New London — Before the ceremony in her honor began, Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz told Sen. Joe Lieberman that she didn't want him to talk about her in his remarks.
"She was pretty clear that this is not about her. This is about the academy," Lieberman, D-Conn., said.
Finding these instructions fairly difficult to follow since he was there to honor Stosz as a "Joe's Hero," Lieberman decided to take his chances and disobey the order.
He recited a list of Stosz's many accomplishments, from her early days in the U.S. Coast Guard until she was named the first female superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy last year and, most recently, was selected as one of Newsweek's "150 Women Who Shake the World."
"Think how lucky you are to be so close to this epicenter," Lieberman said, eliciting laughter and applause from the small group of faculty and cadets gathered in the academy's Hamilton Hall.
Lieberman established the award to recognize the accomplishments of state residents, schools and organizations. Stosz was chosen for her outstanding leadership in the Coast Guard and her perseverance in setting many firsts throughout her career, the certificate said.
"You really are an inspiration to all of us," he said. "You embody all the reasons why I'm so optimistic about the future of this country, a country that uniquely produces leaders like you."
Stosz said she liked that she was recognized for her perseverance because she always tells cadets that "hard work plus perseverance equals success."
Stosz said after the ceremony that she had tried to divert the senator's focus because she is "just the steward of the academy and of all the people that are working here to deliver these cadets as leaders of character to go out and serve America."
"It's not about me, it's about them," she said. "My time has come. So they said in the 'Lord of the Rings,' my time has come. And it's now the next generation's time to learn all they can to become those leaders of character."
Cmdr. Brigid Pavilonis, who teaches international relations at the academy, said Stosz's humility is one of her best characteristics.
"The admiral always wants to give credit to others," she said. "She always talks about working together as a team and how other people have helped her. She's phenomenal in that way. She really is devoted to the idea of helping others."