Captain Stephen Polk, MNI
Director, Maritime Education & Training
Captain Stephen Polk supervises SCI’s Center for Maritime Education. Before joining SCI, he was a Senior Port Captain for Kirby Inland Marine, LP and managed several types of inland towing vessels in the Canal Division. Captain Polk is a certified Crew Endurance Management System (CEMS) expert and holds a United States Coast Guard 3rd Mate Unlimited Tonnage, Oceans License. He also recently earned his Master of Towing Vessel and 300 ton Master-Oceans endorsement on his license.
A veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Captain Polk served in the US Navy with two patrol boat units. As a Lieutenant Commander (LCDR), he has worked in various leadership and supervisory roles such as Tactical Communications Officer, Training Department Head, and Operations Department Head for both of the patrol boat units he was assigned to. Captain Polk has also logged over 10,000 hours of tactical and underway command experience while protecting ports and performing escorts of MSC and Navy warships in and out of various harbors worldwide.
Captain Polk started in the maritime industry as an Able-Seaman (A.B.) for Polar Tankers and as a Third Mate and working in the TAPS trade moving crude oil from Valdez, AK to various ports along the west coast of the United States. He graduated from Texas A&M University at Galveston in 1997 with a B.S. in Marine Transportation.
Captain Greg Menke
Director, Center for Maritime Education in Paducah
With more than 40 years of experience in the river industry, Captain Gregory J. Menke directs SCI’s Paducah Center for Maritime Education. He began his career as a deckhand and worked his way up, eventually becoming Captain and Assistant Director of the Steamer Belle of Louisville. In 1978 he began work as a Towboat Captain for Chotin Transportation and later worked shoreside for Capital Marine Supply, Harbor and Fleeting as Manager of Marine Operations. Capt. Menke also worked as Port Captain for Chotin and Senior Port Captain for Orgulf Transport & Ohio River Company (later Midland Enterprises). When SCI opened its Center for Maritime Education in Paducah in 1997, the Institute tapped Capt. Menke to serve as Director of Inland Training. In 2000, he became the Director of the Center for Maritime Education – Paducah.
Besides his extensive work experience, Capt. Menke holds several important qualifications, including a USCG license as Master of Steam or Motor Vessels of Any Gross Tons upon Inland Waters; First Class Pilot of Vessels of Any Gross Tons upon the Ohio River from Mile 279.0 to 981.0; Master of Towing Vessels upon Great Lakes, Inland Waters and Western Rivers; and USCG Tankerman, Grade A and All Lower Grades. Additionally, Capt. Menke is certified in Crew Endurance Management Systems and as a radar instructor. During his tenure with SCI, he has developed numerous classes and exercises, including the first simulator-training course designed for Western Rivers towboat captains and pilots along with seminars addressing new regulations and maritime issues for shoreside management and fire training courses targeting towing operations. Capt. Menke has received a Public Service Commendation from the US Coast Guard and in 2001 was named Port Person of the Year by the Paducah Propeller Club.
Captain Michael P. De Cesare, Instructor
Assistant Director, Center for Maritime Education, Houston
Mike joined SCI's Houston Center for Maritime Education in August 2008. He hails originally from San Antonio, TX and graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut in 1972. He embarked on a military career covering a variety of deck assignments on USCG vessels and shore-side maritime safety positions at a number of Coast Guard units throughout the United States, including marine inspection and investigation, pollution prevention, port and maritime security, and marine licensing of mariners.
Upon his retirement from the Coast Guard in 1994, Mike worked for two inland towing companies. The first was Hollywood Marine in their Training Center in Channelview, TX, where he was responsible for training deckhands, tankermen, and wheelmen, assisting them to obtain the necessary maritime credentials to perform their jobs. Upon their merger with Kirby Inland Marine in 1999, Mike continued to serve as a Training Specialist until late 2007. Mike obtained an MBA from Central Michigan University and is an active member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. He holds a Coast Guard license as Master 1600 Oceans, Master Towing Vessels Oceans and Western Rivers, and Chief Mate Oceans Unlimited, in addition to a license as Third Assistant Engineer Steam and Motor Vessels of Any Horsepower. His USMMD is endorsed with a variety of unlicensed deck and engine ratings, including Able Seaman and Tankerman.
Captain Buddy Compton
Director of Inland Training–Paducah
As Director of Inland Training - Paducah, Captain Buddy Compton teams up with Captain Greg Menke and Dr. Jay Downs Siska to further develop and teach Advanced Pilothouse Management Training classes, as well as other courses at the Seamen’s Church Institute’s Center for Maritime Education in Paducah, KY.
Captain Compton has worked in operations management for Ingram Barge Co. and Excell Marine Corp. He has served on several river industry navigation committees, including River Industry Action Committee, Lower Mississippi River Committee, and Illinois River Carrier’s Association. Over the years, Compton has received five United States Coast Guard Commendations, a United States Army Corps of Engineers Public Service Commendation and the Vice President Al Gore Hammer Award. He also coauthored the Upper Mississippi River Crisis Action Plan.
E-Learning & IT Specialist
Gerald Frentz brings a useful blend of experiences in education, computer networking, project management, marketing and the “blue water” navy. After graduating from the US Naval Academy, his tours included time on destroyers, submarines and naval support and training in Spain, Puerto Rico and several locations in California as part of the Seabees. With a Masters degree from Texas A&M University, Gerald created a new way of using simulators to model the behavior of certain types of offshore oil platforms. He has designed and supported several computer networks and was a VP of Engineering for a major fiber-optic networking, distance-learning and Internet services company.
Gerald recently managed a team of 36 math tutors as part of Houston Independent School District’s Apollo 20 program and teaches an evening course—using e-learning and classroom-based approaches—in Management Information Systems for Texas A&M–Galveston. In his free time, Gerald teaches, judges and competes in Taekwondo as a 6th Degree Black Belt Master Instructor and 4-Time World Champion.
Dr. Jay Downs Siska, Ed.D.
Director of Curriculum & Instruction
Dr. Jay Downs Siska, EdD joined the Seamen's Church Institute in Paducah as Director of Curriculum & Instruction in May 2006. Dr. Siska's responsibilities include developing curriculum for courses on leadership, Crew Endurance Management System (CEMS), situation awareness, and decision making. He recently revamped the Designated Examiner Course that is required under the new licensing rules and the Institute's Advanced Pilot House Management course.
Dr. Siska has completed the United States Coast Guard's CEMS expert training program. He received his Doctorate of Education from Florida State University and a Masters and Bachelors in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Hawai'i. Dr. Siska has 20 years of teaching experience from the middle school to college level. His wife, artist Char Downs, is part of Paducah's Artist Relocation Program.