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The Aquilian

From helicopter pilot to teacher: Mr. Lipari’s extravagant career

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Mr. Mike Lipari posesfor a photo at the United States Naval Academy in 2015. (Photo submitted by Mr. Mike Lipari)

Have you ever been at a point in your life where you felt like you didn’t know what to do or where to go? Mr. Mike Lipari, history teacher, felt this way when he was a senior in high school. With no means to attend college, Mr. Lipari applied to the Naval Academy after a friend recommended it. He was admitted, and in the last three months of his high school career, he knew what he was going to do. 

“It was done on a last minute thing. I was serious about going, but I had no idea what I was getting into,” Mr. Lipari said.

This decision to apply to the Naval Academy turned out to be the right one. After four years there, Lipari served on active duty for 20 years. To begin his military career, he attended flight school to become a helicopter pilot and went into an ASW, or anti-submarine warfare, squadron. In this squadron, his role was to search for enemy submarines.

“We flew off destroyers and frigates, and we tracked Russian subs, sometimes Chinese subs. Sometimes our own subs, depending on what we were doing. We prepared to go into combat. Luckily, we never had to,” Mr. Lipari said. 

After being stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, Mr. Lipari was sent to the Mediterranean on the USS Brumby, where he served for two deployments. When his time in the Mediterranean came to an end, Lipari returned to Norfolk; there, he worked as a recruiter. In the following years, Mr. Lipari taught recruiting in Orlando, Florida, led a detachment of a helicopter squadron in San Diego, California and was deployed twice in the Western Pacific. To finish his military career, Mr. Lipari returned to the Naval Academy as a teacher and a coach and worked at the Navy History Center in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Mike Lipari is in uniform, posing with his daughter, Megan in 1994. (Photo submitted by Mr. Mike Lipari)

“I retired in 1995, after 20 years on active duty, plus four years at the Naval Academy,” Mr. Lipari said.

After retiring from the Navy, Mr. Lipari began transitioning to a teaching career, starting at Bishop O’Connell High School. This was not an easy task, however. After teaching mature, college-aged students, he had to adjust.

“I had to learn more about how to handle students that were a little different than college students, especially in maturity. Dealing with 14 and 15 year olds is a lot different than dealing with 20 and 21 year olds,” Mr. Lipari said.

Initially, Mr. Lipari taught physics and math at O’Connell, but then he decided to teach history. He had received a master’s degree in history earlier in his career, so he applied for a job in the history department at Gonzaga. Mr. Lipari received the job, and he has been teaching history here for the past 20 years. Mr. Lipari has had an eventful, enjoyable career, and he plans to retire after this year to spend more time with his family.

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