The Role of a Sponsor

A Sponsor is named by the Secretary of the Navy. It is a great honor to be named the Sponsor of a United States Navy Ship or a ship that sails with the Navy supporting the fleet. The Sponsor’s role is an important one. She will participate in all or some of the milestones in the life of her ship and her experiences will be memorable.

Information on the Ceremonial Milestones has been gathered in part from the Secretary of the Navy’s Instruction, from the Program Executive Office, Ships and from Sponsors.

Ceremonial Milestones

Keel Laying Ceremony: During this ceremony, the Sponsor etches her initials into the keel plate to verify that the ship’s keel has been “truly and fairly” laid. Note: Not all Sponsors will be involved in the keel laying of their ships. Sponsor participation depends on the scope of the ceremony and the local customs and traditions of the building yard.

Christening: The Sponsor is very much an active participant in this ceremony. She bestows the name while smashing the bottle against the bow of the ship. The ceremony and supporting events are hosted by the shipbuilder. The Program Executive Office ensures that the ceremony fully supports Navy customs and traditions. It is a wonderful event in which the Sponsor and ship’s namesake are recognized.

Commissioning: The commissioning ceremony is one of the most important. The ship is accepted by the United States Navy and becomes part of the active Navy Fleet. When the Sponsor says, “Man Our Ship and Bring Her to Life” and the crew board the ship, all present rejoice and break out in thunderous applause. It is a very patriotic and proud moment for all.

The commissioning ceremony is hosted by the Prospective Commanding Officer. The Program Executive Office shares in the planning and execution of this event. The social events are hosted by the commissioning committee through local fundraising.

Although it is optional, it is customary for the Sponsor to present a gift to the ship at one of the commissioning events. If the ship is a support ship for the Navy, the Sponsor usually presents a gift at one of the christening events.

Decommissioning: The decommissioning ceremony marks the end of the ship’s active service life. The Decommissioning Commanding Officer will ensure that the Sponsor , maids, (matrons of honor) are notified of the ceremony and any possible participation.

Relationship with the Ship and Crew: Far beyond participation in ceremonial milestones, Sponsorship represents a lifelong relationship with the ship and her crew. While this bond begins with the ship’s christening and the initial (plankowner) crew, it will ideally extend throughout the ship’s service life and even beyond. Sponsors are encouraged to make every effort to foster this special relationship, and to maintain contact with the initial and successive captains and the amazing men and women who comprise her crew. This can be as simple as exchanging e-mails or holiday greetings to participating in sail-aways and homecoming events.


Board of Directors, Trustees, and Executive Committee


President: Allison Stiller (2025)
First Vice President: Patty Ball (2025)
Second Vice President: Ann Zumwalt (2024)
Third Vice President: Kathy Smith (2024)
Corresponding Secretary: Rose Magnus (2024)
Recording Secretary: Ellen Roughead (2025)
Treasurer: Gloria Valdez (2024)


Katie Fowler (2024)
Rose Magnus (2024)
Linda Winter (2024)
Bruni Bradley (2025)
Rebecca Byrne (2025)
Paula Neira (2026)
Dana Richardson (2026)
Lolita Zinke (2026)

Executive Committee Chairmen

Finance: Barbara Pilling
Historian: Janet Gehman
Luncheon: Ann Zumwalt
Membership: Dana Richardson
Scholarship: Katie Fowler & Betty Ann Tanner
Website Liaison: Rosalie Calhoun
Mentorship: Barbara Pilling

Society Presidents

Miss Mary Campbell (Underwood) 1908-09
Miss Minnie Conrad 1909-10
Mrs. John G. South, Christine 1911-12
Mrs. Reynold Thomas Hall 1912-22
Mrs. Russell C. Langdon 1922-47
Mrs. Royal Eason Ingersoll 1947-48
Mrs. Julian C . Smith, Harriet 1948-51
Mrs. William S. Pye 1951-53
Mrs. Robert C. Lee 1953-56
Mrs. Bryson Bruce 1956-59
Mrs. Armand Morgan 1959-62
Mrs. Frederick S. Withington 1962-65
Mrs. Roy A. Gano, Harriet 1965-68
Mrs. Schuyler N. Pyne, Jane 1968-71
Mrs. Andrew McB. Jackson, Bertha 1971-74
Mrs. DeWitt McB. Patterson, Nancy 1974-77
Mrs. M. Russell Kelley, Lucile 1977-80
Mrs. Edward L. Cochrane, Jr., Dorie 1980-83
Mrs. Robert Lee Townsend, Betty 1983-85
Mrs. Timothy F. Donohue, Alice 1985-87
Mrs. Robert K. Geiger, Sibyl 1987-89
Mrs. Robert L. J. Long, Sara 1989-91
Mrs. Dempster M. Jackson, Mary-lin 1991-93
Mrs. H. Lawrence Garrett, III, Marilyn 1993-95
Mrs. Henry C. Mustin, Lucy 1995-97
Mrs. Joseph Metcalf, III, Ruth 1997-99
Mrs. William H. Rowden, Sally 1999-01
Mrs. Charles H. Griffiths, Barbara 2001-03
Mrs. John H. Dalton, Margaret 2003-05
Mrs. J. Paul Reason, Dianne 2005-07
Mrs. Harold W. Gehman, Jr., Janet 2007-09
Mrs. Robert Magnus, Rose 2009-11
Miss Rosalie J. Calhoun 2011-13
Mrs. Barbara O. Pilling 2013-15
Mrs. Linda Winter 2015-17
Mrs. Ellen Roughead 2017-19
Mrs. Katie Fowler 2019-2021
Allison Stiller – 2021 – Present

Relationship with the Naval History and Heritage Command

The Society is grateful for the longstanding relationship with the Naval History and Heritage Command throughout the years. Our treasured “President’s Cup” (see below) is homeported at the Naval History and Heritage Command’s headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard, an indication of the teamwork between the Society of Sponsors and the Command.

President's Cup

Society of Sponsors President’s Cup, at the National Museum of the United States Navy.

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