KINGS POINT, N.Y. — The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy’s next superintendent will be the first woman appointed to the position in the institution’s nearly 80-year history, the U.S. Transportation Department announced Saturday.
Retired U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Joanna Nunan will take the helm at the 1,000-person academy on New York’s Long Island in a few weeks, the department said. She succeeds Jack Buono, who resigned in June.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Nunan is “the right leader at the right time” for the Merchant Marine Academy, which has been racked by sexual misconduct allegations in recent years.
“Her years of experience as a senior military leader — including command at sea — have prepared Rear Admiral Nunan to shape the future of the (academy) and help ensure the safety and success of its extraordinary midshipmen,” Buttigieg said.
Last year, the academy suspended its Sea Year program — which sends cadets to work on container ships, oil tankers, passenger liners and other vessels — for the second time since 2016 after a cadet said a cargo ship supervisor got her drunk and raped her.
In December 2020, the Transportation Department agreed to pay $1.4 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a cadet who alleged he was hazed and sexually assaulted by his academy soccer teammates.
Nunan, a Bridgeport, Connecticut native, retired this year as the Coast Guard’s Deputy for Personnel Readiness. She graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, in 1987. She has an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and three Coast Guard merchant mariner licenses.
Nunan spent nine years at sea, commanded two buoy tenders and was the commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District on the Great Lakes and Coast Guard Sector Honolulu.
She served as military advisor to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and military assistant to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and was later the Coast Guard’s Assistant Commandant for Human Resources.
As the Coast Guard’s Deputy for Personnel Readiness, Nunan supervised the Coast Guard Academy and served on its board of trustees. She has also been a member of the Coast Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention, Response, and Recovery Committee.
The Merchant Marine Academy trains graduates to work in the commercial shipping industry. It is one of five military service academies, and the only one under the direction of the Department of Transportation.