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USMMA Provost to Retire

Rear Admiral John Ballard

KINGS POINT, N.Y., February 23, 2023 - Rear Admiral John Ballard, Ph.D. will retire later this year after five years of service as the United States Merchant Marine Academy’s (USMMA) chief academic officer. While serving as Provost, since September 2018, Rear Adm. Ballard has been a strong and visionary force at the Academy, helping develop exemplary leaders from his arrival, through a series of impactful national challenges, while always ensuring midshipman learning remained a top priority.  

Ballard began a review of the entire educational program on his first day on campus and led that effort through the first government shutdown in early 2019, completing the development of a new three-split academic program that was approved in May 2019. Under his leadership, the Academy revised its curriculum during 2019 and 2020 to better support all four components of its highly intense, STEM-focused, educational program. Ballard’s teaching expertise as a professor was particularly crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic when he led the transition of the academic program to eLearning platform in less than two weeks. He developed significant improvements in the curriculum to aid retention, better support outcomes-driven quality assessment, and adapted new tools within a comprehensive and visionary blended eLearning model of instruction in reaction to the pandemic over the spring and summer of 2020.

The learning deficits resulting from the COVID-19 period provided Ballard another opportunity to develop improvements in the educational program at USMMA, boosting student and faculty tutoring, adding new early assessments and strengthening classroom resilience, to bolster student success during the summer and fall of 2020. Later the following year, he directed enhanced sexual assault prevention efforts while significantly revamping USMMA’s Sea Year program. Rear Adm. Ballard led the Academy’s at-sea training enhancement efforts following the sea year pause in November 2021, during which he significantly revised the Sea Year Handbook and conducted outreach to industry and other stakeholders, providing significant aid to the development and implementation of the new EMBARC (Every Mariner Builds a Respectful Culture) self-certification process designed to improve safety for all mariners.

Rear Adm. Ballard served as the Chair of both the Academy’s Institutional Effectiveness Steering Group, responsible for monitoring the progress of the institution’s strategic planning efforts, and as Chair of the Academic Review Board, responsible for evaluating the academic progress of individual students towards the requirements of their degrees. He accomplished all of these improvements during a period plagued by a second government fiscal stand-down and the negative effects of the COVID-19 national emergency. Even with these significant interruptions in operations, under his skillful leadership, USMMA graduated each of its classes on time and continued to commission the officers needed to support the Nation’s strategic sealift officer requirements.

Since early 2022, Rear Adm. Ballard has managed the review of the Academy’s current strategic plan and the development of its follow-on plan designed to chart the course of the Academy through 2030. During the same period, he personally enhanced strategic relationships with the Academy’s National Parent’s Association and Academy Alumni Association, to ensure strong working relations and improved dialog with the state maritime academies and other federal service academies to improve best educational practices.

Ballard has had a direct and positive strategic impact on the Academy’s role as a leader in the field of maritime education. More importantly, he has served as a role model for the entire faculty and the officers who graduated from the academy during his service. As a result of his superior leadership, outstanding professionalism, and deep devotion to duty, Rear Adm. Ballard has positioned the Academy to excel during upcoming accreditation / program reviews by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), by the United States Coast Guard, and by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

USMMA Superintendent, Vice Admiral Joanna Nunan, expressed her appreciation for Ballard’s significant contributions noting, “Rear Admiral Ballard’s leadership, wise counsel, strategic vision and masterful enhancements of our academic program have ensured the Academy maintained a steady course through multiple challenges and always kept learning as our guiding star.”   

A national search effort to select the Academy’s next Provost is underway, with a selection planned for June 2023.



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. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Academy, which was established under the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, as the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 1943. It is administered by the Maritime Administration under the auspices of the Department of Transportation.

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Class of 2029 Applications Open 1 May 2024