A member of the 12 letter club, Becky Dowling Calder ’94 has been an exceptional representative of Andover’s athletic program. After being recruited to play Division I basketball for the Naval Academy, Calder pursued a military career and went on to become the first woman to ever graduate from the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, better known as Top Gun. Calder has since served as a trailblazer and an inspiration to other women who have enlisted or have considered enlisting in the U.S. Navy.
Despite being inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, receiving the title of Patriot League Rookie of the Year in her first season playing collegiate basketball, and earning back-to-back MVP titles during the two seasons she was captain of the Naval Academy team, Calder still prizes the moment she earned a championship banner for Andover Basketball.
Calder said, “I remember being a [Junior] and winning a banner. I remember that banner going up, then the next banner. I loved it.”
In addition to her multiple championship victories, Calder attributes her love for Andover to her teammates on Andover Girls Basketball, Soccer, and Softball — she captained all three teams during her Senior year.
“I know this will sound cliché but my teammates really became my family at Andover. I was a boarding student from Washington state and Boston was 3,000 miles from where I grew up. Especially in a challenging environment like Andover, you need people around you who will help you navigate through the system. For me those people were my teammates. They helped me survive the four years of crazy at Andover,” said Calder.
Andover’s influence on Calder, however, extends past its athletic program. Andover’s motto Non Sibi played an essential role in her decision to serve her country.
Calder said, “This is cliché again, but Andover truly instilled in me the motto of Non Sibi. I first heard about it in ninth grade. At the time, I didn’t even know what it meant for me besides the fact that it was the motto of the school. After being [at Andover] for four years, however, it just became a part of who I was. The motto of Non Sibi translated right over into the Naval Academy and into a life of service in the military. I think it truly gave me that foundation of serving others.”
While Andover played an influential role in her life, Calder played just as big of a part in the lives of her peers.
Dean of Students and fellow classmate Jennifer Elliott ’94 said, “Becky Dowling is one of the all-time best people I have ever known. Becky brought positive energy to every endeavor, and she modeled how to work and play with tremendous determination, skill, and selflessness. It was a gift any time you were able to be with Becky. She was a magnetic member of our community — I felt so lucky to be at [Andover] with her.”
Drawing from her own experience, Calder encourages student athletes of all backgrounds to persevere in their sports regardless of the hindrances they face.
Calder continued, “I really wanted to play basketball at Stanford. I didn’t even know that I wanted to go to the Naval Academy — all I knew was that I wasn’t being recruited by Stanford and that it was a huge disappointment. My mother would remind me of the two years I cried everyday at Andover and the two years at the Naval Academy when I wanted to quit and go home. I didn’t quit though and committing to the Naval Academy turned out to be the best decision of my life. I learned when one door closes, another door opens.”
Despite her tremendous impacts in the military, Calder can still attribute some of her successes to Andover and her family.
Calder said, “I never set out to be a pioneer or a trailblazer. I am simply blessed to have the most supportive and most loving family that was able to support me through Andover and the Naval Academy. I think that it was the values that were instilled in me from Andover and my family that has led me to my life right now.”
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