Posts Tagged ‘Port of Baltimore’

America At Its Best in Baltimore: Mary Jane Norris

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

America At Its Best in Baltimore
Mary Jane Norris: A Radiant Face of America
Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

Simple, genuine goodness is the best capital to found the business of this life upon. It lasts when fame and money fail, and is the only riches we can take out of this world with us. Louisa Mary Alcott

On a blustery and overcast March morning, we began our Face of America Journey to Baltimore, Maryland. Our destination wasBest Western plus the Sparrows Point Country Club, a beautiful facility located on the water’s edge of Chesapeake Bay Tributaries. We knew we could not make the trip in one day so we stayed overnight in the Best Western Plus Hotel and Convention Center.

It was a wise choice. The atmosphere was pleasant. The facility was clean, and the members of the staff treated us with courtesy and respect. We had a wonderful meal in the dining room thanks to our waitress Emma and the chef. They went out of their way to accommodate our dietary restrictions.

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After a good night’s sleep, we packed our bags, and we made our way to Sparrows Point to attend the15th Annual Women in Maritime History Awards ceremony. Our dear friend Mary Jane Norris was the honoree.

Mary Jane is Manager, Port Operations Services for the Port ofIMG_5217aMJKD Baltimore. She personifies everything that is admirable, decent, good, inspirational, kind and wholesome about our country.

Everything about Mary Jane affirms what Emerson wrote about friendship:

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.

Everything about the Women in Maritime History event, the location, the table arrangements, the food, the participants, the speakers and the message they share, speaks to America at its best.


The program began with the Presentation of the Colors byIMG_5061_memorial a group of high school students, the Pledge of Allegiance and a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem.

A memorial tribute to Tony Buccini an outstanding employee of the Port of Baltimore, a young father and a courageous warrior who inspired his colleagues during his battle with cancer, brought tears to the eyes of many in attendance.


Rev. Mary Davisson, Director of the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center touched the heart of everyone in the room with her 106-word gratitude invocation:

Gracious and loving God, thank you for the astounding energy and dedication of our honoree, our speakers, and everyone assembled here. Thank you for all the gifts which you give us to share, and for the generosity of planners and donors who made this celebration possible. Watch over the port community. Help us to treat one another, working at sea or in the port, with wisdom and justice. Stir us up to share with future generations the privilege of faithful work, and grateful generosity. And now, bless all who grow and transport and prepare and serve our food, and fill this time with your presence. Amen.

Kathleen Broadwater, Deputy Director of the Maryland Port Administration, introduced Mary Jane, with carefully chosen wordsIMG_5158_award designed to draw a memorable word picture of this vibrant woman with a million dollar smile: inspirational, engaged, an encyclopedia of Baltimore and the port, the Mayor of the port and one of its best ambassadors, a woman of integrity and loyalty, a problem-solver, a true leader who is respected at all levels and sectors of the industry.

Mary Jane accepted the Woman of the Year Award. She carefully placed it on the table in front of the podium. She then took a deep breath, smiled and shared these ten points to describe the secret to her success in business and in life:

1. Provide opportunities to others. If you don’t step down, how can others step up?

2. Affirm others with kind words and kind acts.

_MJ speaking

3. Put God first, then family and friends.

4. Never give up on your education. Once you have it, it’s yours forever.

5. Show interest in opportunities to learn in informal ways. Find a group that aligns with your interests and goals.

6. Get involved by offering to help.

7. Seek out role models and mentors who can teach you what you need to know.

8. Work like everyone is watching you, because inevitably someone is watching you.

9. Do small things well, because they all add up.

10. Do what you say you are going to do, because it’s the basis of your reputation.

When Mary Jane finished her remarks, she received a well-deserved and enthusiastic standing ovation.

IMG_5175_ Dr Lindsay

The keynote speaker, Dr. Dawn Lindsay, President of Anne Arundel Community College, added more joy to Mary Jane’s moment when she spoke these words: Mary Jane Norris is a great choice for this award.

Dr. Lindsay gave an insightful and informative speech about the role of women in the transportation industry. For every fact she presented, she had a practical and wise suggestion:

1. To encourage more women to get involved in the transportation industry she recommended the creation of an internal leadership program to prepare the next generation.

2. To guarantee quality replacements when incumbent leaders retire, she proposed a succession plan.

3. Because Gen X and Gen Y employees think about work differently than Millennials, she suggested making the work environment more appealing and enjoyable.

4. To help employees advance, she emphasized the importance of mentoring programs.

Dr. Lindsay is a very effective speaker. She knows how to craftIMG_Guests sentences that register with her audience. These are a few examples:

We must choose to encourage one another.

We must give back knowledge to the next generation and work collectively and creatively to attract women.

The working world has changed, and we must enlist allies who will give honest feedback to help women reach their goal.

We must hold ourselves accountable.

Women need to empower other women.

You can either push down or pull up. Let’s pull up.

This is sound advice from a woman who made it to the top of her profession, advice that enabled Mary Jane Norris to make it to the top in her chosen profession.

