The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) held its 17th annual River Bell Awards Luncheon on Thursday, December 8, 2016, at the Paducah McCracken County Convention and Expo Center, Paducah, KY. The Luncheon is a highlight of the calendar for SCI and the inland waterways community alike: this year, 430 guests attended raising a grand total of $273,000.
SCI established the River Bell Awards Luncheon in 2000 to recognize the contributions of an individual, company or organization to the inland maritime industry. This year, SCI honored Mr. Tim Parker of the Parker Towing Company with the River Bell Award, Mr. Angus R. Cooper II of Cooper/T. Smith Corporation with the River Legend Award, and Mr. Chad Pregracke of Living Lands & Waters with the Distinguished Service Award. All three of these honorees have given significant service to America’s waterways in different arenas, and SCI is glad to recognize their contribution to the industry.
Mr. Tim Parker II was introduced by his son, Tim Parker III who spoke warmly of his father’s life-long, steadying work ethic, quoting one of his mottos, “don’t let the highs get too high or the lows get too low”. Mr. Parker joined Parker Towing Company in 1974 and now serves as Chairman and CEO. His experience prior to that includes 2 years in the United States Army and 5 years with the Lykes Brothers Steamship Company. Tim is currently on the Board of Directors for Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc., and has served as a valued board member for a wide variety of companies over the years. He also has significant involvement in numerous civic organizations. SCI presented Mr. Parker with the River Bell Award to honor his lifetime of service, giving his time, talent and energy to serve the maritime industry.
Mr. Angus R. Cooper II is Chairman and CEO of Cooper/T. Smith Corporation headquartered in Mobile, Alabama. He was also introduced for the award by his son, Angus Cooper III. After graduating from the University of Alabama in 1964, Mr. Cooper joined Cooper Stevedoring Corporation. Under his direction, Cooper Stevedoring has grown and operates in 37 ports on the East, Gulf and West Coast of the United States, plus operations in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. It has also expanded into services of ship docking and undocking, mooring, warehousing, barging and barge towing business. At the Luncheon, Mr. Cooper spoke of how he had learned the importance of character, discipline, hard work and attention to detail from his father. He also spoke of his appreciation for SCI and our services, highlighting the difference that even the smallest gesture can make to mariners who often need someone to confide in. SCI is pleased to award Mr. Cooper with the River Legend Award to honor his inspiring and well-rounded life centered around the maritime industry and its community.
Mr. Chad Pregracke is the founder of Living Lands & Waters, an environmental organization he established in 1998. Mr. Pregracke was inspired to found the organization during his time as a commercial fisherman and barge-hand, realizing that the waterways on which he worked were becoming increasingly polluted. As Mr. Rick Calhoun stated when introducing Mr. Pregracke, from its one-man beginnings, Living Lands & Waters has grown to be the only “industrial strength” river cleanup organization of its kind in the world. Spending up to 9 months a year living and traveling on a barge, the Living Lands & Waters crew hosts river cleanups, watershed conservation initiatives, workshops, tree plantings and other key conservation efforts.
For his efforts, Chad was honored with the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2002 and was named CNN Hero of the Year in 2013. In his acceptance speech at the River Bell Awards Luncheon, Chad spoke of the debt he owes to the thousands of volunteers who have helped him throughout the years, and how proud he is of the legacy his organization is building: creating a cleaner river environment for future generations. SCI honors Chad with the Distinguished Service Award for devoting his time, energy and talent to preserving America’s inland waterways.
SCI wishes to thank all those who were present at the Luncheon and those who supported the event without being able to attend in person. Proceeds from the event fund SCI’s crucial programs, including pastoral and practical care for American maritime industry employees and shore-side management.
To view photos from the event, click here.