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U.S. Merchant Marine Academy 2012 commencement

Captain Mark E. Kelly at the Seventy-Sixth Commencement

Captain Mark E. Kelly at the Seventy-Sixth Commencement Exercises at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, where he gave the Commencement speech. (June 18, 2012) Credit: Newsday photo/Alejandra Villa


Number of graduates



Keynote speaker

Former NASA astronaut Capt. Mark E. Kelly, a 1986 graduate of the academy, told students to "deny the acceptance of failure." Kelly, who is married to former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, urged midshipmen to be resilient, set extreme goals and commit to public service. His dream of walking on Mars, Kelly said, led him to work as a naval aviator, a test pilot, then astronaut. But he wasn't a star pilot in those early days.

"How good you are at the beginning of anything you try is not a good indicator of how good you can become," Kelly said.

"I started out as a lousy pilot and ended up commanding a rocket ship into space," he added. "No matter how difficult something is, don't ever, ever give up, and please set some crazy and ambitious goals for yourselves."



Midshipmen Lt. Riley Scott McQuiston, from Burien, Wash., earned a 3.9295 grade-point average while majoring in ship operations and technology. It's the second-highest GPA at the academy in 10 years.

"There are going to be times where we fail or have no clue what we are doing," McQuiston said. "Instead of giving up and letting our failures prevent us from the goals we want to achieve, we need to realize that if we try again, failure is only a temporary status."





Keegan Farley

22, logistics and intermodal transportation

"My plan is to work in Manhattan for a shipping company," said the Ponder, Texas, resident, who will also become a Naval Reserve officer. "I'm looking to use the education and experience I was given here."


Greg Reed

22, marine engineering

Next April the Coronado, Calif., resident will join the Marine Corps. He's one of only three from the academy to do so and hopes to become a pilot flying an F-18 fighter. "It's a good challenge," he said.


Arianna Ebers

22, marine transportation

"I'm going to go live in Korea with my dad for a few months and then backpack through India and work for the Military Sealift Command," said Ebers, of The Woodlands, Texas. Her sister, father and grandfather all attended the academy.


Fernando Galvan

24, engineering and shipyard management

Galvan, who is from the Republic of Panama, fell in love with life at sea when he sailed as part the Sea Year program at the academy. "I'm planning to sail," Galvan said. "I'm hoping to apply for jobs in United States."

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