River Bell Awards Honor Frontrunners

Dec 15, 2011

North America’s largest mariners’ service agency, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI), organized the 12th Annual River Bell Awards Luncheon in Paducah, KY on Thursday, December 8, 2011. The awards paid tribute to three individuals whose labors have significantly enriched America’s waterways. A crowd of 335 joined SCI’s River Bell Awards committee in commending the work of Joseph H. Pyne, Chairman & CEO of Kirby Corporation; Eddie Conrad; and RADM Mary E. Landry (ret), former Commander of the United States Coast Guard 8th District.

SCI established the River Bell Awards in 2000 to recognize the contributions of an individual, company or organization to the inland maritime industry. This year, SCI’s awardees included frontrunners noted for improving the safety and security of the inland waterways as well as bringing public attention to America’s rivers. Proceeds from the Institute’s luncheon support SCI’s newly expanded program for the United States’ maritime workforce, Ministry on the Rivers and Gulf

Joseph H. Pyne, Chairman & CEO of Kirby Corporation accepted the River Bell Award. Pyne shaped a large tank barge operation and diesel engine services company, leading through emphasis on training and professional responsibility. In his introduction, David S. French, Chairman of SCI’s Board of Trustees, remarked, “His attention to safety and professionalism has effectively raised the bar for the entire industry.”

Eddie Conrad received SCI’s River Legend Award, recognizing his unique business ventures on America’s inland waterways. In 1990, Conrad founded RV River Charters, a company whose specially-designed barges carried RVs on cruises in Louisiana and along the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers. Conrad spent a career trying to bring the American public closer to the rivers. 

SCI awarded RADM Mary E. Landry (ret), former Commander of the 8th USCG District, with the Distinguished Service Award. Landry retired this year after more than 30 years of service with the United States Coast Guard. Landry was the first woman to serve as Commander of the 8th District, a command covering twenty-six states, more than 1,200 miles of coastline and 10,300 miles of inland waterways. Throughout her tenure, Landry actively participated with maritime industry leaders to understand the needs, concerns and challenges faced in maritime transportation.

The event officially unveiled the expansion of SCI’s Ministry on the River program to include to mariners in the Gulf of Mexico. Ministry on the Rivers and Gulf, the new name of the integrated program, offers pastoral counseling, support and fellowship to the maritime industry’s employees and shoreside management. The addition of the word Gulf to the name reflects SCI’s commitment to providing pastoral care to offshore industry employees working in remote and harsh environments. RADM Landry (ret.) praised the growth of SCI’s outreach to mariners. During the event program, SCI’s MOR+G expansion drew more positive comments and applause. 

The Institute’s fundraiser event brought in more than $165,000 for SCI and its programs supporting the maritime workforce. For pictures from the afternoon, view SCI’s Flickr album at http://smschur.ch/rb2011pics

Simulator Pilothouse Rededication 

Immediately following the Luncheon, several attendees came to SCI’s Paducah Center for Maritime Education for the rededication of a simulator pilothouse in honor of Captain Nelson Jones, deceased river executive of Amherst Madison in Charleston, WV. SCI collaborated with maritime photographer Gregory Thorp to design a photography book that honors the late Nelson Jones, and presented the book, Rivers Run Past, to the Jones family. The book documents the crew of the real MV O. Nelson Jones at work while connecting SCI’s Ministry on the Rivers and Gulf to maritime commerce. You can view the book at http://smschur.ch/riversrunonline or purchase a bound hardcopy at http://smschur.ch/riversrunpast (SCI receives no proceeds or royalties.)