On November 6, 2018, Elaine Luria ’93 claimed Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House to become the first Indian Springs School alum elected to Congress. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Luria retired from the Navy as a Commander in 2017 after a 20-year career as a Surface Warfare Officer and nuclear engineer. For her service to her community and country, the Indian Springs School Alumni Council has named Luria the 2019 Outstanding Alum of the Year. Starr Drum ’02 asked Luria about her career and goals for her time in office.
Q: Since graduating in 1993, you have been a U.S. Navy Officer, a business owner, and now a congresswoman. Tell us about your journey after graduating from Indian Springs and what made you decide to run for Congress.
A: I credit my success to the strong academic foundation I received while at Springs. I had a keen interest in both the sciences and humanities and I enjoyed both history and physics with Dr. Cooper and Dr. LaCasse, respectively—and I ultimately chose those as dual majors when I attended the United States Naval Academy. After graduation, I was commissioned as a Surface Warfare Officer and accepted into the Navy’s Nuclear Power Program. I was first stationed aboard a destroyer in Japan, ultimately served on six different ships, and was deployed to the Middle East and Western Pacific six times. I was responsible for the operation of complex weapons systems, supervising operations of nuclear reactors on aircraft carriers, and ultimately commanded a combat unit of 400 sailors. In 2000, I settled in Norfolk, Virginia. I met my husband, Robert Blondin, in the Navy, and we have a nine-year-old daughter, Violette. I opened a retail business five years ago, which has two locations and sells mermaid-centered gifts. (Mermaids are the signature symbol of Norfolk.) I have deep roots in my community and I saw running for Congress as an opportunity to continue to serve my community and my country.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish during your time in office?
A: I have two sets of goals that complement each other: to serve the needs of our district and the larger needs of our country. Our district has one of the largest concentrations of military veterans and active duty military personnel. I want to ensure we provide our military and veterans across the country with the support they need, and I serve on both the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees. Our district sits at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and one of my top priorities is working to protect our environment for generations to come and combating the recurrent flooding that we experience due to sea level rise and climate change. I am working on critical infrastructure issues to grow our local economy. Some examples are that Norfolk is the third largest port on the East Coast and our navigation channel needs to be deepened and widened to keep up with the growing size of the commercial shipping fleet. We also need forty-four miles of sewer line in our rural counties on the Eastern Shore. At the national level, I am focused on the readiness of our military through my work on the Armed Service Committee and also with broader, critical issues such as access to quality, affordable healthcare, reducing prescription drug prices, infrastructure investments, and creating economic opportunity.
Q: Tell us about some experiences from your time at Indian Springs that shaped who you are today.
A: Indian Springs was such a strong educational foundation and the learning through living principles enhanced the rigorous curriculum. I learned so much from teachers like Dr. Cooper, Dr. Lacasse, and Mr. Stegner. I still remember some of the specific grammatical lessons Mr. Stegner taught me. Because of my education at Springs, I came into the Naval Academy well-prepared, more so than many of my classmates. Concepts I learned at Springs have helped me throughout my career.
Q: Do you still have connections or involvement with fellow Springs alumni and/or the Springs community? Tell us about those.
A: I keep in touch with my classmates from Springs, especially those who live in my area or in the D.C. area. I went back for my 25th reunion last year and reconnected with a lot of people. I still keep in touch with Dr. Cooper. Our former congressman from the Birmingham area, Ben Erdreich, has been a great resource for me, and he has a granddaughter currently at Springs.
Q: What advice would you offer to current Springs Students?
A: Think outside the box. Find something that is a passion of yours that will help you be successful in life. Passions may not be practical, so channel your passions in a way that gives you opportunities to both succeed and to be happy. Springs does a good job of teaching service-oriented critical thinking and that’s something we need in government. I would encourage Springs students to consider ROTC and Service Academies and to look for opportunities to serve in government.
This story appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Indian Springs Magazine.By Starr Drum '02