(KINGS POINT, N.Y.) — The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) at Kings Point conducted its 87th commencement exercises on Saturday, graduating 212 new merchant marine and military officers of the Class of 2023.
The keynote speaker, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, emphasized the vital importance of USMMA graduates to the nation’s economy and national security. The audience included family members and guests of the graduating class, distinguished visitors representing the federal government, senior officers from the U.S. military, executives from the maritime industry, community leaders, alumni, faculty and staff.
“Perhaps the most important advantage we have over our competitors, is you — your talent, your training and the responsibility we place in you to lead — all of which will serve you well as you enter a complex world,” Hicks told the Class of 2023. “They will help you navigate an operating environment that’s challenging, complicated, and contested. In the face of friction and fog, I know you — our newest ensigns and second lieutenants, active-duty and reserve — will be America’s saving grace … just like your predecessors.”
Hicks concluded her remarks with, “I know for a fact that the sense of camaraderie — the formidable bonds that you’ve made and the trust you have built with one another — have been defining parts of your experience here at the academy. That’s no mistake. That’s a feature of your education. And you will soon see how important that value is and how far it will take you. And how it’s meant to bring out the best in you. So, when crises occur, step up. Be a leader. And take care of your people.”
Others who addressed the graduates were John Putnam, general counsel, U.S. Department of Transportation; Rear Adm. Ann Phillips, U.S. Navy, retired, U.S. maritime administrator; and Capt. Andrea Morrison, distinguished alumna speaker, a 2010 graduate of USMMA who became the first and only female offshore mooring master in the world.
This year’s commencement also marked the first graduation under the leadership of Vice Adm. Joanna Nunan, who became the academy’s 14th superintendent in December.
In Nunan’s remarks to the graduates, she applauded members of the regiment who have been guided by the principles of respect, honor and service. “They – and you, Class of 2023 – embody the character, dedication and self-reliance that form the spirit of Acta Non Verba,” she said.
Valedictorian Nathaniel Johnson of Gig Harbor, Wash., was introduced to the dais by academic dean and provost Rear Adm. John Ballard, who noted that Johnson had completed USMMA’s rigorous academic program with a 3.914 grade point average.
Each graduate received a bachelor of science degree in addition to an unlimited U.S. Coast Guard merchant mariner license and a military commission. In exchange for their education, each has the option of sailing as a merchant marine officer while serving in the Navy Reserve or entering active military duty.
Every graduate took the Coast Guard merchant marine license oath, which was administered by Capt. Zeita Merchant, commander of Coast Guard Sector New York. They also took the commissioning oath, which was administered by Hicks, making them officers in the U.S military.
Of the 212 midshipmen who graduated on Saturday, 57 are entering active duty, 10 graduates were commissioned into the Army, 23 were commissioned into the Navy, three were commissioned into the Air Force, 11 were commissioned into the Marine Corps, and 10 were commissioned into the Coast Guard.
– U.S. Merchant Marine Academy