Majestic ocean liners basking in the shadow of the New York City skyline. Smokestacks belching grand hellos. Mournful blasts from ship horns reverberating above street traffic.
As a young boy, Capt. Greg Tylawsky ’84 soaked up this maritime scene on the Big Apple’s East River from the back seat of the family car, en route to his grandmother’s home in Brooklyn. His father kept to the slow lane for a longer glimpse of the dockside action.
“All I could think about was being on one of those ships,” recalled Greg, who at age 6, made a silent vow. One day I’ll work on ships like that, and I’ll travel the world.
The Merry Mariner
True to his vow, he’s pursued a career at sea that’s spanned nearly four decades, moving up the officer ranks to master and (now) ship pilot. And for this, Texas A&M University at Galveston deserves mammoth credit and gratitude, said the seasoned mariner who trained at the prestigious Texas A&M Maritime Academy. “Texas A&M opened up my world and gave me this great career at sea—my dream.”
These days, Greg navigates some of the world’s largest oil tankers, container ships and cruise ships through the challenging currents and fog swept waters of San Francisco Bay, a dangerous but fulfilling job as a San Francisco Bar Pilot. “It’s a lot of responsibility, but it was a goal of mine many years ago to do this,” he said. “All the chapters of my life go right back to the Texas A&M Maritime Academy.”
An Ocean of Gratitude
To that end, Greg and wife, Sally, have created a planned gift that will establish an endowed scholarship to support full-time, out-of-state students pursuing an undergraduate degree in marine transportation toward a deck officers license.
“It’s a planned gift as part of our estate,” he explained. “The nice thing about a planned gift is you can decide where it goes. I decided to make it for an out-of-state student like myself. That way it covers the difference in costs of a non-resident versus Texas resident.”
Sally and the couple’s son, Sherman ’20, who is working toward his Master of International Affairs at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, are excited for the chance to give back.
“Greg loves what he does, and we are so happy to be able to do this,” said his wife, an accomplished classical pianist with a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Miami. She also travels the country as a tea sommelier, teaching classes on tea etiquette, an art her home country of Taiwan is known for.
“Seeing how my dad reacts to Texas A&M and wanting to give back to a school with such great values is a beautiful thing,” Sherman said. The American history buff hopes to run for office one day and recently interned for U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson in Washington D.C. this summer, providing administrative support and leading tours of the U.S. Capitol.
“I think Sherman embraced D.C. the way I embraced the sea,” said Greg, recalling his first time at sea on the academy’s then-training ship, the T/S Texas Clipper. “A few miles out, the brownish water turned a deep, inky blue. I was ecstatic, jubilant. I was running around, looking over the sides like a little kid.”
Despite his passion for sailing and high grades, Greg was rejected by several maritime academies following his high school graduation. “I was really down for months,” he recalled. “I was thinking it wasn’t going to happen for me.”
Unbeknownst to him, his dad hatched a plan. Knowing his son hadn’t yet heard from Texas A&M’s Maritime Academy, he called the university, speaking to Bill Hearn ’63, a campus legend and champion of students. He found that his son had, indeed, been accepted, and asked Hearne to relay the good news by phone, in advance of the congratulatory letter.
It was Greg’s birthday, and his father handed him the phone. “I still remember the sound of Bill Hearn’s voice,” he recalled. “I think I cried. I was overjoyed.”
Firsts and Vows
Being a member of Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets while at the academy taught crucial leadership skills, said Greg, who captained the first U.S. flagship to enter the war zone after the invasion of Iraq in the second Gulf War. “We were the first into Kuwait, carrying goods for the war effort.” He was also at the helm of one of the first container ships to arrive at New York City after terrorists struck the World Trade Center’s twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. “I could still see the smoke rising,” he remembered.
He recalled a day long before becoming a boat captain when he again made vows, just like that 6-year-old in the family car.
It was early morning on the SS Llano, a tanker Greg served as a cadet on during his second academy summer. He stood lookout on the bow, struggling to see San Francisco through fog that hung like gauze. As they approached the Golden Gate Bridge, skies cleared, revealing a sparkling city on the hill. A ship pilot climbed the tanker’s ladder, navigating them into the warm and sunny bay.
And Greg vowed as he stared at the city on the hill, “I’m going to live here, find my wife and raise my family here, and I’m going to become a shipmaster and command ships in every ocean. Then, I’m going to become a San Francisco Bar Pilot.”
So he sailed the world, this man of intention, that inner compass guiding him back years later. Vows kept. “I’ve seen the world and learned leadership and gratitude,” he said. “That’s the gift that Texas A&M gave to me and my family.”
The Tylawsky’s made a bequest in their living trust to support Texas A&M. To make a bequest, you can designate the Foundation as a beneficiary of your estate plan. A bequest can be made as a percentage of your estate, a specific asset, or the balance or residue from your estate. Benefits include the ability to retain assets during your lifetime, lessen the burden of taxes on your family and support a Texas A&M area of your choosing. To learn how you can support Texas A&M through a planned gift, contact Angela Throne ’03 at email@example.com or 979-845-5638 or request a free estate and gift planning kit.
To learn more about supporting the Texas A&M Maritime Academy, contact Rick Kline at firstname.lastname@example.org or 409-741-4030.