MC: Describe why you decided to join the Foundation and become more involved with SUNY Maritime College.
Chalos: I always felt that SUNY Maritime College was very good to me and served me very well – both in my personal life and my professional life. When Bob Johnston called me to say he was starting the Foundation, I was very happy he called and I decided it was the right time for me to give back. I have great admiration for Bob and I decided right away to say yes and join.
MC: Did you know Admiral Alfultis before you joined the Foundation Board?
Chalos: I had met Admiral Alfultis before and knew him only a little. There’s been a tremendous change at Maritime since he arrived and the firm I previously worked with, K & L Gates, has supported Maritime under his leadership. Admiral Mike has been a great catalyst for renewal at the College – from his plans for the training ship to program development.
MC: Your dedication to the College’s success is very strong.
Chalos: Being a cadet was a big part of my life. It’s a school I believe in strongly. I’ve recommended a number of applicants who’ve been accepted and done well after graduation. I’m proud of other grads’ successes. We have some really strong and successful alumni. Once a student enrolls and Maritime College gives them a chance, the student flourishes – and is grateful forever for the opportunity.
MC: How did your career take off after you graduated from Maritime?
Chalos: I graduated from the College in 1970 and immediately went to work with McAllister, the tugboat company in New York harbor. My goal was to become an apprentice docking pilot. After one year I decided to attend Fordham Law School at night and that decision changed everything. McAllister has always been very connected to Maritime and it was a fantastic work experience. I spent three years there before moving to International Paper Co’s shipping division, which was quite big at the time. I stayed there three years and wanted to move into the legal department, but instead I was recruited to a small legal firm specializing in maritime law.
MC: You’ve had a sensational career in the field of maritime law. How did that evolve?
Chalos: At first, I represented cargo owners’ claims, but then in 1989 came the famous Exxon Valdez oil spill. Until then, there were no criminal prosecutions of ship captains. The Exxon Valdez captain was a Maritime grad and a school mate of mine who I played lacrosse with. He was charged criminally by the State of Alaska and was fired by Exxon. He reached out to me for help and of course I took the case. It was the first prosecution of a seafarer. He was acquitted of all charges except for a misdemeanor charge of negligent discharge of oil. And after that, I had my career direction. Prosecution of seafarers became more common and my firm and I became recognized for our successful defense outcomes.
MC: And so you stayed in the area of defending seafarers?
Chalos: Actually, I moved into the area of maritime contractual disputes, collisions and defending ship owners and operators against, among other things, alleged violations of environmental regulations. I was fortunate enough to be involved on the ground floor of environmental regulations and their enforcement. I was the senior partner of my own firm for over 35 years. I recently worked for about 5 years with a firm called K&L Gates as a partner. It’s a huge firm with nearly 2000 lawyers worldwide.
MC: It sounds like the call from your former
class schoolmate affected your life in many ways.
Chalos: There was, and still is, great camaraderie among Maritime graduates, especially, class and school mates of the same era. I’m still in contact with many of my classmates, and I expect that to continue to do so for the rest of my life.
MC: Are you still with K & L Gates?
Chalos: In March of 2019 I took the position of Counsel at my son’s firm, Chalos & Co, still doing the same type of maritime legal work that I have been doing over the past 40 years.
MC: What’s the biggest reason you want to stay involved with Maritime?
Chalos: I believe in the power of education. And I’m a big believer that a parent’s obligation is to give their children the best education possible. Those two factors combine to make my devotion to SUNY Maritime College a priority for me.
MC: Is that why you’re promoting the College’s Sailboat Donation Program?
Chalos: I’ll do anything to assist the Foundation in helping the College. The boat program doesn’t just take any boat, but we take classic boats and any type of vessel that fills cadet training needs. Bob Crafa is well known beyond the College and his influence and reach are wide-ranging. I try to help out with anything that emerges from a maritime law perspective. I love talking with students. Occasionally I lecture about the seaman’s experience or about environmental issues, pollution, infrastructure on ships, cybersecurity or proper comportment.
MC: What’s on the horizon for the Foundation?
Chalos: We’re ready to bring on a few other people who can help contribute to the College’s well-being, and have a strong sense of contribution while doing so. We will be inviting people to meet the Admiral and to discuss how they can best connect with the Foundation and its goals.