When Dr. Lindsay finished her remarks, she took her place on a panel IMG_5190_panelwith Lorraine Andrews-Warnick, Living Classrooms Foundation Director of Masonville Cove Environmental Education Campus, Diane Young, Supervisor for Technical Programs in the Career and Technical Office for Baltimore Public Schools, and LCDR Stephanie Morrison, Chief of Waterways Management Division at Coast Guard Sector Baltimore.

Each panel member responded to questions posed by Mistress of Ceremonies Cecilia ‘Cece’ Donovan.

These are a few of the starred thoughts from the discussion:

Kids are not growing up with soft skills and experience in workplace values. (Lorraine Andrews-Warnick)

Our students don’t know what they don’t know. We need toIMG_5187_panel 3 establish teacher externships. (Diane Young)

Mentorships, formal and informal, are very valuable. (LCDR Stephanie Morrison)

Internships and mentoring are very important to find out about the field. For students to grow, it is important that they find a person they would like to be like. (Dr. Dawn Lindsay)

The panel identified several values that students should cultivate if they want to live successful and productive lives.

1. Respect for self and others.

2. A strong work ethic.

3. Set short and long-term realistic goals.

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4. Accept responsibility for your actions.

5. Think about what you can do for others.

6. Competence.

7. Integrity.

8. Honesty.

9. Commitment.

10. Cultivate the gift of an open mind.

Mary Jane Norris knows in very real ways the importance of these IMG_5203_familyvalues. She has made them an essential part of her personal honor code. That is why she received this prestigious award. That is why so many people came forward after the event to express their congratulations and best wishes. That is why she is a quiet hero and a radiant face of America on its best day.

As Kitch and I made our way to the parking lot, we were taken by the beauty of this place and the moment we had just experienced. Looking at the American flag flying majestically inIMG_5228_ Flag adj the cold March wind, two thoughts reverberated in my heart and my mind:

When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves. William Arthur Ward

Good people make good places. Anna Sewell

On this wonderful day, the room overlooking the rippling water of the Chesapeake Bay was filled with the sights and sounds of good people who represent America at its best.

In our humble opinion, it was a very good place to be.

(Digital pictures by Kitch and Tony Mussari)

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A Perfect Day at the Port of Baltimore

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Women Making History: A Perfect Day at the Port of Baltimore, March 21, 2013

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Digital Photographs Tony Mussari
Copyright 2013
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you. John Wooden

The Day in Context

March 21, is known for many things.  It is the first day of spring and World Poetry Day.  For those who follow the astrological year, it is the first full day lindbergh_presentationof Aries. Aries is the first sign of the zodiac. It symbolizes leadership

In 1928, Charles Lindbergh received the Congressional Medal of Honor on March 21, for his first solo trans-Atlantic flight.  In 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. lead 3,200 people in the start of the third civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

On this March 21, more than 200 people came together for breakfast at the Sparrows Point Country Club in Baltimore, Maryland, to celebrate Women in Port Security with a panel discussion and the presentation of the Woman of the Year award to Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara, U.S. Coast Guard, Retired.

The Setting


Surrounded by water on one side and a golf course on the other, the country club sits majestically on the crest of a small hill. If you are looking for a beautiful setting, this is it.

If you are looking for beautiful people in all the ways that matter, one need only enter the banquet hall.  

In every corner of the room, one could feel the welcoming atmosphere of community, confraternity, celebration, diversity, inclusion and everything that America represents on its best day.

Each table was tastefully decorated with a patrioticIMG_2680_group centerpiece.  Colorful baskets of flowers were carefully placed around the room, and attractive signs acknowledged corporate sponsors and the history of the United States Coast Guard.

Mary Jane Norris, Manager, Port Operations Services, is a talented woman with a million dollar smile. She and her committee attended to every detail.

The Program


The program began with an inspirational presentation of the colors by a group of teenagers from Baltimore, and a patriotic expression of the Pledge of Allegiance by everyone in the room.

Rev. Mary Davisson, Executive Director/Chaplain the Baltimore Seafarers’ Center, read a thoughtful invocation prayer asking God’s blessing on everyone in the room.

Mr. James White, Executive Director of the Maryland Port Authority extended a warm welcome to the annual celebration of women.

Kathy Broadwater, Maryland Port Administrator,IMG_2648_intro introduced Vice Admiral, Sally Brice-O’Hara with words of respect and gratitude:

“She began her service at a time when there were very few women in the Coast Guard, and, frankly, many did not want women there. In common with past honorees, she stuck with it, did the job to the best of her ability and showed through her performance that women could do the job as well or better than men.”

“Our honoree rose to the rank of Vice Admiral and served as Vice Commandant of the entire US Coast Guard at the time of her retirement. To put this in perspective, in 2012 the Coast Guard had a little over 6,800 officers and only 3 were Vice Admirals- less than one percent of all officers. This is a significant IMG_2655_introbachievement for either gender. It’s particularly notable considering less than 19% of the officer corps was female at the time.”

