by Barbara Van Reed
Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a special awards ceremony at Assumption College to honor the recipients of the 2013 Thomas S. Green Public Service Awards. Four people are honored each year with this award, which is given by The Research Bureau to recognize selected municipal employees for their outstanding public service.
In the 25 year history of this award, and out of 84 honorees, only four have been public employees outside of Worcester, and this year there was a fifth: Commander Michael Masley, Jr., who seventeen years ago founded the Oxford High School Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC), and still heads it up today.
The award ceremony began with speeches by Worcester City Manager Michael O’Brien, Mayor Joseph Petty, and Worcester Superintendent of Schools Melinda Boone. Oxford Superintendent of Schools Allen Himmelberger represented the Town of Oxford. All lauded the contributions of the individuals receiving the awards, citing their exceptional competence and performance of tasks above and beyond the call of duty. Mr. O’Brien said, "They represent the best of municipal government with their willingness to reach outside of their job scope."
Mr. Himmelberger spoke about how fortunate Oxford is to have a nationally recognized NJROTC that has served hundreds of students over the years. "We have kids of all kinds in the program, from special needs to valedictorians." Many have gone on to win scholarships. Some have even gone into the military, he joked. He also talked about how Commander Masley works tirelessly on behalf of veterans everywhere. "We see him out and about in Oxford all the time. He doesn’t know this yet, but I’m going to extend a long term contract so he will stay with us."
Kevin O’Sullivan was the awards committee member who delved into the Commander’s background after he was nominated to determine his worthiness for the Thomas S. Green award. In his formal introduction and presentation of the Commander, Mr. O’Sullivan said the "thing that stood out about him as I started to go through his list of accomplishments was that they were not about him, but about his unit." He noted how alumni come back to share their stories with him. "He has even walked cadets down the aisle" when they had no fathers in their lives to do that. He called the Commander an example of "walking the walk and talking the talk."
Finally it was Commander Masley’s turn on the podium to thank all the people who had helped him attain this honor. When he started Oxford’s Naval Junior ROTC program he set out with a simple approach to "provide challenges, set and enforce high standards and see new opportunities for students to experience and reach for success. The rest is history. My greatest personal satisfaction in all the achievements of Oxford’s unit comes from simply being a catalyst to help many personally while enhancing the reputation of our unit and our school."
Speaking with the Commander before the ceremony, he said, "I’m blown away. I never expected this to happen."
Here’s the part we like the best: by whom and how was Commander Masley nominated? It was a former cadet, of course, Josh Boucher, who is now a senior at Assumption College. Josh is an intern with The Research Bureau, and when it came time to nominate individuals for the Greenwood award, he was asked if he knew anyone. "I immediately thought of the Commander," he said.
Commander Michael C. Masley, Jr., United States Navy (Ret.) is no stranger to honors and awards, however. He has received many in a storied career with the Navy. A native of Thompson, Conn. and graduate of Tourtellote Memorial High School in 1971, he received his commission upon graduating with honors from the US Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Oceanography/Physics. Specialty training followed in the Surface Warfare Officers’ School Division officer course in Coronado, Calif. where he graduated with distinction and was awarded the coveted Admiral Arleigh Burke Award for leadership and academic excellence as selected by the instructors out of a class of over 150 students. Later he graduated with distinction as the top students out of 85 from the Surface Warfare Department Head Course in Newport, RI.
All of the tours of duty all around the world are too numerous to mention here, so we’ll just list some of his other awards: two Meritorious Service Medals, three Navy Commendation Medals, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, six silver wreaths, two National Defense Service Medals, and seven Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbons. In 2005 he received the prestigious Award of Merit for the central Massachusetts region from the Armed Forces Committee of Worcester County, along with the Keys to the City of Worcester.
The awards the Oxford Naval Junior ROTC program has received since its beginning seventeen years ago is also astonishingly long, and includes the Most Outstanding Unit in the Nation, which it received in 2000, and can be earned only once. The cadets number about 55 a year, actively participate in more than 30 community projects, and have collectively delivered over 51,000 hours of community service over the course of their history to date.
The Thomas S. Green Service Award that Commander Masley received last week was a tribute not just to him, but to the many Oxford cadets who have performed so well and so consistently. They are champions indeed.