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Mass. Maritime Academy Graduation Heralds the Continuation of Good Times in the Maritime Industry

Saturday’s 164th commencement ceremony at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) was marked by endless enthusiasm from all involved and recognition of the best job market for academy graduates in years. Building on many years of sustained employment growth in all sectors of the maritime world, the class of 2007 departs Taylor’s Point with unlimited potential and lucrative starting salaries. It wasn’t always like this. First up to address the 220 graduates and a large, overflowing and enthusiastic crowd of well-wishers was MMA President ADM Richard Gurnon. Gurnon arrived at the Academy in 1978 at a time of rapidly declining U.S. shipping assets, a poor employment picture and less than adequate funding from the Commonwealth and federal government for the storied academy. Fast forward to 2007: On Saturday, Gurnon said goodbye to a co-educational group of seniors who were blessed with an expanded curriculum, a booming maritime sector and learning platforms that older graduates could only dream about. We can only hope that these graduates not only appreciate what they have, but more importantly, go forward and make the most of it. Next up at the dais was U.S. Maritime Administrator Sean Connaughton, a 1983 graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at King’s Point. In Connaughton, American mariners -- and their shore-based maritime colleagues from these academies -- finally have the strong advocate they’ve always yearned for. In just a short period of time on the job, Connaughton has probably done more to promote U.S. maritime opportunities than any other government official in recent memory. He, too, reminded the MMA class of 2007 that things weren’t always this good. A few minutes later, Connaughton himself finally received the degree he’s always wanted: Doctor of Public Administration from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Also receiving an honorary degree was Arthur Desrocher, former MMA vice-president and MMA graduate. Among the other awards and honors presented on Saturday was the American Maritime Officers Service Award(s). The awards were presented to Kevin J. Doherty and Keith A. Morton by (Captain) Gregg Farmer, MMA alumni (’85) and President of the Boston Pilots Association. Bay State Governor Deval Patrick delivered the commencement address and told the graduates to take on bigger roles in a small world and help to build a true global economy. Patrick also took the opportunity to wax nostalgic for a few minutes about his own humble beginnings. Rising from humble roots in a rough Chicago neighborhood, Patrick attended Harvard and along the way has managed to notch just one or two impressive accomplishments, as well. Once again, the soon-to-be ex-cadets were reminded that the good times have to be earned and that there have been more than a few others whose contributions made this day possible. Patrick also received an honorary degree just before his short, but insightful speech. After being dismissed by Regimental Commander Brian Taylor, the MMA class of 2007 charged out into a work environment unlike any that has preceded them. Sure, the good employment picture has been present for many years but the summer of 2007 presents arguably the most robust maritime business environment this country has seen in half a century. On Saturday, Academy President Richard Gurnon said “It is a good day to be at Mass. Maritime Academy.” A little while later, just after the completion of the 164th commencement exercises, it was a better day to be from Mass. Maritime Academy. I’m quite sure that the 220 graduates of the class of 2007 would agree. Managing Editor Joseph Keefe is a 1980 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. He can be reached at jkeefe@maritime-executive.com