Rendon takes the helm from Stosz at Coast Guard Academy
New London — Less than 24 hours after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a vice admiral, Sandra Stosz was relieved Monday of her duties as the superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy by Rear Adm. James Rendon during a change-of-command ceremony.
The "revered" tradition, explained Capt. Anthony "Jack" Vogt, assistant superintendent at the academy, is a "transfer of total responsibility, authority and accountability from one individual to another."
That transfer Monday morning was from Vice Adm. Stosz, the first female leader of a U.S. service academy, to Rear Adm. Rendon, the academy's 41st superintendent.
Rendon, 54, was most recently stationed in Honolulu as director of the Joint Interagency Task Force West, an organization charged with planning and conducting counter-drug strategy throughout the Pacific.
The Senate unanimously confirmed Stosz, 55, Sunday evening to be vice admiral. She is headed to Washington, where she will be the deputy commandant for mission support, which covers the logistics branch of the Coast Guard's operations. The core responsibilities are human resources, engineering, logistics, delivery and acquisitions. She will have 17,000 people in her chain of command.
Given the eleventh-hour Senate confirmation, Stosz was "frocked" to vice admiral in an impromptu ceremony Monday.
Rain forced Monday's ceremony, scheduled to be held on Washington Parade Field, inside to Leamy Hall. Many members of both Stosz's and Rendon's families were present.
"None of us gets here on our own," Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger, vice commandant of the Coast Guard, said in asking Stosz's and Rendon's families to raise their hands and be acknowledged.
Rendon's wife, Fela Rendon, said after the ceremony that one of her husband's defining traits is his loyalty to his family. She estimated that about 30 members of his family were present for the ceremony, including his parents, Madeline and John Rendon.
Madeline Rendon said that in the back of her mind she thought her son might become the academy's leader.
"Jimmy always dedicated himself to whatever job he had in the Coast Guard," she said, noting that two of his brothers also served in the Coast Guard but are now retired.
"We are a Coast Guard family," she said.
John Rendon remembers when his son, who really wanted to play football in college, came to the academy to visit when his older brother was a cadet there. He did end up on the team.
"That guy gets a hold of something and doesn't let go until he accomplishes it," John Rendon said after the ceremony.
Stosz's mother, Joy, of Falmouth, Mass., was also present and described herself as being "very close" to her daughter. "We're the best of friends."
According to her mother, Sandra Stosz leaves Tuesday for Washington, and starts work Wednesday.
"This is her life," Joy Stosz said.
"People have said to me, 'Aren't you going to be sad you won't see her as much in Washington?' I said, 'She's been in Connecticut two hours away for the last four years and I've hardly seen her.' She works seven days a week. She goes to all the kids' games. She's just very conscientious. She's just always working," she said.
Stosz, who is married to Bob Volpe, a retired Coast Guard lieutenant commander, has no children of her own but often refers to the cadets as her children.
Looking back over the last four years, Stosz said, "the best of times and yes the worst of times, as any parent can attest, were those time with my cadets."
"Developing these fine young men and women into the leaders of character who will serve our great nation has become my passion and has been the most rewarding job in my entire career," she added.
Stosz announced to the audience that it was "a bit stressful, embarrassing and exhausting" standing on the stage Monday because she was so moved by the ceremony.
Neffenger described how Stosz began her tenure at the academy by drafting a five-year strategic plan, "her own plan to highlight and increase the Coast Guard Academy's value to the nation, and you have done just that."
Under Stosz's leadership, Neffenger said, the academy has become "a valuable research facility and resource for ideas and intellectual rigor" for the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security and the nation. She established the Center for Maritime Policy and Study and the Center for Arctic Strategy and Policy, Neffenger said, "two innovative think-tanks taking new and novel approaches to some of the nation's most challenging problems."
As U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, put it Monday, the minute Stosz "walked into the door she became part of the history books."
But, Courtney said, not once in the four years that he's worked with her as superintendent did he ever hear her mention that.
"It was always about the mission and about trying to improve this institution and to deal to with some of the challenges that it faced," Courtney said in his remarks.
During her tenure, Stosz faced both natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy, and fiscal ones like the October 2013 federal government shutdown, Courtney noted.
Rendon is not new to the academy. He graduated in 1983, a year after Stosz, and served as assistant superintendent from 2010 to 2012.
As Rendon began his remarks, he repeated a phrase that many lately have reminded him was a staple of his speeches at academy functions as assistant superintendent.
"'I love this place,'" Rendon repeated Monday. Just a little while later, he said, "It's great to be back."
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