Gone But Not Forgotten: New College Honors Early Campus Pioneer, World War II Navy Hero Captain Ralph E. Styles

(June 23, 2009) — The sound of Taps echoed across the New College of Florida campus on Friday, June 12, as dozens of supporters, friends and relatives gathered on the lawn of The Keating Center to honor World War II naval hero and New College pioneer Captain Ralph E. Styles during a memorial flagpole dedication.
Styles, who served as the College’s first director of planning during the 1960s, was a decorated submarine captain during World War II and one of the country’s last living survivors of Pearl Harbor.  He also was a lifelong and generous supporter of New College and its students.
He passed away last October at the age of 98. Following his death, friends and family members approached the College about placing a lighted flagpole on the campus to honor his memory.
Born Feb. 27, 1910, in Asheville, N.C., Styles was a chief engineer on the surfaced submarine the USS Narwhal when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, throwing the United States into World War II.
He quickly rose through the ranks and by the end of the war was the commanding officer on one of the nation’s most advanced submarines of its time, the USS Sea Devil. Under his command, the Sea Devil destroyed a Japanese submarine and several other Japanese ships in Tokyo Bay in 1944.
In commendation for his leadership and bravery the Navy awarded Styles a Legion of Merit, two Navy Crosses and eight Naval Unit Citations during his 30-year career in the service.
After relocating to Sarasota in the late 1950s, Styles became New College’s first planning director, overseeing the land purchases and construction that led to the College’s founding in 1960 and opening for students in 1964. During his later years, the ever-cheerful Styles was often seen about campus and always happy to recount colorful stories of the College’s formative years and his conversations with early leaders and with famed architect I.M. Pei, who designed the College’s original East Campus residence halls.
During the 1990s, Styles began a ritual on Siesta Key that over the course of the ensuing 15 years would draw thousands to his home on Beach Road. Each evening as the sun began to set over the Gulf of Mexico, Styles along with family and friends would lower the American flag to the playing of Taps.
The patriotic celebration earned Styles a folk hero following on Siesta Key and drew civic and state leaders alike to his home.  Former Sarasota city commissioner and vice mayor Danny Bilyeu was a regular attendee at the ceremonies and was on hand for the flagpole dedication at New College as well, playing Taps on the trumpet one final time in memory of Captain Styles.
To view a photo gallery of the event and a video of Capt. Styles remembering Pearl Harbor, click here.
For more information on Captain Ralph E. Styles and the Styles Flagpole Memorial at New College of Florida, please contact the New College Foundation at (941) 487-4800 or email Foundation@ncf.edu.

Related News

Campus News

Foundation launches “Pei for the Future”

January 18, 2021

The New College Foundation launched a $15 million fundraising campaign to refurbish the College’s residence halls designed by renowned architect…

Campus News

NCF alumni reflect on white nationalism

January 18, 2021

Racism in America continues to crescendo, and creating a dialogue around white nationalism has never felt more critical.

Campus News

New College makes an impact

December 28, 2020

At New College of Florida, intellectually curious students tackle real-world challenges in our local community.