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President's Inauguration Remarks

Thank you.

Thank you so very much to all who have gathered this afternoon, whether in person or in spirit.

To Vice Chairman Monville and the Trustees of the California State University;

To Chancellor White and the Vice Chancellors of the university;

To the presidents of the 23-campus, 400,000+ student-centric California State University, the largest and most productive public university in the world; with a thank you to their spouses who serve California daily in exemplary and meaningful ways - Thank you Barbara, Phyllis, and Holly!

To the cadets of the Pacific's only maritime academy; you are the reason that I come to work each day with a smile.

To the leaders of the Academic Senate, to the faculty and staff that work together to make this the Nation's finest maritime academy; to our Ancient Keelhauler Sherri Sims.

To our alumni and maritime profession partners, who serve to advance their beloved institution; represented by Tony del Gavio, Norman Fassler-Katz, Hank Ryan, Larry and Lynn Korwatch, and distinguished alumni Norman Werner and Bob Piazza.

To the many volunteers who generously give of their time and talent on our foundation, alumni and advisory boards;

To our friends and neighbors throughout the Bay area - with special greeting to our partners in Vallejo and Solano County; represented by Tom Bartee, Jerry Kea, Rich Curtola, Jim and Nadine Morris and my sensei, Suzanne Bailey.

To our elected leaders, Linda Siefert, Erin Hannigan, Jill Techel, Hermie Sunga and Bob McConnell, who join us in support of our critical mission for California and the nation;

To my colleagues, friends, and mentors including: Vice Admiral Barry Costello and his wife Sharon, Rear Admiral Jerry Burroughs and his wife Beth; Captain Bill Shewchuk and his wife Donna, and Commander Scott Calvert and his wife Wendi.

To my family; to my parents who enabled me to become the 1st in 6 generations of Croppers in America to graduate from college, to my children who endured and succeeded in the nomadic life of Navy juniors, and to my wife Heather - well, I can't possibly say enough about your decades of love, support, persistence and grace but here's a start - Thank you.

Thank you to all of you for joining in this day.

As the almost-new 14th president of this unique, storied and magnificent institution, I have been energized, amazed and humbled by the tireless dedication, intense work ethic, and the creative and imaginative spirit that flourishes within this campus community. Each day over the last year, I have observed our faculty, staff and student body - a unique student body called the Corps of Cadets - join hands with alumni, the maritime industry and our neighbors and partners in Vallejo. They are Cal Maritime.

For me, leading a committed team such as this is the rarest of privileges. I do not take my obligations lightly. To my campus colleagues, I do not take your immense efforts on behalf of our students and this university for granted. You are creating something that matters. You are creating opportunities and, in some cases, you are creating second chances. How lucky for California, how perfect for our nation, how amazing for a Cal Maritime graduate.

Viewed through this lens, or any other, we can look ahead, confidently, knowing that a great future awaits Cal Maritime. Our success is not pre-destined, rather, it will be created by us, for us. Our destiny will be fulfilled through the continued creation of opportunities for future maritime professionals. And as we chart our future, we can be guided by three words.

Honor. Believe. Lead.

Three words. What do they mean? How can they guide both our daily lives and our future? Why do they matter? Three words that imply, and absolutely require, action. Three words which remain dormant and empty without it.

The first, Honor. As we go forward, we will honor our heritage, we will honor our history, and we will honor what author Alex Haley called our "roots." We will also honor those who have gone before us. Today's ceremony was preceded by Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." Indeed, it was a fanfare but the choice to make it part of this ceremony was also a tribute for two very uncommon men - for Dr. Lee Kerschner, former statewide dean of faculty, vice chancellor for administrative affairs, and consultant and mentor to California Maritime Academy and for Trustee Dr. Pete Mehas, former Fresno County School Superintendent and California Secretary of Education. Both of these giants absolutely revered Cal Maritime and the California State University. The two empty chairs on stage today are placed here in their honor. Lee, Pete - I know you're both watching over us right now. We promise to do right by your legacy.

We will honor our merchant marine heritage. Today's processional concluded with the official anthem of the United States Merchant Marine. That heritage is a heritage marked by bravery, by sacrifice and by blood, sweat and toil. That heritage has been invested in our alumni since our first graduating class in August 1933. That heritage is our lifeblood and I am proud to be its steward.
Working at sea is incredibly hard. It requires intelligence, resilience and a sense of adventure. Succeeding at sea requires patience, teamwork, and integrity. These attributes of professionalism are imbued in every Cal Maritime graduate - in classrooms, on athletic fields and aboard our training ship. Perhaps most of all, a career in the maritime profession demands servant leadership. This idea of service is one we hold dearly. Service requires vigilance and sacrifice. Service matters. Real service embodies commitment with no expectation of anything in return. It means service to something beyond self, something beyond the tangible and often something beyond the predictable. And real service brings the greatest successes, over and over again.

