Captain Kathleen McGrath of the U.S. Navy earned the B.S. degree in Environmental Science at Sacramento State in 1975 and an M.A. in Educational Management from Stanford University in 1987. Prior to her death due to cancer at the age of 50 on September 26, 2002, she helped pave the way for women in the military by becoming the first American of her sex to command a U.S. warship at sea. Her feat came at a time when the role of women in the military was the subject of much debate in the United States. Her story was featured in the popular media throughout the country. Captain McGrath was honored with the Sac State Alumni Association's Distinguished Service Award in 2001.
Captain McGrath was commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1980 after finishing Officer Candidate School. In 1983, she reported to the USS Prairie for a tour of duty to the Western Pacific. In 1987, she became Operations Officer aboard the USS Cape Cod and, two years later, serving aboard the USS Concord in the same capacity, participated in Operation Desert Shield.
In 1994, Captain McGrath assumed command of the USS Recovery and completed deployments to the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas. Her next sea tour was as Chief Staff Officer on the Destroyer Squadron Seven, deployed in the Western pacific and Arabian Gulf as part of the Constellation Battle Group.
Captain McGrath became the first American woman ever to take a warship to sea when, in 1998, she assumed command of the USS Jarrett. She led the ship and its crew of 262 to the Middle East for patrols of the Persian Gulf. Having successfully completed her tour of duty, Captain McGrath was assigned to the Joint Advanced Warfighting Unit in Alexandria, Virginia. She formally achieved the rank of Captain in May, 2002 and retired in August 2002 because of her illness.
Captain McGrath is survived by her husband, Lt. Cmdr Gregory Brandon (USN, Ret.), their children, Nicholas and Clare, and her parents and siblings.