The Naval Academy broke ground on its new cybersecurity building Friday, likely the last time a major academic structure will go up on the Yard.
The building will be named after Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, known as the "mother of computing." This will be the first building named after a woman at any of the nation's three major service academies.
The 300 people attending the ceremony included U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski and U.S. Reps. John Sarbanes and C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger.
Although construction won't actually begin for several more months, the academy officials and politicians capped off the event by digging dirt with gold shovels out of a trough.
Hopper Hall will be a significant step in streamlining the academy's cyber education program, as well as offering a state-of-the-art education, Vice Adm. Ted Carter, the academy's superintendent, said at the ceremony.
"Today I'm reminded of the Navy's core values," Carter said. "Honor, courage and commitment are not gender-specific … This building and her name will serve as an inspiration to provide a daily example of the type of leadership both men and women should emulate."
Hopper Hall will accommodate students taking the academy's cyber operations major, first available to the Class of 2016. Construction of the five-story building is expected to begin this winter and to be finished in September 2019. The cyber operations major will be accredited this November, Carter said.
The 206,000-square-foot center, which received $120 million from Congress in 2014, is between Nimitz Library and Rickover Hall. The center will include labs, offices, classrooms, lecture halls, an observatory and a rooftop space.
The academy received $106,674,440 in gift donations.
The center will be the first building on the Yard with a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility — required to allow midshipmen to handle classified information.
Changes in warfare have made teaching cybersecurity a necessity, Mikulski said during the ceremony. The senator, who is on the Intelligence Committee, said the building will train midshipmen on how to protect the country in ways "we're only now currently learning."
Mikulski is retiring at the end of this term in January. She said she was "so pleased" to have the building named after a woman who broke barriers.
Hopper was an American computer scientist who worked on the first computer, the Harvard Mark 1, during World War II. She was responsible for making computers more accessible by converting mathematical code into language.
"If you think I'm feisty, I'm like a plebe compared to the wonderful admiral," Mikulski said. "You know it takes a woman to take math and make it understandable in English."
Hopper Hall is an appropriate tribute to the rear admiral, considering she wanted her legacy to be training the next generation, said Thomas Oppel, chief of staff to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.