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A tale of two LO grads

Robert Bruss and Brendan Hanlon graduated in the top 10 of the U.S. Naval Academy


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY - Robert Bruss, left, and Brendan Hanlon sing the U.S. Naval Academy school song during their May 24 commencement ceremony.Two Lake Oswego High School graduates who served as Eagle scouts in the same Boy Scout troop are among the top graduates from the United States Naval Academy.

Ensign Robert Bruss was fourth and Ensign Brendan Hanlon was fifth in the 2013 class of 1,047 men and women.

President Barack Obama addressed the Annapolis, Md.-based Naval Academy graduates at a May 24 ceremony, handing diplomas to the top 107 students and shaking their hands. It’s a tradition for the standing president to speak at the four U.S. military academies, usually selecting one per year.

Bruss, 21, said he was struck speechless and honored when the president clasped his hand and congratulated him. Hanlon, 22, said the moment is a blur.

“I’m extraordinarily grateful for all of the help I had to get here,” Hanlon said. “No one gets through the academy on their own. Every one of the people in those top places has 101 people to thank for helping them get there.”

To top it off, Bruss and Hanlon each landed one of 20 spaces the academy offers students who wish to pursue a master’s degree prior to fulfilling five years of post-graduation military service. Hanlon and Bruss will be doing their service on the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines. Bruss and Hanlon, who have attended school together since grade school, both will be attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology — tuition-free.

Hanlon landed a full scholarship from the nuclear science and engineering department. Bruss earned a fellowship from the Draper Laboratory, where he will study mechanical engineering, focusing on robotics.

“The competition at U.S.N.A. is incredible,” said retired U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chris Ericson, Naval Academy information officer for high schools including Lake Oswego and Lakeridge. “The difference between one and 100 is a class, or a few demerits, and these guys graduate at the top and get a full ride to M.I.T. These are our future astronauts, physicists and world leaders, and that is not hyperbole.”

Bruss said he almost didn’t attend the academy because he was worried he wouldn’t be able to keep up.

“I really, really worked hard, so I was really humbled to see that I was doing well,” he said.

Bruss said he and Hanlon impressed their classmates, one of whom once asked: “Did you go to some sort of genius school?”

Bruss said Lake Oswego High educators put him on the right track. His math teacher, Peter Dodson, improved his study skills and time management.

Bruss and Hanlon “have an incredible intellectual curiosity. ... That is a hallmark of students who go on to be very, very successful, no matter what they do,” Dodson said.

Hanlon also appreciated Dodson and teachers such as Casey Dunn, Gerrit Koepping, Ricky Korach, Stephanie Leben, Mario Peri and Thomas Smith.by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: JACINTA KEYES-HANLON - Robert Bruss and Brendan Hanlon pose during Plebe Parent Weekend in August 2012. The pair was supporting Hanlon's brother, who was beginning his first year. First-year students are called plebes.

“The list just goes on and on — the teachers we had at Lake Oswego were incredible,” Hanlon said.

Not only do they shine in academics, Hanlon and Bruss also are athletic, literally standing head and shoulders above an average man. Bruss is 6 feet, 4 inches tall, and Hanlon is 6 feet, 2 inches.

Hanlon plays intramural racquetball, flag football, Frisbee. He was in cross country and track in high school.

In high school, Bruss was active in band, drama, choir and crew. He focused on crew at the academy, earning a place in the first boat of the heavyweight varsity crew team, which was ninth in the nation this year.

When they’re not towering over people or performing academic feats, they’re tutoring other students.

Bruss’ father, Larry Bruss, said the younger students are crushed if they disappoint their mentors, yet his son remains humble and kind.

“That’s the young ensign he is,” he said.

Hanlon’s father, Roger Hanlon, said his son is “a very good-natured kid, and he’s always enjoyed helping others.”

Gwen Bruss said she and her husband taught their children manners and morals.

“We taught them respect,” she said.

Jacinta Keyes-Hanlon, Brendan Hanlon’s mother, said her son is also respectful, warm and humble.

“We all want the best for our kids, but the fact that they turn out to be good people is more important than anything, and I think he’s on the right track,” she said.

The Lake Oswego High tradition is continuing with Hanlon’s only sibling, Dónal Hanlon, who begins his second year at the Naval Academy this fall.

“I’m just very blessed with my children,” Keyes-Hanlon said. “I love them dearly.”

There is another Laker coming to the academy this fall, Connor Tallman, and LOHS grad Austin Faunce is attending the Naval Academy Prep School. Before Bruss and Hanlon enrolled, no other Lake Oswego High students had attended the U.S. Naval Academy since at least 2003.

“It’s great to get one (student) into the academy in any given year,” Ericson said. “Two is almost unheard of, and to have two in the top 10 is amazing.”by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY - Robert Bruss, left, and next to him, Brendan Hanlon, and classmates, celebrate their graduation.



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