Celebrating the Master Shipbuilder Class of 1981

Published December 14, 2021

Spending 40 years at Newport News Shipbuilding was not what Arcino Quiero Jr. (X44) planned when he began his shipyard career in 1981.

“I had a two-year plan,” he said. Quiero had just graduated from Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) and was encouraged to apply to NNS by a friend from college who was already employed at the shipyard.

Quiero is among the 200 members of the Master Shipbuilder Class of 1981. Although he didn’t stick to his original plan, Quiero is “eternally grateful” for the things he learned, people he met and the life NNS allowed him to provide for his family. Now, he is happy to mentor newer shipbuilders, encourage them to take advantage of opportunities at NNS, and not to lose their “outside set of eyes.”

“Challenge the system,” he said. “If there is some way you think you can make a greater contribution to the company than you are in your current position, seek to find a way to get there.”

Fellow Master Shipbuilder Betty Evert (O53) also began her NNS career in 1981. “I’ve seen a lot of changes, and it’s a great feeling to be a part of this journey,” she said. “I came in here at 25, so I grew up in the yard. When I came in, you couldn’t have told me I was a kid, but now that I look back, I was just a kid.”

Karl Shulenburg (E84) also has seen many changes during the past 40 years. Some of the most striking involve technology.

“I think the most significant thing that has happened over my 40- year career at the shipyard is the gradual – and I mean gradual – change from virtually no computers at the yard when I was hired in 1981 – probably only the IBM mainframe computer at the time – to having them literally everywhere in the shipyard now,” he said.

Tim Axsom (X36), the son of two shipbuilders, admits it was a little intimidating coming into NNS as a new employee in 1981. Four decades later, he is grateful for the experience.

“It just goes by so quick. There’s never been a time that I wanted to go somewhere else. Going from project to project throughout my whole career and ending up where I am is so satisfying. I just can’t explain it,” he said. “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. You think it is, but it isn’t. Everything you need is right here if you want to do this type of work.”

Nathaniel Matthews Jr. (X32) said he had no intention of leaving NNS when he started his career in 1981. “I took it day by day, and I still can’t believe that I’ve been here 40 years. It’s just been a blessing to me,” he said.

Watch a video on MyNNS featuring some of this year’s new Master Shipbuilders. See the yearbook to learn more about the Class of 1981. Posters featuring the names of all NNS Master Shipbuilders will be available in the lobby of Bldg. 520 the week of Dec. 20.