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USMMA Celebrates New Academic Year

Academic Convocation

KINGS POINT, N.Y., August 5, 2020 - Today, the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) conducted the annual Academic Convocation to celebrate the beginning the 2020-2021 Academic Year. The ceremony, hosted by Rear Admiral John Ballard, Ph.D., Academic Dean and Provost, was conducted via livestream with the faculty, staff, and Regiment of Midshipmen in attendance.

The word convocation comes from Latin, meaning to call together. Today’s convocation, a treasured annual tradition at USMMA, called together even more stakeholders than normal by adopting a virtual format for the first time, and allowing interested families and friends to join.   

Ballard welcomed those in attendance, and thanked them for their extraordinary support during these unprecedented times. “We meet today to begin a new year of learning under circumstances the Academy has not faced since its founding,” said Ballard. “It will clearly be a year of significant challenges, requiring dedication and self-discipline.”

Rear Admiral Jack Buono then spoke to the Academy community, making it a particular point to recognize the efforts that have gone into bringing the regiment back to USMMA, while welcoming the midshipmen to the academic year. “Allow me to welcome all of you to the 2020-2021 academic cycle, which culminates next June with the licensing and graduation of the Class of 2021,” said Buono. “The pandemic has changed the landscape of how we operate and you will see many differences in what we traditionally do around here.”

The convocation concluded with faculty recognition and the presentation of faculty winners of the following distinguished academic awards:

THE SUE ALICE MCNULTY AWARD FOR DISTINGUISHED TEACHING was presented to CAPT David Palmer, Professor, Engineering Department. The faculty member is selected by the Midshipmen of the graduating class as the teacher who has contributed most to their education during their four years at the Academy.


VADM GORDON MCLINTOCK AWARD FOR EXEMPLARY LEADERSHIP was presented to CAPT Charles Rogan, Associate Professor, Marine Transportation Department. The award is presented annually to the licensed, tenured mariner of the United States Maritime Service at Kings Point who, in the opinion of the graduating class, has served as an outstanding officer role model.

VADM JOSEPH D. STEWART AWARD was presented to Dr. Mike Melcer, Professor of Chemistry, Math and Science Department. This award is presented by the Superintendent to the faculty member who demonstrates a sustained commitment to Kings Point through passion for teaching and learning, outstanding mentoring, academic advising or career counseling, and commitment to the holistic development of Midshipmen.

CAPTAIN JAMES HARVEY TOMB AWARD was presented to Coach James Kikel, Sports Specialist, Physical Education Department. The award is presented by the Superintendent to a faculty or staff member, early in her or his academic career on campus (first 1-5 years), who demonstrates outstanding potential as an educator and significant contributions to the Kings Point learning experience.

For those interested in reviewing the livestream, please visit



The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, located in Kings Point, N.Y, educates and graduates leaders of exemplary character who are inspired to serve the national security, marine transportation, and economic needs of the United States as licensed Merchant Marine Officers and commissioned officers in the Armed Forces. The Academy, which was established under the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, was dedicated as the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 1943 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is administered by the Maritime Administration under the auspices of the Department of Transportation.

On the web: U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

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On Twitter: @USMMAo

Last updated: Wednesday, August 5, 2020

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