By Sarah Rohrs
Staff Writer, Bay Area News Group
Honor, believe, and lead -- California Maritime Academy President Thomas Cropper on Friday promised to use these principles to steer the Vallejo campus to greater growth and achievement.
Cropper made that commitment during the college's first presidential inauguration ceremony, an event which coincided with California State University Chancellor Timothy White's two-day campus visit.
"We will steer by the stars ahead and not by the wake behind us," Cropper said, following his commitment and encouragement to embrace challenges through optimism, energy and desire to answer a higher calling.
Hired last May, Cropper is Cal Maritime's 14th president, and took the position after retiring from a 31-year- naval career.
A Navy Rear Admiral, Cropper brings a wealth of experience in running Naval training, educational operations and numerous combat operations.
The ceremonial investiture event also drew numerous fellow presidents of other CSU campuses who crowded onto the Rizza Auditorium stage for the event, dressed in formal robes and other regalia.
Just prior to the ceremony, students in black and white uniforms, plus classified staff and faculty members in robes formed a procession into the auditorium where Aaron Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" played.
Special recognition for Cal Maritime's 84-year history was made during the event.
Leroy Morishita, CSU East Bay president, said it was Cropper's desire to give back to Cal Maritime which helped land him the top position.
During the presidential search, Morishita said Cropper told an interview panel that his proudest achievements were the following -- two combat missions in the Persian Gulf in which no one under his command died, plus his son's achievements at Cal Maritime.
The younger Thomas Cropper graduated from Cal Maritime in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Studies and Maritime Affairs.
The elder Cropper has said when he saw how much his son benefited from his college experience he wanted to be part of that.
Friday, he acknowledged a long list of people for serving the school and also helping him get to where he is today, including his parents and their encouragement to be the first member of the family to graduate from college.
With Cropper at the Cal Maritime helm for more than a year, Academic Senate Chairman Steven Browne commended the president for what he's been able to accomplish so far, including greater faculty training and encouragement to pursue research and other projects.
Others cited new campus buildings, including a greatly expanded dining center along the waterfront which opened this week. The school is also building a new gymnasium at the campus entrance.
Student Mollie McQuiston said Cropper inspires students to be the best they can be by encouraging them to embrace challenges and responsibilities, and also draw on inner resources to grow and excel.
"President Cropper is the kind of leader we all wish to become," she said.
Meanwhile, Cropper thanked the students and pledged to serve them.
"You are the reason why I come to work with a smile on my face," he said.