The SSN 797 commissioning committee is a national network of strong supporters aligned with a common vision and goal: To raise broad awareness and generate deep support for the commissioning of the nuclear submarine bearing the proud name IOWA. The mission of the commissioning committee is to generate the funds necessary to provide amenities, equipment and celebration not funded by Congress. Read the Executive Directors letter here for more information regarding the fundraising effort.
For centuries, U.S. Navy ships have had female sponsors who christened the vessels. It is said that the sponsor's spirit and presence guides the ship throughout its life. Public officials and wives of senior naval officers serve as sponsors for many of the ships named after places.
Christie Vilsack currently serves as Education Advisor to the Chancellor of Colorado State University. She also serves as Vice President of the Iowa Wesleyan University Board of Directors, the IREX Board of Directors and the Advisory Board of the University of Iowa School of Education. In her free time she volunteers in language arts classes at Van Meter Middle School near her home in Booneville, Iowa. She is active in the Iowa Democratic Party, working to elect another generation of leaders dedicated to public service.
Christie Vilsack served the U.S. Agency for International Development as the Senior Advisor for International Education from 2013-2016. In that position, Christie supported USAID's Education Strategy goals to improve children's reading skills, strengthen youth workforce skills, and provide equitable access to education in crisis and conflict settings especially for girls.
Christie has committed her life to education and public service. For 25 years, she taught secondary and college English and journalism. Her experience inside the classroom led to a focus on education and advocating for public libraries as Iowa's First Lady (1999-2007), as a candidate for Congress in Iowa (2012), and now as an education adviser for colleges and universities.
Born and raised in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Christie is a graduate and charter class member of Kirkland College in Clinton, New York. She earned a master's degree in journalism from The University of Iowa. Her husband is former Governor of Iowa and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, now CEO and President of the Dairy Export Council. They have two married sons and four grandchildren. They have enjoyed a lifetime of public service together and continue to support efforts to improve domestic and international education and to foster prosperity in rural America.
- Larry Spencer, West Des Moines, IA, CDR, USN (ret) Vietnam POW
- Kelly Sullivan, Waterloo, IA (USS Sullivans ship’s sponsor)
- David Farran, Waverly, IA USSVI District Commander
Board of Directors
Doug MacCrea, CAPT USN (ret)
Mat Tanner, FTC(SS) USN (ret)
Tom Hudson, NCC(SS) USN, (ret)
Michelle Bell - Finance
Professional Services Members
Jonathan De Reus, Attorney
Grefe Sidney, Pella, IA