New U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Superintendent Named

Rear Admiral Joanna M. Nunan (U.S. Coast Guard, Ret.) has been named the next superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Photo: USCG.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration on Nov. 12 announced the appointment of Rear Admiral Joanna M. Nunan (U.S. Coast Guard, Ret.) as the next superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

Nunan, who spent more than three decades in the U.S. Coast Guard, has commanded units at every level both afloat and ashore. She was expected to begin work at the academy by the end of the year.

Nunan retired earlier this year as the Coast Guard’s deputy for personnel readiness. In that role, she oversaw the Coast Guard’s personnel enterprise, including the recruitment, training, support and retention of all active duty, reserve and civilian personnel.

She also supervised the Coast Guard Academy and served on its Board of Trustees.

Previously, Nunan served as the assistant commandant for human resources. In that role, her responsibilities included spearheading efforts to expand diversity and inclusion in the Coast Guard. 

She also formulated policy changes focused on increasing the retention of women in the service and served as a member of the Coast Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention, Response and Recovery Committee. 

“Rear Admiral Joanna Nunan is the right leader at the right time for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “Her years of experience as a senior military leader including command at seahave prepared (her) to shape the future of the (Merchant Marine Academy) and help ensure the safety and success of its extraordinary midshipmen.”

Earlier in her career, she served as the military adviser to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and as the military assistant to Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.

She also served more than nine years at sea, including commanding two buoy tenders, and previously served as commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District and as commander of Coast Guard Sector Honolulu.

“Rear Admiral Nunan is uniquely prepared to lead and strengthen (the Merchant Marine Academy) on every front,” Maritime Administrator Ann Phillips said. “She understands both the critical role USMMA plays in our economic and national security and the organizational transformations that are essential to ensuring USMMA prepares students in a safe and respectful environment to excel in a maritime industry undergoing rapid change.”  

A Bridgeport, Conn. native, Nunan graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1987 and received her Master of Business Administration from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. She also obtained three Coast Guard merchant mariner licenses, including Master of vessels of not more than 1,600 gross tons and Third Mate on vessels of unlimited tonnage.

Last year, the academy faced upheaval over the Sea Year program, which assigns cadets to container ships, oil tankers, among other vessels, after a female cadet accused a Maersk Line, Limited supervisor of rape. Vice Adm. Jack Buono stepped down as academy superintendent in June after more than three years in the post.