On Thursday, December 11, 2014, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) hosted its 15th Annual River Bell Awards Luncheon in Paducah, KY, raising over $270,000 to support mariners served by the Institute’s Ministry on the Rivers and Gulf program. SCI presented the River Bell Award to Peter H. Stephaich, Chairman & CEO of Campbell Transportation Company, Inc.; and to the Chairman of J. Russell Flowers, Inc., J. Russell Flowers, SCI conferred the River Legend Award.
Mr. Stephaich has held many roles in industry stewardship positions, including the American Waterways Operators, the National Waterways Foundation and the Waterways Council, Inc. Introducing Mr. Stephaich, River Bell Committee member Merritt Lane heralded the pivotal role Stephaich played shepherding through Congress The Water Resources Reform & Development Act of 2014, aimed at improving the nation’s inland waterways infrastructure. In his acceptance remarks at the Luncheon, Mr. Stephaich noted the teamwork of barge companies that contributed to this accomplishment. As a sign of this commitment to collaboration, he remarked on the industry’s mutual support of SCI, which provides pastoral care and training to various companies’ vessel employees.
Mr. J. Russell Flowers echoed Mr. Stephaich’s sentiments about his experience of alliance in the maritime industry. Over the course of a career spanning 54 years and several marine companies, Flowers has fostered a collegial atmosphere in a highly competitive business. “Russell has been extremely generous to our industry and most recently in his support for our mariners,” said Mark K. Knoy, River Bell Chairman. On December 10, SCI named a simulator pilothouse in honour of the Flowers family’s support.
At the Luncheon, SCI invited its Center for Maritime Education Director, Captain Stephen Polk, to give details of the Institute’s new simulators unveiled at the Center in Paducah, KY the day before. Polk described upgrades, funded by multiple training companies, that include new vessel models and photorealistic visual technology. He said, “Today’s upgrades demonstrate just how much the industry cares for its own and how it wants to bring out the best in each other.”
SCI established the River Bell Awards in 2000 to recognize the contributions of an individual, company or organization to the inland maritime industry. Proceeds from the Institute’s luncheon support SCI’s programs, including pastoral and spiritual care to American maritime industry employees and shoreside management.