After just over a year at the helm, the superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, Rear Admiral Philip H. Greene Jr., has been reassigned to become chairman of the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
The decision to transfer Greene, announced on Oct. 11, 2011, by Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, upset many of Kings Point's alumni.
"The academy is a top priority for me and we will continue to provide our outstanding midshipmen with a first-rate education," LaHood said in a statement. "In a brief interview with Professional Mariner in late November, U.S. Maritime Administrator David Matsuda said his agency has hired an executive recruiter to help search for Greene's replacement. Matsuda declined to discuss the reasons for the reassignment or address the unhappiness of the alumni.
Rear Adm. Philip H. Greene, right, with a Kings Point classmate, BLT Chemical Group CEO Jack Noonan, at the academy on Oct. 13, 2011, when Greene was honored as Alumnus of the Year. (Frank August photo)
"We are searching for the very best candidate available, and we're reaching out to stakeholders," Matsuda said.
MarAd spokesperson Kim Riddle said the agency would not make Greene available for an interview.
Shashi Kumar, assistant superintendent for academic affairs, is serving as interim superintendent.
The alumni's displeasure over the reassignment was voiced in an e-mail sent out in October by Gary G. Hicks, chairman of the academy's Alumni-Chapter Presidents Alliance.
"The 'change in leadership' … is extremely unfortunate for Kings Point," he wrote, adding that Greene "has provided an extraordinary effort to effect positive change for the present, and the future, of our alma mater. He has provided his tremendous leadership under very difficult and often uncooperative circumstances, and effected structure and progress to the Academy. His appointment away from the Academy was in no way his choice, or a positive move for Kings Point. Rear Admiral Greene has the utmost respect of the entire Regiment of Midshipmen."
"It seems clear that Admiral Greene was finding it impossible to work with" federal transportation officials, who seem intent on undercutting the academy, Hicks wrote.
Hicks, a member of the Class of 1976, said he received a call from LaHood the day of the announcement to explain the change.
Jack Noonan, a friend and classmate of Greene who graduated with him in 1978, said the Kings Point alumni fully supported him.
"We were happy with the job he was doing. It seemed he was righting the ship," Noonan said. "It appeared he was the leader for the long-term. I was shocked, saddened and disappointed that he was reassigned."
Greene, who holds a merchant marine master's license, was named superintendent in August 2010. He was the 11th superintendent of the institution where more than 1,000 midshipmen are enrolled.
The departure of Greene continues the turmoil that has troubled Kings Point in recent years, highlighted by allegations in a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report of financial mismanagement by the school and the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd), which oversees the academy. The analysis of the school's finances from 2006 to 2008 found "numerous instances of improper and questionable sources and use of funds" in relation to student fees and weak oversight by the academy and MarAd. During the time covered by the GAO report, the superintendent was Vice Adm. Joseph D. Stewart, a 44-year veteran of the Marine Corps and its civilian Senior Executive Service. His resignation was announced in July 2008, after he had spent a decade in the job.
Rear Adm. Allen B. Worley was named as his replacement. He retired in January 2010, after only a year in the job, citing the family's need to help care for his father-in-law, who had pancreatic cancer.