SCI hosts Paducah River Bell Awards Luncheon

Dec 10, 2018

On Thursday, December 6, over 500 guests from the maritime community gathered in Paducah, KY for the Seamen’s Church Institute’s 19th Annual River Bell Awards Luncheon. The event raised over $318,000 in support of SCI’s programs serving mariners.

SCI honored three distinguished individuals from the maritime industry. Mr. John P. Eckstein, President & CEO of Marquette Transportation received the River Bell Award; Mr. Gregory Thorp, renowned maritime photographer, was bestowed the River Legend Award; and RADM Dave Callahan, retired Commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District, USCG, was presented with the Distinguished Service Award. Mr. Eckstein began his impressive career at Marquette in 1991 at the age of 27 when he was appointed President & CEO. In his acceptance remarks, Mr. Eckstein remarked that one of the keys to his and Marquette Transportation’s success was his family’s unwavering support. His father, Ray Eckstein and brother, Randy, were instrumental in helping him reach his visionary goals and learn the business as he went along. Mr. Eckstein spoke honestly about the challenges he faced early on in his career, and he graciously thanked the employees of Marquette, some of whom have been with the company since before he took over. He cited that the biggest asset of the industry is its people.

The River Legend Award was awarded to Mr. Gregory Thorp to honor his nearly four decades of photographing and documenting the inland transportation industry. He tenderly spoke about his journey photographing not only the vessels, but also the people working onboard. He realized early on in his career that portraiture was a powerful tool to show the unseen, personal side of the industry. Mr. Thorp acknowledged a long list of people who mentored and taught him along the way.

RADM Dave Callahan recently retired after a distinguished 35-year career with United States Coast Guard, serving our nation, the American people, and safety and security of the maritime industry. He humbly spoke about the respect he had for those in this industry, how truly collegial and connected this segment of the maritime community is, and how much he enjoyed his time with the inland community. He said he felt accepted and that those in the room made him a true “river guy.”

Proceeds from the Luncheon benefit SCI’s programs serving mariners including the Ministry on the Rivers and Gulf (MOR+G), which remains the only one of its kind serving the industry. River chaplains provide year-round pastoral care, counseling, support, as well as crisis response and intervention to our industry’s employees, their families, and shore-side personnel working on America’s inland river systems and into the Gulf of Mexico.

For more information about SCI and its programs, please visit

To view the River Bell Journal, click below.

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