The financial support Clark receives has kept him on track to realize a future as an aviator and systems engineer.
Why did you choose to attend MMA?
MMA had three very distinct qualities I was looking for: a Marine Corps ROTC program, a location in Maine (where I was born and raised), and a fairly small school that is well respected for engineering. I did not want to be just a number at a big university.
Describe your involvement with MMA as a student.
I have had a fairly wide breadth of experiences at MMA. I am a Systems major going into my fifth year, and was part of the regiment for four years. I am pursuing four minors: Mathematics, Naval Science, Naval Architecture, and Business Logistics. I was part of the regimental training staff for one year, and a resident assistant the following year. I am a tutor at the Buoy House for a dozen courses, and a teaching assistant for fundamentals of engineering operations. I founded the ROTC Color Guard and Drill Team, where I was Drill Commander and Color Sergeant for three years. I was a division officer with the ROTC unit for a year, and a midshipman training officer for one year.
What about your MMA experience do you value the most?
The opportunity to work with the Marine Officer Instructor and Assistant Marine Officer Instructor in the ROTC unit. I had no military background, no family in the military, and really no idea what I signed up for, but the staff at the ROTC unit trained me well enough that I was in the top 10 percent of my OCS class. The Marines at the ROTC house are a fantastic resource for aspiring officers.
How are you able to handle the financial cost of attendance?
I am at MMA on my own. My aid comes from a three-year scholarship from the Marine Corps that covers my tuition and fees. It does not cover room and board, which a four-year Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps scholarship does along with the RADM Thomas K. Shannon Leadership Scholarship Fund, that combined also help me pay down my student loans from my freshman year, when I didn’t have the Marine Corps Scholarship.
I also work 15 hours per week during the school year, and I have taken paid watch on the ship for eight of the 15 school breaks that I have had. Every chance I get, I work.
What has receiving the scholarship provided by RADM Shannon meant to you?
Receiving the scholarship has allowed me to pay off more of my student loans, of which I have a lot. My debt is 200 percent of my salary when I graduate, which is a daunting number.
What sort of career track do you intend to pursue?
An hour after graduation in 2020, I will be commissioned in the Marine Corps as a second lieutenant. My contract is for eight years after I earn my wings. When I am 33 years old, I will be eligible to separate from the Marine Corps or stay as long as they will have me.
Eventually, I would like to come back and fly for LifeFlight of Maine.
What are some of the principles that guide you?
Several things are usually in the back of my mind: Marines strive for excellence in everything they do. The world owes you nothing; if you want it, earn it. You do what you have to for family.█
Rear Admiral Thomas K. Shannon ’82
What do you hope to achieve as a member of the Opening Doors, Changing Lives Scholarship Campaign Steering Committee?
My wife, Kristi, and I have been supporting a regimental scholarship, and serving on the committee was a natural extension of my interests. To me, this is one avenue to make a positive difference for those who will follow our footsteps into the maritime industry.
What motivated you to join the committee?
Self-funding my college education was hard, but it could be done. That is not the case today. Escalating education costs have outpaced any pay scale for the kinds of jobs available to college students. I joined this effort to do my part in hopes of giving our academy students a fighting chance at completing their education and getting off to a good start in their careers.
Describe your career track.
At the time of my graduation, there was a paucity of employment opportunities in the maritime industry, predominantly caused by the cancellation of federal subsidies, so I accepted a three-year contract with the United States Navy. Three years turned into 35 years in the blink of an eye.
I began as a deck officer on a Bath-built frigate, and enjoyed a career slanted towards a lot of sea duty. I worked hard, learned from every assignment, and rose through the ranks to eventually command a couple of ships; went on to command an aircraft carrier strike group and ultimately was appointed Commander of the 120 ships of the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command fleet. Along the way, I enjoyed a range of challenging assignments in naval education, surface warfare, joint military operations, and as a staff adviser for the Secretary of Defense.
Your advice for MMA students?
Your achievements beyond Maine Maritime Academy will be largely dictated by your ability and your desire. Do everything you possibly can to maximize those two elements.
How Can You Help
Please contact Christopher Haley, V.P. for Institutional Advancement to learn more or create a scholarship: 207-326-2232; firstname.lastname@example.org. See more about how scholarships open doors at openingdoors.mainemaritime.edu.
Photos: EMILY BAER & COURTESY T.K. SHANNON
This is the first in a series of profiles of scholarship recipients and campaign donors and volunteers involved in the goal of raising $20 million for an endowed scholarship program. Currently, $16.65 million has been raised.