The Cal Maritime campus community is mourning the loss of President Emeritus Admiral Joseph P. Rizza, who served as president of Cal Maritime from 1972-1983. Admiral Rizza passed away on Friday, October 5, 2012 at the age of 96. To commemorate his life and the many contributions he made during his 11-year presidency, Cal Maritime held a special tribute in his honor during morning formation on Wednesday, October 10th. (Click here to view the video of the ceremony and here to view photos).
"Admiral Rizza was a scholar, a statesman, a warrior and a leader," said Cal Maritime President Thomas Cropper. "He navigated Cal Maritime during the most tumultuous period in its history. he was told that saving the academy was 'mission impossible.' but hearing that, this fighter left the skeptics to argue and he went to work."
That work included resurrecting this campus with the largest construction projects ever, expanding the three-year course of instruction to a four-year degree, admitting and graduating the first women, and battling the budget cutbacks from the state and federal governments. Also during his presidency, the academy for the first time became a fully accredited institution of higher education.
"I never worked so hard, but it was a work of love," Admiral Rizza said in an interview reflecting on his presidency for an article that appeared in the Fall 2005 issue of the Cal Maritime magazine. "The toughest job was convincing the legislature that we needed an adequate budget. I told them that well educated and trained maritime academy graduates were essential to develop the great maritime industry, shipbuilding, and international commerce of California. I had a heck of a job convincing them to fund the academy, and I think I did well."
During the ceremony, Corps Executive Officer Andrew Kelly took a moment to encourage his is fellow cadets to honor Admiral Rizza's legacy by striving for greatness.
"Admiral Rizza really pushed to try to make this academy as good as he could and as beneficial for all of the cadets as he could," said Kelly. "I think that should be a motivation to us all today – keep up that training, keep making ourselves better, and keeping putting out excellent cadets into the industry."
Special guests in attendance during the on-campus tribute included Admiral Rizza's grandson, Mike Monroe, a Cal Maritime alumnus from the Class of 1979, and his wife Lisa. Mike reflected upon his grandfather's many contributions, and noted that even after retiring as president 30 years ago, he has followed and reveled in the progress that Cal Maritime has made.
"I can tell you with total conviction that he is looking down on us now and he is humbled, proud and extremely appreciative," said Monroe. Thank you so much for this most generous show of support and gratitude to a man up there who still cares about this institution, who you are, and where you are going."