Skip to Content

Vice Chairman and Executive Vice President Bill Pennella Accepts The 2010 AOTOS Award

William Pennella, vice chairman and executive vice president of Crowley Maritime Corporation, was named co-winner of the 2010 Admiral of the Ocean Seas Award (AOTOS), along with Thomas J. Bethel, national president of the American Maritime Officers (AMO).

Both men were honored for their lifelong contributions to the U.S. maritime industry, particularly the role their organizations played in providing humanitarian relief to Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake there.

Tom Crowley Jr., chairman, president and CEO of Crowley, presented the award to Pennella on Friday, Nov. 12, 2010, at a gala industry dinner and dance.

Pennella’s acceptance speech upon receiving the award follows:

I would like to thank the United Seamen’s Service and the members of the nominating committee for this great honor. 

I would also like to congratulate Tom Bethel on his well deserved honor and the maritime unions for their extraordinary response to the Haitian disaster.  

As everyone knows, no one receives this award without being a member of an outstanding team, and I would like to thank the entire Crowley organization for making this possible, especially Tom Crowley and his dad, who changed my life with the opportunities they have afforded me. 

Lastly, but certainly not least, I would like to thank my wife Joan. We met in high school and have been married 42 years. I have always said that Joan raised three children and me. She had no idea what she was getting into when she married a kid from Newark, NJ.  

Anyone who knows me realizes this will be a short speech. I am a strong believer in being “short and being seated.”

Having sat where you are for many years, I know the most eloquent words you can hear in a speech are “thank you and good night.” With that in mind, I only have two points I want to make tonight. One is personal and the other is recognition of the importance of the labor movement in this great country. 

On a personal note, I truly believe you can only appreciate where you are in life if you remember where you came from.

I was born in Newark, NJ, in a rough neighborhood. I grew up with some rough guys. Now, just because they were rough around the edges, it did not mean they were not smart. In fact, half my friends made straight A’s. Their B’s were a little crooked.   

My dad was a longshoreman and worked break-bulk ships at Port Newark. 

Because I earned a full scholarship, obviously not athletic, I was able to become the first college graduate in my family.

My dad could not believe that after all that education I headed right back to the docks to work for Sea Land.

On top of that, he warned me to stay away from labor relations because they would eat me up. 

Well, obviously, like any good son, I disregarded all his advice.  

He taught me to respect all workers and I was always proud that in my career I was never responsible for a work stoppage or strike.  

I truly wish he were alive to see this great honor that has been given to me. I do not delude myself into thinking that I belong in the Pantheon of greatness of the prior recipients.

However, life is not always fair.

As my dad used to tell me, “Expecting life to be fair is like expecting the bull not to attack you just because you are a vegetarian.” 

On a more serious note, I have always felt in awe of the social importance of the maritime labor movement. They allowed an entire generation of immigrants to join the middle class, educate their children and have a decent standard of living.

I also strongly believe that if the labor movement had not fought hard to force corporations to share the wealth in the early 1900s, this great country could have faced a social revolution and unrest. 

And, I applaud those like Mike Sacco, Richie Hughes, Tim Brown, Tommy Bethel and Don Keefe who have picked up the torch and continue to work with management in an enlightened way to continue with this great social experiment.  

This one’s for you dad. Thank you and good night.