USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Site Notification

Site Notification

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Transcript: Formal Installation of VADM Joanna Nunan as Superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

Thursday, December 8, 2022






Thank you, Admiral Dunlap, and thank you for your leadership since June during this transition, and your commitment to the Academy and to the success of our Midshipmen.

I also want to give a special thank you to Congressman Tom Suozzi, whom we are honored to have join us today.  

Congressman Suozzi has been a tireless advocate for the Academy, has led our Board of Visitors, and was instrumental in helping us get the EMBARC program underway and get carriers enrolled.  Congressman, thank you for your service!

Thank you also to our former Superintendent, VADM Jack Buono, and his wife Ginger, for joining us today.

Midshipmen, Leaders, Faculty, Staff, and Honored Guests—and, of course, all of the members of Admiral Nunan’s family here and watching on-line. 

This is an historic day for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy as we appoint the 14th Superintendent of the Academy, Admiral Joanna Nunan.

We are beginning the next storied chapter in this institution’s long history with an extraordinary leader at the helm.

In November, when I introduced Admiral Nunan as our selection for the Superintendent’s appointment, many of you in attendance heard me detail her exceptional qualifications and experiences—but they certainly bear repeating.

Over her more than 30-year career, Admiral Nunan has commanded units at multiple levels afloat and ashore before retiring as the Coast Guard’s Deputy Commandant for Personnel Readiness.

She is a mariner who holds three Coast Guard licenses, including a master’s license—and a leader who spent more than 9 years at sea on five different vessels and who commanded on two of those vessels.  I note that on four of those five ships, she was the only woman assigned.  

Admiral Nunan previously served as the Military Advisor to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and as the Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation. 

She served on the Coast Guard Academy’s Board of Trustees for 4 years, including as Chair of that Board. 

And let me tell you, she also understands a thing or two about the importance of athletics—as she was the Coast Guard’s first female Elite Athlete of the year. As an Olympic-style weight lifter! 

She is also a wife, a mother, and a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy—although we put her through her the test at the Secretary’s cup game to make sure she was ready to root for our Mariners as we beat the Bears!   She passed!

And, I think it is important to celebrate that she is also the first woman to serve as Superintendent.

In fact, with the installation of Admiral Nunan to head the Merchant Marine Academy, our most senior leaders at the Maritime Administration and at the Merchant Marine Academy are women including, as you know, our Regimental Commander and Regimental XO!
Frankly, it’s not that change is coming to the Academy.  Change is here!

Secretary Buttigeig and I fully understand how essential the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is to our national security and our economic security.  And of course, we also know the many elements that make the Merchant Marine Academy unique, including the Sea Year.

We also are acutely aware that we are at an inflection point—both within the maritime industry broadly, and here at the Merchant Marine Academy, and we are certain that Admiral Nunan is the leader that we need at this critical juncture to meet our challenges head-on.  

Admiral Nunan is a transformational change agent with a clear vision.  She is a connector, a coordinator, and a communicator.  

And, she combines the leadership expertise, poise, commitment, dedication to excellence, boundless enthusiasm, and foresight to move us forward together. 

Admiral Nunan has the FULL support of the Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration.  In fact, she spent all of last week in Washington meeting in-person with the Secretary and senior leaders throughout the entire Department as well as throughout the Maritime Administration.
She knows how to get things done within the Department and in the government, which is critical.

And she understands—as we all do—that the proof of success lies in how you all experience life while here at the Academy, and how well you are prepared to serve in the maritime industry, at sea. 

With that, she has several areas of urgent emphasis—which reflect the priorities that Secretary Buttigieg and I have set for her and for the Academy:

•    Admiral Nunan will lead our ongoing work to ensure that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are our shared priorities across this campus.  This Academy—and the entire merchant marine—must reflect the diversity of the nation it serves and draw from the skills and talents of all Americans.  

•    She will advance our ongoing efforts to create a safe environment and culture here and at sea where sexual assault, sexual harassment, and any form of violence and abuse are not tolerated.  And as I will discuss in a moment, these efforts are poised to receive a huge boost from the Congress.

