Maritime Academy Hosts Formal Change of Command in Buzzards Bay

CCB MEDIA PHOTO Richard Gurnon embraces Francis McDonald after the formal change of command at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay Monday

CCB MEDIA PHOTO
Richard Gurnon embraces Francis McDonald after the formal change of command at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay Monday

BUZZARDS BAY – After serving 10 years as president and more than 37 years working on campus, Admiral Richard Gurnon pulled up the anchor and handed over leadership of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy Monday.

In a ceremony along the Cape Cod Canal in Buzzards Bay, the formal change of command from Gurnon to Francis McDonald took place with cadets, family and other school officials on hand.

In his parting remarks, Gurnon remembered an earlier time at the school, decades ago, that he described as “difficult” with an “incompetent administration.”

“Despite the difficult working conditions of the time, I found the cadets to be fun-loving, colorful and genuine,” he said.

Gurnon called his time at the MMA as a “tale of two cities,” that began on the rough side, and ended nearly four decades later as a major success story.

CCB MEDIA PHOTO Admiral Richard Gurnon speaks during the change of command Monday in Buzzards Bay

CCB MEDIA PHOTO
Admiral Richard Gurnon speaks during the change of command Monday in Buzzards Bay

“We have built the reserves to over $30 million. The incoming class has grown in diversity, talent and size each year, eclipsing the high water mark of the year before,” Gurnon said.

The change of command was overseen by United States Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenikin.

“The changing of command, the changing of watch, the time honored sea-going ceremony designating the transfer of the critical functions, and more importantly the responsibilities and accountabilities of leadership,” he said.

After formally taking command, McDonald said the school was in a good position to continue its success.

“Massachusetts Maritime Academy is a special place, with a bold and prosperous past, with a bright and promising future,” he said.

The new admiral also said the school was uniquely positioned for an evolving workforce.

“Our specialized and employable academic programs, 100% STEM, 100% bachelor of science degrees. Our commitment to cooperative education and real-world experience for each and every student,” McDonald said.

CCB MEDIA PHOTO Francis McDonald moments before taking formal command of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay.

CCB MEDIA PHOTO
Francis McDonald moments before taking formal command of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay.

McDonald has worked at the campus since 1994 when he became the associate director of advancement. He’s also a 1985 graduate of the school.

The Barnstable resident also served in several other capacities at the school, including director of cooperative education, dean of enrollment management, adjunct professor, board of trustees clerk and vice president of operations.

McDonald previously said the school also faces a number of challenges moving forward with the diversity of the student body being first and foremost.

“We sit here with only about 10 or 15 percent women with even less than that for students of color,” the next president said. “So we have some real challenges to get the word out on the opportunities Massachusetts Maritime Academy can provide.”

Other challenges ahead of McDonald include a flat budget year.

“We’ve had some recent growth on the campus and as you are looking at a flat budget year you really want to be able to invest in faculty and maintain class size and academic quality,” he said.

McDonald said a little further down the road a big project will be the replacement of a vessel.

“We have a training ship, a training platform, that is 46 years old and we have to be doing the work down in Washington to begin to put together a plan to replace that training ship as she nears her end of life,” he said.

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