Yesterday, in Kings Point, NY, warm weather signaled the oncoming spring. And in Hague's Basin, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy midshipmen welcomed spring's approach on the waterfront.
I was happy to be there with them to celebrate the renewal that spring promises, and to take part in a town hall meeting with academy students, faculty, and staff. Renewal was much on all of our minds.
A quick search of past blog posts will tell you that I am a big fan of DOT's service academy. Providing a top-notch education to America's merchant mariners is critical for our economy as well as for national security, and the academy remains one of my top priorities.
And that's exactly what I told the faculty, staff, and midshipmen at Kings Point during our town hall. The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is home to first-class students. It provides a first-class education. And since 2009, we’ve been working tirelessly to ensure that those students have first-class facilities to match.
As part of our commitment, DOT is investing more than $50 million to repair Mallory Pier, fix the campus electrical grid, and renovate Delano Hall, among other critical projects.
Since 2009, we have worked with Congress to secure more than $300 million for the Academy. That includes $23 million for building renovations last year, the most funding ever secured for physical improvements at the Academy, now being put to work on the projects we announced yesterday.
But we're not stopping there.
In addition to capital investments, we’re also developing a strategic plan for the academy, one that gathers input from all of the academy's stakeholders to help us ensure the future of Kings Point. That input starts this week with those who know the campus best--the students who live, work, learn, and train at Kings Point--but during the process, industry, alumni, parents, and community and government leaders will have the chance to share their thoughts.
We hope to complete the plan before the start of the next school year. It will address the Academy’s mission, the needs of our maritime industry, and accreditation expectations. The process is being led by Acting Superintendent Dr. Shashi Kumar and a steering committee made up primarily of a cross-section of midshipmen, faculty and staff at the Academy, along with a handful of DOT representatives.
I want to thank acting Superintendent Dr. Shashi Kumar for hosting me on campus yesterday. I also want to thank the Kings Point midshipmen, faculty, and staff for their enthusiastic participation in our town hall, and for the input and feedback I know they will provide as we work together to develop the academy's strategic plan.
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy has seen a lot of changes during the last three years. Throughout those changes, DOT's commitment to Kings Point has not wavered. Yesterday, I reaffirmed that commitment. Together, we will ensure this valued institution strengthens its place as a crown jewel of America’s service academies.