Institutes Silver Bell Awards Honor Firsts

Thursday night (June 10), major players in the maritime industry gathered at New York’s Chelsea Piers for the 33rd Annual Silver Bell Awards Dinner, supporting the work of the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI), North America’s largest mariners’ service agency. The dinner raised close to $900K to assist with SCI’s chaplaincy, education, and advocacy programs.

Awards at the Annual Silver Bell Awards Dinner recognize the commitment of an outstanding individual, company, or organization to merchant mariners and the issues facing the maritime industry. SCI honored three awardees at the evening’s dinner. Former Chairman of the Board of inland tank barge operator Kirby Corporation, C. Berdon Lawrence, and the former Executive Director of SCI, the Rev. Jean R. Smith, D.D., received Silver Bell Awards. Vice Admiral Vivien S. Crea (ret.), former Vice Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, received a Lifetime Achievement Award, although she humorously added that she has many things she still plans to accomplish in her life.

The theme of the evening, “SCI: A Ministry of Firsts,” emphasized pioneering approaches operating within the maritime industry. “Tonight we celebrate something truly remarkable,” said David M. Rider, SCI’s President & Executive Director, “people who function in front and ahead of the curve.” Lawrence’s leadership shaped the inland towing business, Smith shepherded SCI’s growth during historic times, and VADM Crea, the USCG’s first woman Vice Commandant, spent a career managing maritime safety and security.

Both Silver Bell Award recipients spoke of their attachments to SCI. Lawrence spoke of his decision to send a group of captains to the inaugural training session in Houston, TX, where with Lawrence’s support, SCI opened a Center for Maritime Education 9 years ago. Smith—surrounded by family and employees of the Institute at which she ministered for 17 years—talked of giving herself to issues about which she feels passionately and the impact it has made in her life.

As a tribute to VADM Crea (ret.), an H-65 “Dolphin” Short Range Recovery Helicopter joined the “Parade of Vessels” on the Hudson River, a yearly display at the Awards Dinner showing off working vessels of the harbor to guests gathered on the pier. Crea, an accomplished pilot, operated the H-65 during her military career as an active-duty USCG aviator, according to RADM Robert C. North, who arranged the flyover from USCG Air Station Atlantic City.

Preceding the Awards Dinner, SCI hosted the Silver Bell Maritime Forum, tackling important issues facing the maritime community. Expert panel members, including the Commandant of the USCG, ADM Robert J. Papp, Jr., led discussions on the maritime industry, gulf and east coast oil exploration issues, and piracy. Dr. Michael Stuart Garfinkle, SCI’s Clinical Researcher, reported on developments in the Institute’s study of the impact of piracy on seafarers and their families—the first of its kind in the maritime industry.