Service Medal (five campaign stars); Sea Service Deployment Ribbon; Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation (Gallantry Cross Colors); Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation (Civil Action Colors); Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal; and the Republic of Vietnam Staff Service Medal (First Class).
Business Career and Philanthropic Activities
Upon transferring to the Navy’s retired list in 1990, Steve began a second career in business. In 1992, he joined Prodesco, Inc., as its Chief Operating Officer in product development, manufacturing, and sales of engineered fabric structures. The leadership qualities he demonstrated during his years in the service were just as evident in the business world. He was appointed Prodesco’s President and Chief Executive Officer in 2001. Shortly thereafter, Steve was also appointed President and CEO of Secant Medical.
Steve served on the boards of manufacturing and defense related corporations such as Hitco Carbon Composites, Incorporated. He actively pursued volunteer work and served on the boards and committees of several not-for-profit organizations, including: the Naval Academy Athletic & Scholarship Foundation, Doylestown Hospital Foundation, Heritage Conservancy, Pearl S. Buck International, 1st LT Travis Manion Foundation, All Saints Episcopal School Board of Trustees and as a court appointed special advocate for children at C.A.S.A. of the South Plains. He was a lifelong proponent of training and education and, for a time, served as director of his local school district.
It was through overlapping philanthropic activities in Bucks County, PA, that my family and I were fortunate enough to meet Steve and Maureen Chadwick. In the 1990’s, I built a friendship with Steve when I joined the Board of Directors of Pearl S. Buck International and its Welcome House international adoption unit. Instantly, I was impressed by Steve’s presence and his clear-minded leadership style. At the time, I was in my mid-30’s and, through my interactions with Steve, became exposed to and learned the management and leadership maxims of a former Admiral and then current corporate CEO that I have drawn upon throughout my career. It was during this formulative time, and at a local hotel meeting room in Bucks County, PA, that I presented the initial business plan for what was to become Enterra Solutions to Steve and another local business leader, both of whom became original plank-owners of Enterra.
Over the course of the next two decades, we met frequently at board meetings, at non-profit functions, and at other festive events — like holiday parties. Steve was a successful, yet humble and modest man, who remained a steadfast friend and mentor. As my wife and daughter came to know Steve and Maureen, like me, they became deeply fond of the couple. One area of shared interest between families was a love of Nutcrackers and Byers Choice dolls. Maureen gifted my daughter a Nutcracker at each holiday party. Now, during each holiday season, my family and I display our Nutcracker collection and remember fondly the gifts received from Maureen. This collection provides us with an annual memory of our families’ friendship and the Chadwick’s generosity.
During their marriage, Steve and Maureen were blessed with three children: Elizabeth Chadwick Kasemsri and Dr. Tiva, Rear Admiral Robert B. Chadwick II, USN (ret) and wife Sandra, and Dr. Jonathan L. Chadwick CDR USN (ret) and wife Kristina. And nine grandchildren: Caroline K. Webb and husband Tyler, Jacqueline and Camille Kasemsri; Allison and Carolyn Chadwick; Connor, Caden, Cullen and Sadie Grace Chadwick. I know they will miss him dearly.
My family and I offer the Chadwick family our sincerest condolences. Farewell my friend, mentor, and Board Member. My family and I will miss you, yet you will be in our thoughts and prayers and every Christmas as we will smile at the Nutcrackers and recall the Chadwick’s kindness and friendship.