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“What Matters Is How You Handle It”: U.S. Navy Lt. Shepard Chalkley ’11 Returns to Campus

The school year’s final McCain-Ravenel Monday was “A Day Devoted to Honor,” a program in which students reflected on the importance of the Honor Code with someone who walked in their shoes 10 years ago. As juniors prepare for their interviews for the Honor Committee and other leadership positions, the subject matter was especially timely.
 
U.S. Navy Lt. Shepard Chalkley ’11 was a former monitor and member of the Honor Committee who was expelled for an honor offense his senior year. After graduating from high school in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala., he went on to Vanderbilt University and then the Naval Academy. Today, he is a Navy helicopter pilot based in Jacksonville, Fla., with his wife (also a helicopter pilot) and three dogs.
 
In October 2020, Chalkley cheated for the first time in his life during his senior fall. He used Google translate for his Latin homework and got away with it. “The worst thing happened. Nothing happened,” he remembered.
 
Chalkley was emboldened to cheat again, but the next time, just a week later, he was caught by his mentor, Latin teacher Jeff Streed. In a Q&A session after his talk, Chalkley told the students: “It was a hard lesson to learn, but he [Streed] taught me. He showed honor to the School and my classmates by holding me accountable.”
 
One of the hardest parts of the incident was facing his Honor Committee peers. “I was sitting in front of them when I should have been sitting beside them, telling them how I had let myself and them down by cheating.”
 
Chalkley spoke of his renewed commitment to honor after his dismissal from Episcopal. Once he arrived at the Naval Academy, Chalkley became his company’s honor advisor, in charge of the honor training for 120 of his peers. He also served on honor committees, an esteemed position at the academy. From his time in the Navy, he has learned that “an honor code isn’t just about grades and tests. It’s a way of life.”
 
The lessons Chalkley learned at Episcopal and especially in his last few days on campus defined the end of his adolescence and the beginning of his adulthood. He encouraged freshmen to make the most of their time at Episcopal. 

“You have a lot of learning left to do, and this is the time to do it,” he said. “This is your chance to commit to a life of honor going forward. It's only going to serve you well.”
 
Watch a recording of the event here.

As part of the Leadership and Ethics program, students also heard from the Honorable Jeffrey R. Howard, chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Howard, who grew up on a dairy farm in New Hampshire, discussed how wanderlust in his teen years led him to California, where he helped farm workers build retirement apartments. When the farmworker's village was firebombed during a union dispute, he recognized the need for a life focused on justice and helping others. 

Howard talked about the influence of concepts of honor on his life, his rulings from the bench, and the entire judicial system. Discussing the notion that artificial intelligence might one one day determine court rulings, he said, "Compassion, mercy and understanding of the human condition — written on the faces of those unfortunate enough to find themselves in your courtroom — that’s what’s missing from an algorithm formula."
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