U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao Visits SUNY Maritime College and Offers January Commencement Keynote Address

April 1, 2020Fort Schuyler Alumni Magazine

The excitement on campus was evident on January 31, as 104 graduates awaited to receive their diplomas at Winter Commencement. This was the first Maritime College graduation of the year and the new decade. Adding to the day’s anticipation was The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, who visited the College for the first time and served as Keynote Speaker for the event.

Secretary Chao is widely recognized for her longstanding commitment to the country’s maritime industry and has received numerous awards throughout her career including the Admiral of the Ocean Sea award, the most prestigious honor presented by the maritime community. Joined onstage by U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administrator RADM Buzby, Secretary Chao enthusiastically shared her experience of touring the campus prior to the commencement ceremony. “I have long wanted to come visit SUNY Maritime College,” said Secretary Chao. “Since 1874, this Institution has provided generations with a great education and foundation in life. The two words on the seal of SUNY Maritime are Loyalty and Valor, powerful guiding words.”

Emphasizing the importance of water transportation to the nation’s economy, Secretary Chao highlighted the improved job growth for all graduates. “Whether you are part of the 70 percent of SUNY Maritime graduates who earn a license, or the 30 percent who do not, you are entering the job market with the wind at your back,” stated Secretary Chao.

During her tour of Maritime College, Secretary Chao met and spoke with many students including international students, the student group Women on the Water, and recently commissioned U.S. Navy Strategic Sealift Officers and Midshipmen. The Secretary also met with Captain Hugh Stephens, an instructor in the Marine Transportation department and the only WWII merchant mariner who still sails on his U.S. Coast Guard license. “Captain Stephens is an example of the importance of life-long learning in one’s life and career,” she said.

In her closing remarks to graduates, Secretary Chao stated, “We hope you will always appreciate life’s most important treasures—family, friends, the respect of your peers and a life well lived.”

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