Shakespeare on the Bridge

Michelle Howard seems to be known at the first black female to command a ship, not that we (or she!) knew race was an issue for ship drivers. Our guess is the rear admiral and 1982 graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., would prefer her race and gender rank far down the list of noteworthy accomplishments.

Howard is slated to head Expeditionary Strike Group 2  based in Norfolk, Va. This is a big deal.

The admiral’s bio lists the litany of ships on which she has served. She has been a chief engineer. She has commanded the dock-landing ship Rushmore (LSD 47). She also commanded Amphibious Squadron Seven.

She has also gone by the names Constance and Antigone.

Howard’s bio does not talk about her days as a thespian, though most who fell in love with Shakespeare (and other actors) will recall her as gifted on stage as off. Michelle Howard was a Masquerader. Then a group of renegade misfits, Howard was a favorite of group advisor and English professor Mike Jasperso, who cast her in a number of productions including Hermia in the hilarious and inspired “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” 

She was Constance in the 1980 production of “The Three Musketeers.” The next year, she played the title role in “Antigone,” and her last turn on stage in the stately Mahan Hall was as Lady Amaranth in “Wild Oats.”

Howard seemed to be one of the most normal and well-adjusted mids — regardless of gender. She would have none of the Hall nonsense in the miscreant acting troupe. Our association was brief, but, for some reason, we have never forgotten her.

Nor has the Navy. Expeditionary Strike Group 2 (ESG 2) is the former Amphibious Group 2 that was disestablished at the end of 2006. Amphibs might not be the sexiest in the Navy’s whopping collection of 280 or so ships, but ESG 2 has the crucial mission of transporting a Marine expeditionary unit where it’s needed.

Admiral, not bad for a starving artist.

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