July 1, 2024

Maritime College Family,

 Maritime College is the Peninsula of Opportunity and Engine of Upward Mobility. I know this firsthand as my journey as a Mariner and Sailor started at the Fort in 1987, where stewardship, valor, loyalty, and hard work became the cornerstones of my life and service.

 As an alumnus, I know the undisputed advantage our school provides. Maritime College graduates are known and revered around the world; our reputation transcends us. Our Alumni serve as global leaders with diverse experience, unwavering work ethic, and strong discipline. In the world we face now and, in the future, our economic security and national security will depend on the critical thinking, highly skilled, character-based leaders that Maritime College develops. It is my desire and intent as your President to pay forward what was invested in me and to help our students become those leaders.

 As we get underway together on a new voyage plan, I ask that we all align and commit to the vision of Maritime as the leading global maritime educational and training institution. Loyalty, Valor, and Excellence should be in our every thought, word, and action. My initial priorities are to ensure our school’s academic and applied learning programs are well-postured to develop the future leaders for the Merchant Marine, Military Services, and those who serve the interests of the State, National and Global Market Places; grow enrollment; increase retention, graduation and license pass rates; increase fundraising to ensure we have the resources necessary to strengthen the college and support students; ensure the school is fiscally sound and postured for the next rainy day; and build a Maritime respectful culture open and safe for all, that honors the past and builds the legacy for the future.

Over the coming months I will conduct extensive listening sessions with internal and external stakeholders to better understand where we are, where we should be headed, and to build shared understanding, common intent, and trust.  As your President, my pledge to all is to build trust, from the top of the mast to the keel and from stem to stern, with students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, our communities, SUNY, and industry. I will lead through shared governance and intent-based leadership, which is the hallmark of the best teams because, through it, everyone has a stake in the success of the team. I will communicate transparent, flat, and fast with the understanding only truth has a time stamp. Last but not least, I will serve as the positive role model in everything we do. We will be right, and we will do right.

The next few months are exciting with a number of key events that highlight and celebrate our college’s history and future. Training Ship Empire State VII will return from the initial Summer Sea Term on August 6, INDOC Recognition on August 24, Admiral’s Dinner on September 17, Homecoming on October 19, and the 150th Celebration of St. Mary’s arriving in the New York Harbor on December 10. It will be a busy end of 2024, and I invite you back to the Fort to help in the celebrations. When you arrive, you will see me on campus with my wife Valerie ’92, so please reach out so we can meet and have a conversation on the future of Maritime.

I am excited for the future and thank Mike and Kim Alfultis for their decade of faithful service to our college. Fair winds and following seas shipmates!

 First and Foremost, the sea remembers its own. It is great to be home.

 With Utmost Respect and Admiration,

Rear Admiral John A. Okon ’91, USN (ret)

Students first, Maritime always”