Christine DeVone Duffy sure has come a long way since Mr. John Needle, a social science teacher at Frankford High School, told her she had potential “if you get your act together.”
Today, Duffy is president of Carnival Cruise Line.
Last week, she was back at Frankford’s auditorium to accept the Pioneer Achievement Award.
Duffy, class of 1979, told the assembled senior class that, while she has no college degree, she does have a good work ethic and perseverance.
“Anything is possible,” she said.
Duffy explained that she wanted to do something in the travel industry, and encouraged students to pursue something they enjoy.
“Follow your passion,” she said.
Duffy followed up her comment with a short video from Carnival’s “chief fun officer,” Shaquille O’Neal, who held up a double-sided sign that read “Pioneers” on one side and, “Follow Your Passion,” on the other.
Duffy grew up with her mom and sister in a One Day at a Time setup at 1026½ Foulkrod St. in Northwood. She attended H.R. Edmunds Elementary School and spent ninth grade at Warren Harding. She worked at the old American Pants Company on Frankford Avenue. She recalls Frankford winning the city football title her senior year at the old JFK Stadium.
After graduating, she wanted to travel internationally as a stewardess, but Pan Am told her she was too short.
So, she became a receptionist at Rosenbluth Travel, then a travel agent for McGettigan Travel Bureau. Later, she served as president of Maritz Travel Company and the Cruise Lines International Association. She’s headed Carnival since 2015, and lives in Miami Beach.
At the Oct. 24 ceremony, she was joined by her husband, Andrew, who grew up on Harrison Street and attended St. Martin of Tours and Father Judge. Their two children, Danielle and Sean, were also in attendance. Duffy acknowledged that she and her husband were sorry to see the McDonald’s closed at Oxford Circle.
Duffy thanked the Frankford Junior ROTC for its participation at the ceremony, noting Carnival offers a military tribute on each cruise. She and her husband conducted an essay contest for the class of 2020, awarding a $1,000 scholarship to the winner, Alysia Cordero.
After the ceremony, she was headed to Italy to pick up Carnival’s 27th ship, named Panorama.
Among those offering remarks were principal Michael Calderone; alumni association president Bettyann Creighton and treasurer Paul Schrenk, both Pioneer Achievement Award winners; and Harry Gutelius, a Pioneer Achievement Award winner who was principal at George Washington.
Duffy is the 111th person to receive the award, first given in 1963. Others who have received it include former state Supreme Court Justice Frank Montemuro; Joe Bonsall, a member of the Oak Ridge Boys, who performed Elvira during his 1982 award presentation; football coach Al Angelo; former congressman Bob Borski; football players Blair Thomas and Jahri Evans; Aid for Friends founder Rita Ungaro-Schiavone; baseball player Bobby Higginson; and acting police commissioner Christine Coulter. ••