BLOOMINGTON - During her U.S. Navy career, Barbara Scholley commanded sailors. That assignment, although novel at the time, is nothing compared to her current assignment of being a new mother of twins.
"I've gone from leading sailors to trying to stay in charge of 3-year-olds," said Scholley, who grew up in Bloomington-Normal but now lives on the East Coast.
In Bloomington-Normal last week to accept an honor at Illinois State University, Scholley said motherhood "is the most rewarding job in the world."
She and husband, Frank Scholley, adopted twin daughters in late 2004, just before Barbara Scholley retired from the military after 24 years. While she continues to do some consulting work, her children keep her busy.
"They climb on everything," she said. "I have a new respect for mothers. It's a very challenging job, but a great job."
Scholley was among 11 College of Arts and Sciences alumni inducted into a 2006 Hall of Fame last Friday. She graduated from ISU in 1980, majoring in biology. Shortly after college, she entered the Navy.
"I wanted to do something adventurous," she said.
Her Navy career included an assignment in 1992 to command the USS Bolster, a diving and salvage ship. When she took the job, she became only the fourth woman to command a Navy vessel.
With a crew of 110, the USS Bolster was all men, except for Scholley and two other female officers.
The experience went OK, with Scholley letting her crew know "I was the captain and in charge."
She credits her solid upbringing in Bloomington-Normal, including attending Normal Community High School, with contributing to her success in the military.
Among her high-profile duties was helping in the recovery of TWA Flight 800, which went down a decade ago, killing all 230 people aboard.
The official cause was a spark in a fuel tank, but there was persistent public speculation the airliner was shot down by a missile.
The Navy was able to recover 95 percent of the airplane, she said. "It was a very traumatic operation for all of us."