Meet West Orange Resident Matt Dunovant, Naval Academy Midshipman

Dunovant, left, with Ambassador Robert Ford, Ambassador to Syria 2010-'14. Credits: Matt Dunovant
Completing the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington, DC on behalf of Make-A-Wish Foundation. Credits: Matt Dunovant
At Alexander Hamilton High School in Elizabeth, NJ. Credits: Matt Dunovant
Dunovant wrestling in his senior year (2011) at West Orange High School. Credits: Stephan Zichella
Dunovant, right, with Dylan Pennell, left, and WOHS Wrestling Coach Steve Zichella. Pennell began at the Naval Academy this summer. Credits: Stephan Zichella

WEST ORANGE, NJ - Midshipman 1/C Leonard M. "Matt" Dunovant IV, a West Orange resident and graduate of West Orange High School, is making his community and the nation proud.

Dunovant is set to graduate from the United States Naval Academy in 2015 with a BS in Science and Economics. He will transfer to Quantico, where he will be a Marine Corps Officer in Ground Intelligence or Combat Engineering.

"Combat Engineers are the builders," said Dunovant. "They lead the convoys and set the infrastructure. The division is about building, not destroying."

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Dunovant has had some remarkable opportunities during the past four years. He studied Political Economy and Public Policy at the London School of Economics, and has traveled to countries in Western Europe as well as Japan as a member of the Navy Ethics debate team. In April of 2015 he will head to Omaha with the Navy's Investment Club to meet with Warren Buffet.

In addition to meeting world leaders, ambassadors, and diplomats, Dunovant's officer training honed his leadership skills. He served as Squad Leader and Detailer during the 2014 Plebe Summer. He has gone through intense tactical training as well. 

Dunovant, 21, attended West Orange schools and worked hard to graduate with top grades from West Orange High School in 2011. While there, he was a standout on the Wrestling team and credits Coach Stephan Zichella with a lot more than training him as a wrestler.

"Coach Zichella pushed me and helped me to become who I am," said Dunovant. 

As he went on to explain how Zichella would pick him up for wrestling practice at 5:00 am, he said, "Coach Zichella was always there for me. He builds character. I was able to take what he taught me to get through Leatherneck training, reach inside and accomplish my goals."

The admiration is mutual between Dunovant and Coach Zichella, who said, "I am so proud of Matthew Dunovant.  It was an honor to coach him. Matthew was and is always involved in many worthwhile causes and charities, and his many experiences have made him into an exceptional leader."

Zichella went on to say, "As an educator and coach you see many student/athletes that you coach become great successes. I love that Matthew remembers where he comes from, and always finds time to visit and catch up.  He is extremely proud to be a Mountaineer and his heart will always be in West Orange."

Dunovant is not the only member of the Mountaineer Wrestling team to be accepted into the Naval Academy. Eric Washkiewicz, 24,  graduated first in his class at the Naval Academy and won a Fulbright Scholarship for his Masters Program, which he completed at Cambridge University. He returned home to the states and is now at Sub School in Charleston, South Carolina. Dunovant also credited Washkewicz for inspiring him to aim high, work hard, and become a successful candidate for the Naval Academy.

Dylan Pennell, 19, founder of the successful WOHS Jr. Air Force ROTC program, is currently in his first year at the Naval Academy, where he sings with the Naval Academy Glee Club and is earning top grades.

Dunovant spent some time visiting high schools in the area during Thanksgiving to discuss the Naval Academy as a college and career option. With its top academic rankings, full tuition, world travel, and interaction with some of the world's great professors and policy makers, the Naval Academy offers several opportunities not found elsewhere.

Passionate about ethics, whether political, legal, technological, scientific, or economical, Dunovant waxed philosophical about the future. "Everything's changing," he noted. 

"The key is to balance ethics and morals while keeping our humanity. It's important to know how to do the right thing."

For information on the Naval Academy, go to:


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