In SUNY Maritime College’s largest January commencement ceremony in history, 151 students received their degrees and 85 of them also earned their U.S. Coast Guard licenses, qualifying them to work onboard commercial vessels.
The graduates, their families and professors were addressed by Capt. James McNamara, a graduate of the class of 1964. McNamara also received an honorary doctoral degree from the State University of New York.
“We’ve all heard about automated ships and all of the problems facing the world today. Not for Maritime graduates,” said McNamara. “The education and discipline, not to mention the practical experience you have received here, have prepared you to take on the challenges facing you.”
McNamara is a former president of the National Cargo Bureau. During his 40 years at the bureau, the use of containers to transport goods increased exponentially; approximately 90 percent of the world’s good were transported by sea and more than 70 percent of that by containerized vessel. McNamara’s role was to ensure the safe operation of those vessels, to protect the cargo, the ships and, most importantly, the lives of the men and women on board.
In the course of his career, McNamara has held positions with the International Maritime Organization’s Cargo Committee and its Subcommittee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes & Containers. He is a recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the Seamen’s Church Institute and of two Distinguished Public Service Awards from the U.S. Coast Guard.
He serves as chair of the Maritime Industry Museum at Fort Schuyler and has served several times on the Admiral’s Scholarship Dinner committee. The dinner, which also honored McNamara, is the primary event to raise scholarship funds for Maritime students and to honor distinguished Maritime College alumni and others who hold prominent positions in the maritime industry.
The ceremony also marked the beginning of a new tradition – the graduates were addressed by Capt. Dick Bracken ‘56, a board member and representative of the Maritime College Alumni Association.
Late last year, the college and the alumni association signed an agreement announcing a new partnership between the two organizations, designed to connect alumni with each other, to help current students find professional opportunities and build their networks, and to keep alumni more closely connected to Maritime College.
Bracken welcomed the graduates to the ranks of college alumni and encouraged them to stay connected to their alma mater through participation in the association.
“Maritime graduates are strong and not easily discouraged. I’ve watched the for over 60 years and they are always impressive. We are overwhelmingly resilient – what an admirable quality,” Bracken said. “Promise yourselves right now that whatever the obstacles you face, you are a Maritime graduate. No matter what, you will demonstrate resilience. Go out there and do what Maritime graduates do – succeed.”
Two of the newest graduates also received their commissions into the U.S. Navy. Sean McCarthy received his degree in Marine Transportation, his U.S. Coast Guard license, and a commission into the U.S. Naval Reserves as a strategic sealift officer. Conor Nimmo also commissioned into the Reserves as a strategic sealift officer. He earned a U.S. Coast Guard license and a degree in Marine Transportation.
Two veterans from the graduating class were also recognized and applauded for their previous military service.
“As you begin your next journey, hold your heads high and be proud of what you have achieved here. Remember: a ship is safest in the harbor, but that is not what a ship is for. Your personal and professional journeys will take you to different places, with different challenges and opportunities,” said Rear Adm. Michael Alfultis, president of SUNY Maritime. “You are entering the workforce during a time of tremendous change. Today, nearly every industry is experiencing rapid and dramatic changes, and as you navigate this sea of change, you will need to leverage the knowledge, skills and abilities you gained at Maritime College.”