Never one to back down from a challenge, Katherine Dann Ogden ’02 earned her bachelor’s degree in ocean engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2006 while also serving as a member of both the varsity women’s swim and the women’s club rugby teams. Following college, she attended primary flight school in Pensacola, Florida, where she was selected to fly the SH-60B Seahawk out of Atsugi, Japan, for three years. Marriage and children followed, and in 2017, she transferred into the Naval Reserves, serving as a Naval historian. Today, Ogden focuses on raising her children and undergoing aggressive rehabilitation five days a week for an intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke she suffered in 2019 following the birth of her fourth child.
An inspiration in more ways than one, we asked Ogden to tell us where she draws her own inspiration, what advice she has for others, and how GPS helped set her up for success.
Q: What inspired you to take the path you took?
A: I chose the Naval Academy because my father told my three younger brothers and me that we had to find our own way through college. After he paid tuition for GPS and McCallie, we had to figure out scholarships on our own. I knew I wanted to serve in some capacity for something bigger than myself, but I did not know that the military would be the means for that service. I was drawn to the Navy due to my love of water. As far as aviation, I was inspired to fly at the Academy after listening to several quest speakers and senior officers. I also liked the idea of moving to Pensacola, Florida, with my friends, following graduation.
Q: What was your favorite tradition at GPS? Why?
A: Probably Cat-Rat. I liked having the mentorship between seniors and seventh-graders. You immediately had someone to look up to and ask questions. It was comforting for a new girl in town. As a senior, I liked mentoring the younger girls and helping pass the traditions along to the next generation. To this day, I am still in touch with my Cat and Rat.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you got during your time at GPS? Do you remember who it came from?
A: Mr. Wells, my 12th-grade AP English teacher, encouraged us to get out of our comfort zone and not be so easily offended by people and ideas that differ from our own. Don’t take things so personally. Hold yourself accountable for your words and actions.
Q: If you could offer one piece of advice to current GPS students, what would it be?
A: Live in a different country at least once in your life. Take advantage of every opportunity to see the world and experience different people, cultures, and food. It’s easy to get stuck in the bubble of GPS and Chattanooga. There is a great big world out there worth exploring. Memories will make you happier than “stuff.”
Q: Do you stay in touch with your classmates? What impact have they had on your life?
A: Yes. They are my sounding board, my source of encouragement, and my tribe. My GPS girlfriends keep me grounded and offer perspective when I’m fixated on an issue. We’ve been each other’s bridesmaids, godmothers to each other’s children, and cheerleaders for all of life’s tragedies and triumphs.
Q: Can you point to anything that GPS did to prepare you for your future?
A: Time management was an invaluable skill I practiced at GPS and took with me into the Naval Academy and flight school. With so much to do, it was crucial to have a plan to effectively manage your day. Managing academics and athletics alongside military training would have been impossible without a plan. The pace at which things come at you in the cockpit demands that you learn to prioritize the most critical information first and do not fixate on any one variable. I also learned to speak confidently in the classrooms of GPS. I was encouraged by my teachers to be confident and direct. This translated well into military leadership, where communication skills and command presence are invaluable.
Q: What is your proudest accomplishment thus far?
A: I should probably say my four kids. However, I’m also proud that I graduated from a tough engineering program and earned my aviator wings. It allowed me to live overseas and make lifelong friends while seeing the world.
Q: Are there any experiences or memories from your time at GPS that really stand out?
A: Beating Baylor swim team for the first time ever. February 2000. Everything we worked for all year came together. All the early mornings, weekend practices, and the Christmas training trip were worth it. I didn’t have any sisters in my family, but those girls became my sisters. I still get an adrenaline rush thinking about it.