The Honoree

Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara is a quiet, competent person who exudes dignity and class. When she approached the podium, the room filled with the quiet sound of expectation.

She began her remarks with a quote from one of the Coast Guard’s most famous pathfinders, Captain Dorothy Stratton:

Since we were untried, we knew that if one failed, we all failed.  That is why we triedDorothyStratton1sm so hard.

Those 20 words set the tone for a speech that captivated everyone in the room. It was compelling, candid, conversational and filled with examples of leadership and service.

She admitted that she felt that the weight of all women was on her shoulders, and she had a responsibility to be professional. She wanted to contribute and create opportunities for women in the Coast Guard.

When she entered the service she thought she would honor a six year obligation and then go on to other MVC-025S_250things, but that was not meant to be. In 2012, she had given more than 37 years to the Coast Guard.  She honored 19 different assignments, and she rose to the position of second in command.

This is how she summarized the important things she learned during her career:

1. Get as much training and professional development as possible;

2. It takes effort, self-study and extra work to move forward;

3. To survive in a dynamic era like the digital age you must learn to adapt;

4. Find several mentors. If you ask people for assistance they will respond;
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5. Have patience.  It takes time to make progress;

6. When you experience negative examples of leadership, you learn how not to do things;

7. It takes energy, commitment and time to become a mentor. Become a mentor anyway;

8. Do not become a “Queen Bee.” Break down barriers and help other women move forward;

9. Select your partner carefully, because he or she is an essential part of your team;


10. When you are given a command position, select people who are not “yes” people. You will benefit from different ideas;

11. Always remember the team is paramount. We live in a no-fail environment. Everything is done in a team environment, and you must know and honor your responsibility to the team;

12. Be an open and honest broker. It will create the climate for the best decisions.


While Admiral Brice-O’Hara was speaking you could hear a pin drop in the room. Her compelling story and her thoughtful advice reminded me of the words of one of her heroes, Dorothy Stratton:

We wanted to serve our country in its hour of need. The Coast Guard gave us this opportunity and we did our job well. Semper Paratus.

Admiral Brice-O’Hara’s speech set the tone for the panel discussion that followed.

A Panel of Experts

Mistress of Ceremonies Cecilia Donovan was generous in her introduction of Margurite Cooper, Securitas Security Services, Susan Miller, MDTA Police Officer, Cindy Milligan, Pride International and Kristina Tanasichuk, President and Founder of “Women in Homeland Security” Organization.


Looking at these women, and listening to their stories and their advice to other women, I thought to myself if ever there was a portrait of the Face of America on its best day, this is it.

Margurite Cooper encouraged everyone in the room to hire only the best qualified people.


Susan Miller captured my attention with her honesty and sincerity. I want to help people, and I believe women bring a softer touch to difficult situations.

Cindy Milligan emphasized the need to adapt to change and to figure things out.  The ability to multitask and the desire for continuous learning are invaluable assets for employees.

Kristina Tanasichuk is a first generation American. She recommended that everyone should join organizations that do things they care about. That’s why she started “Women in Homeland Security.”

What Is Leadership?


During the question and answer session, each woman shared her thoughts about the qualities necessary for effective leadership.

“It’s got a lot to do with confidence.” Kristina Tanasichuk

“Leaders must be able to communicate effectively.” Cindy Milligan

“Leadership is about confidence, empathy, listening effectively and hearing what people say.” Susan Miller

“Leadership is about ethics, a sense of integrity and discipline.” Margurite Cooper

‘Leadership is about optimism, energy, accountability and integrity. A leader follows up on promises made.” Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara

After the panel discussion, people gathered in small groups to express their gratitude and make connections.

Final Moments

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched a number ofIMG_2680_groupSBO Coasties and Captain Kevin Kiefer approach Admiral Brice-O’Hara who was more than willing to answer their questions and give them encouragement.

Panel members willingly provided a business card to anyone who wanted to stay in touch with them  

In front of the room, Mary Jane Norris assembled her team for a group picture to recognize the individuals who made this event so successful.

Photographer Bill McAllen captured many of these “Kodak” moments.

America at its Best

We went to The Sparrows Point Country Club on March IMG_2614_fic21, to celebrate the life and accomplishments of a friend. We did not know what to expect. To our delight we discovered more than 200 living examples of America at its best.

We experienced a feeling of belonging that is central to the spirit of America.

We learned invaluable lessons about life and dealing with bumps in the road.

We were impressed and inspired by the people we met, the things we heard, the sense of community we experienced and the welcoming fellowship of people who are dedicated to the success of the Port of Baltimore, Women in Port Security, and America at its best.

Thank you Mary Jane Norris for giving us thisIMG_2680_MJN incredible opportunity.

Thank you Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara for your dedicated and impressive leadership, love of country and service to America.

The kindness, generosity of spirit Kitch and I experienced at the Sparrows Point Country Club on this brisk March morning demonstrated once again that the people who make America work are the heroes without headlines who do what they do in an effective way without noise or notice. They inspire others to reach up for the best edition of themselves, and they give truth to the words of Abraham Lincoln:

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have.

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