2024 HONOREE BIOS
Distinguished Alumnus of the Year
Joseph P. Starck, Class of 1990
President, The Great Lakes Towing Company
Joe Starck has enjoyed a 30-year career with The Great Lakes Towing Company (“GLT”) and has been the Company’s president since January 2014. In January 2023, he was named Chairman and CEO of GLT’s parent, The Great Lakes Group, Inc.
GLT owns and operates the largest fleet of tugboats on the U.S. Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence Seaway. The “Towing Company,” as it is known, is the principle provider of commercial tugboat services in more than 35 U.S. ports, in all 8 U.S. Great Lakes’ states, including Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York, and the St. Lawrence River, and maintains nearly 99% market share of the harbor towing and ship assist business in U.S. Great Lakes ports. Services include harbor towing, docking and undocking assistance, ice breaking, rescue and assistance to grounded or damaged ships, and inter-port towing of vessels and barges. The Towing Company’s operations also include a shipyard doing business under the name “Great Lakes Shipyard” (“GLS”). Located on the Old River Channel of the Cuyahoga River, in Cleveland, the 9-acre facility includes an 820-metric ton Marine Travelift and over 1,500-feet of riverfront dockage space.
After a stint as 3rd Assistant Engineer aboard a Sealift Tanker, Starck started his career in early-1991 at the Towing Company’s “old” shipyard as an engineering and project administrator and worked through several roles of increasing responsibility. Then, in January 1993, he was assigned as Project Manager at Company affiliate Runyan Shipyard, and relocated to Pensacola, FL, where he was the primary contract administrator for all government repair projects. After returning to Cleveland in mid-1995, Starck helped to form Tugz International LLC, and was assigned as engineering manager and Owner Representative through the construction of the Company’s 5-vessel “Z-Class” new build tug construction program, including two (2) new tugs built in 1995 by Halter Marine -Lockport, LA for bareboat charter; and three (3) new tugs completed in 1999 by Marco Shipyard, Seattle and delivered to the US Navy in Pearl Harbor, HI under a long term MSC time charter.
In 1997, Starck was instrumental in the start-up of another affiliate, Puerto Rico Towing & Barge Co. in San Juan, PR. Then, beginning in 2000, he spent several years focused on the Company’s charter fleet, which included 10 tugs operating on the East, Gulf, and West Coasts. This included preparations and outfitting of two (2) of the “Z-Class” tugs for operation under a franchise awarded to Tugz International in 2001 by Broward County for harbor towing services in Port Everglades, FL.
In 2004, Starck began planning, design and engineering for reconstruction of the Company’s new shipyard facilities, taking the Company’s repair operation from a small, 1-acre “bicycle shop” through a complete redevelopment program. Phase I of the program was completed in 2006, and the Company relocated from its downtown Cleveland offices of 77-years in the Terminal Tower to the new headquarters co-located with the shipyard. By 2011, the shipyard expansion would include more than $14 Million in improvements, including over 1,000-feet of new sheet pile bulkhead, the addition of a 700MT Marine Travelift with a 57’ x 120’ x 24’ deep lift well and engineered ground stabilization of nearly 3-acres. 10-years later, in 2021, the 700MT unit was replaced with the larger 820MT machine in service today, and ground stabilization was expanded further west by 2-additional acres to safely accommodate more and larger vessels.
Starck graduated from NY Maritime College at Fort Schuyler, Bronx, NY in 1990 with an Engineering Degree in Naval Architecture; and he obtained an MBA in 2002 from Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Business. He serves on the Board of Visitors of Cuyahoga Community College; and is also on the Board of the Friends of Max Hayes, which provides industry support to students attending Max S. Hayes High School, an inner-city vocational high school. He is a Member of American Bureau of Shipping (“ABS”) and sits on the ABS Special Committee on Small Vessels; and he is a member of the Society of Naval Architects & Marine Engineers.
Starck lives in Lakewood, Ohio with his wife Becky and five children, and enjoys sailing and skiing.
Capt. Robert “Bob” Cook, Class of 1980
Captain, The Pilots’ Assoc. for the Bay & River Delaware
President & Co-Founder, Organization of Black Maritime Graduates
Captain Robert Cook graduated from SUNY Maritime College in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Oceanography and Meteorology. In conjunction with his degree, he obtained an Unlimited United States Coast Guard 3rd Mates License as an Officer in Charge of Navigational Watch.
Upon graduation, Captain Cook began working with Military Sealift Command (MSC) Atlantic for ten (10) years where he served on Underway Replenishment Ships, ultimately becoming the UnRep Department Head onboard.
While in the service of MSC, Captain Cook also oversaw all aspects of dry-dock operations and ship repair work both in domestic and foreign shipyards. In addition, Captain Cook served on a MSC Hydrographic Surveillance ship and received the National Unit Citation Award for work done in the Gulf of Suez and in the Red Sea.
In 1993, Captain Cook transitioned to shore side where he achieved the privilege of becoming one of the first African American Marine Pilots in the United States in modern times, when he became a partner within the Pilot’s Association for the Bay and River Delaware.
He currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Maritime Academy Charter School, Grades 4-12, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In addition, he currently serves as a member of the National Academy of Sciences Engineering and Medicine, Transportation Board.
Captain Cook as a founding member of the Organization of Black Maritime Graduates (OBMG) has for many years supported unrepresented and marginalised cadets and students with the maritime industry as a whole. He and his family continue to support numerous environmental and socially economic causes via a range of initiatives from ocean preservation to food insecurity.
“I am most excited when I hear from the graduates and see them going forward with successful careers, becoming viable and productive members of society.”