•    She will lead our efforts to ensure that our curriculum fully prepares our Midshipmen for the rapid technological innovations occurring in the maritime industry, including decarbonization standards, engineering best practices, and the development of new industry segments.  She will also lead the accreditation processes. 

•    And she is committed to advancing our ongoing efforts to address our many urgent maintenance needs and to modernizing our infrastructure here at Kings Point.  

•    She will also continue our ongoing work to address the many recommendations made by the National Academy of Public Administration last year to strengthen every facet of the Academy’s operations.

Critically, Admiral Nunan will have an incredibly strong team around her.  In addition to having the counsel of Rear Admiral Dunlap, who will continue as our Deputy Superintendent, as well as of Rear Admiral Ballard and Captain Stroud, Admiral Nunan will also be supported by our new Facilities Executive, Ms. Rebecca MacPherson, who has now formally assumed that role in support of the Academy.

Rebecca is an experienced senior executive who was serving as a Regional Administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration when she joined us on a detail earlier this year to guide our capital and maintenance investments.  

She has done a phenomenal job and we are thrilled that she will continue on as the Executive Director of the Office of Facility Management for the next two years. 

Thank you, Rebecca, for your continued service on behalf of the men and women here before you in to help us as we improve the quality of life on campus in every way possible through deliberate and extensive facilities modernization efforts.

I want to make clear that significant work is already underway to strengthen this Academy across multiple lines of effort.  

As you know, a year ago, we briefly paused the Sea Year as we worked to develop what has become the “Every Mariner Builds a Respectful Culture” (EMBARC) program, which enumerates sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention and response procedures that commercial carriers must implement to be eligible to carry USMMA cadets.  

There are currently 14 commercial carriers enrolled in EMBARC.  

And, under the leadership of Dr. Sashi Kumar, we have created an entirely new office in MARAD called the Office of Cadet Training At-Sea Safety to oversee the enrollment of new carriers into the program and to assess ongoing compliance with EMBARC requirements.  

That office is directed by CAPT Todd Kutkiewicz, a USMMA graduate whom many of you met during his visit here last week.  

And, this is historic day for another reason.  On Tuesday night, the text of the National Defense Authorization Act was released.  
The House is scheduled to vote on the bill today and then the Senate will take up the measure.  We anticipate it will be on the President’s desk shortly.

This legislation would make many historic changes.  One of the critical changes it makes is to give MARAD the authority, by law, to require commercial carriers to comply with EMBARC before carrying USMMA cadets.  

Further, when enacted, it will require companies participating in the Maritime Security Program, the new Tanker Security Program, and the Cableship Security Program to carry USMMA cadets, when they are made available.  And it gives us the authority to enforce these requirements.

The bill also makes significant other changes to improve safety in the maritime industry.  

We thank Congress for their work on this legislation and for their ongoing support of the Academy and of the effort to improve safety at sea for all mariners.

The legislation has many other provisions related to the Academy and the Maritime Administration and we are working quickly to understand what is required of us.   But these changes are critical and have come at what is in essence lightening speed.

Here at the Academy, we have been working to strengthen the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response here at the Academy.

We created a new position of Director of the SAPR Office and our new director, Anton Tripolski, reported to the Academy in September.  We also just appointed our new Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, Julie Hodge.

Finally, thanks to the great work of our Academy counsel, Ilene Kreitzer, we have put concurrent jurisdiction in place.  In plain language, this change provides another avenue of redress for the victims of crimes—including the survivors of sexual assault—who want to seek criminal investigations.  

We will be talking in more detail about the work underway—and about the significant impact of the National Defense Authorization Act following its enactment.  
In fact, we look forward to returning in January to talk in more detail about the EMBARC program.

As I close, let me reiterate that the Merchant Marine Academy is critical to our nation’s defense and economic security, and we will continue to resource and support the Academy and support the Sea Year training program, while keeping our focus on improving safety for women and men at sea and here on campus. 

And Admiral Joanna Nunan is the caring, committed, transformational leader who is ready to implement the new legislative requirements coming from Congress—and to lead this institution forward to excellence so that Kings Point will be a great place to be at—as well as to be from. 

We are all honored and fortunate to have the opportunity to serve with Admiral Joanna Nunan.  Please give her another rousing round of applause and welcome! 

Thank you.