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Robert Nowakowski Promoted to Admiral

Northwestern’s small but mighty Naval ROTC unit has an outsized impact on the Navy.

By Victor Chen
November 11, 2019
Online Exclusives

rear admiral robert nowakowski and his family

Rear Adm. Robert Nowakowski ’92 with his wife, Crystal Schwarting Nowakowski ’94, and their children, Parker, right, and Pierce. He was promoted to flag rank Oct. 26 at a ceremony at the Great Lakes Naval Station. 

A 1992 graduate of Northwestern University’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps entered the ranks of the Navy’s senior executives Oct. 26 in a tradition-filled ceremony at the Great Lakes Naval Station near Waukegan, Ill.

Robert Nowakowski ’92 became the third Northwestern alumnus currently serving as a rear admiral or higher from the University’s Navy ROTC unit.

“I never expected to get an opportunity like this,” Nowakowski says. “While I certainly worked hard and had lots of support from my wife, Crystal, family and friends, this job is a humbling privilege. My Northwestern education and Navy ROTC training gave me the best possible foundation for my civilian and military careers. Now I look forward to continuing to serve in the world’s most powerful Navy.”

lisa franchetti and robert nowakowski at the at northwestern homecoming game against iowa

Vice. Adm. Lisa Franchetti ’85 and Rear. Adm. Robert Nowakowski ’92 at the Northwestern Homecoming game against the Iowa Hawkeyes Oct. 26. In a promotion ceremony earlier that day Nowakowski became Northwestern’s third currently serving Navy admiral.

A small unit by national standards, Northwestern’s Navy ROTC unit commissioned just two student midshipmen last year, but with several NU graduates attaining flag rank like Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti (see “U.S. Navy-ROK Star,” spring 2015), Rear Adm. Del Crandall ’84 and now Nowakowski, the unit has an outsized impact on the Navy’s direction.

“The quality of NROTC scholarship students continues to be high, and Northwestern’s admissions standards are well known,” says Capt. Christopher Adams, the unit’s commanding officer and professor of naval science. “Our mission is to develop future officers to make this kind of impact.”

Nowakowski is a Chicago native and served as auxiliaries and electrical officer, first lieutenant and assistant operations officer on two combat deployments aboard the USS Chancellorsville (CG 62). He affiliated with the Navy Reserve in 2000. Nowakowski's past assignments included many based in the San Diego area. He worked at the headquarters for the U.S. 3rd Fleet, west coast Naval Reserve forces and the Navy's global operations center for surface ships.

Additionally, he deployed to Africa as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and has significant experience working with the Navy’s newest ship class, the littoral combat ships.

He received a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. He holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from San Diego State University and an MBA from California State University, San Marcos.

A designated surface warfare officer and joint qualified officer, Nowakowski is a member of Secretary of the Navy’s National Navy Reserve Policy Board.

Nowakowski is currently assigned as deputy commander for Navy Recruting Command. In his civilian capacity, he is a senior staff engineer at Qualcomm Inc., where he’s been employed for 23 years. He is married to Crystal Schwarting Nowakowski ’94.

Victor Chen ’93 is a captain in the Navy Reserve and, as a civilian, leads corporate communications at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

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