And we honor wartime service, that unique and sacred part of our special heritage of service, and the sacrifices made by such men as James Hendy and Henry McNabb. These graduates of California Maritime Academy made the ultimate sacrifice in the Second World War. They did not lose their lives, they gave them to us. Their names are affixed to a memorial plaque, along with nine other comrades, on the East entrance to Mayo Hall. While serving as Chief Mate on SS Gilbert Stuart in the Philippine Islands, Hendy succumbed to grave wounds and burns from a Japanese air attack in San Pedro Bay. He was the only son of Joseph and Grace Hendy, and the husband of Dorothy Hendy. Henry McNabb was commissioned into the US Navy in 1942 and served in the first allied assault on the continent of Europe. On September 9, 1943 - 70 years ago last month - Ensign McNabb and five of his crew aboard a US landing craft were killed by German artillery fire while assisting a British Landing Craft on the beaches of Salerno, Italy. He too was an only son, born to Jack and Wilmoth McNabb of Stockton. Today, Firehouse #14 in Stockton is on a street named for him.

We honor their lives and the lives of so many other academy graduates, and honor their sacrifices and their gifts of freedom through our own service to this wonderful university we call Cal Maritime. I, like you, consider it an honor to honor that heritage. A heritage beautifully captured in our motto: 

Laborare Pugnare Parati Sumus - To work or to fight, we are ready.

The second word - Believe. I am the luckiest man in California and I invite you to believe - in yourselves, in our institution and in our mission - passionately, completely, without reservation and without apology. Collegiate higher education is much, much more than a job and more than a profession, however honorable. It is a calling, one demanding that we be "all in" - that we put the mission first. Our mission at Cal Maritime is straightforward: train, educate and develop graduates for positions of increasingly challenging leadership within the global maritime profession; and serve as the premier source of maritime expertise for business, government and education. It is not an easy mission, but it is worthy of our very best collective effort.

That mission is embodied in a number of ways. It is embodied in our student body: the Corps of Cadets. It is embodied in a world-class faculty rich in experience, knowledge and spirit. Our faculty understand the mission, they work diligently to accomplish the mission and they never lose sight of our university purpose. They know that the California State University is an express elevator to a better life and they make sure, every day, that Cal Maritime punches well above its weight in delivering on that promise. Alongside them are a group of devoted staff who themselves have answered the calling. They are creative, thoughtful and action-oriented. They want our faculty, our students and their teammates to succeed and they go to remarkable lengths to produce amazing results.

No matter where I turn, I am witness daily to so many acts of service, large and small, many hidden from view. Few people see Ken Sayles standing in torrential rains at 4 in the morning in efforts to minimize flood damage, or see Dave Chaney at 6 in the morning toiling to create every single one of the armrests you are using this very moment in the newly renovated Rizza Auditorium, or see Peg Solveson here on Saturdays and Sundays preparing licenses for graduating seniors. Few see the research efforts of faculty members Tom Nordenholz or Sam Pecota, the student-centric service of Tim Lynch and Donna Nincic outside of classes, the incredible collegiality and leadership of our Academic Senate Executive Committee. The list goes on and on. These acts of service embody the dedication that distinguishes Cal Maritime, where colleagues answer their calling each day together because they believe!

And the last of the three words, Lead. Leading is not always easy …especially if you lead from the front.

Leading creates personal vulnerability and risk. Leading means one has to answer critics. So that about wraps up the upside of being a cadet officer.

For you cadet leaders out there looking so good today, just remember - Cal Maritime creates leaders. So when you're feeling the heat of leading this year - and you will - take comfort. There are a number of former student leaders whose names may be familiar to you. They stood at the head of the Corps of Cadets as the commander and later returned to lead within this academy: Jerry Aspland, Ken Passe, Paul Leyda and John Keever. They know a little about leading from the front. You have their permission to lead well.

Every one of us, whether we reside in the faculty, staff, student, or alumni community must meet the challenge of leading this incredible university into its bright future. We must confront uncertainty with confidence, counter cynicism with grounded optimism, and propel this tremendous academy forward into the 21st century. We must lead with energy and conviction, bound by the values that make us great, and not be chained to habit, tradition or a false nostalgia for the "good old days" - because the good days are now. The good days also lie ahead. We must steer by the stars ahead, not by the wake behind us if we are to achieve the promise that lies within us.

That promise is one of a maritime university that creates opportunities for improved access to education through controlled growth, for affordable education through achievement of economy of scale, for quality education through a proven blend of intellectual learning, applied technology, global awareness and leadership development, and for timely completion of an array of professional requirements that enable a graduate to have a career, not just a job.

That promise is also one of economic recovery and prosperity for California and for the Nation, through rigorous and relevant academic programs that create value for the global maritime profession, including safety, environmental stewardship and renewable energy. And through improvements to current curricula that enhance the profession, including expanded education in marine transportation management and establishment of a transportation logistics center of excellence, and through creation of an "all things maritime" think tank that serves as the 24/7/365 resource of subject matter expertise to maritime professionals across the globe.

These opportunities are achievable. They are within our reach, if we will lead. Lead we will, with our eyes wide open for the opportunities and risks, with a spirit of stewardship that will never allow us to tarnish our reputation, with a genuine ethic of teamwork, trust and commitment, and with uncompromising persistence in accomplishing our mission.

As your president, I stand ready to serve each of you in meeting our mission and to faithfully act in the best interests of your academy and university. I profoundly understand the promise inherent in those three words of action: Honor. Believe. Lead. They will guide me every day. I promise.



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Last updated: 7/16/20