The Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) Class of 2019 raised their anchors and set course from Taylor Point to new waters Saturday, following a ceremony of parting words, praise and encouragement.
Almost 400 white-uniformed undergraduates and about 40 black-robed master’s students sat in the late morning sunlight off the starboard side of the T.S. Kennedy to receive their degrees.
Behind them, friends and family cheered from beneath a large white tent.
“Class of ’19, on this special day you can and should be very proud of what you have accomplished as individuals and as shipmates,” said Francis X. McDonald, president of MMA. “The commitment which it takes to accomplish what you all have accomplished, cannot be overstated.”
Senator Edward J. Markey gave the commencement address in which he announced that $300 million in federal funding had been secured to replace the Kennedy, which is more than 50 years old, with a new vessel.
The Kennedy has been used for more than just training student over the years. The ship was activated for Desert Storm in 1991 and for relief efforts during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The new vessel will be funded as a national security investment and is expected to be available in four years.
“Massachusetts' nautical history of new horizons, remains unbroken,” Mr. Markey said, “and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy is the crown jewel in that tradition of maritime excellence.”
“Whether you were drawn here with dreams of high seas adventures or a commitment to protecting the environment or the goal of serving bravely in our armed forces, you are now forever a part of a sacred society that carries the banner of sail and wind and sea and surge,” he said.
Mr. Markey called on the students to “make it easier for the next generation to have the same feeling of accomplishment that you feel today.” He pointed to the more than $1 trillion in student loan debt facing American graduates.
“The big dreams of college should never be thwarted by the small print of student loan debt,” he said.
His commencement address also included a call for the graduating students to help in the fight against climate change.
“Climate change is the moral, economic, national security, health and environmental challenge of our time,” Mr. Markey said.
“It will a profound impact on the careers of every single person who is seated here today at graduation,” he said, “No one knows more about the supercharged storms, sea level rise, warming waters than those educated here at the academy.”
Among the honorary degree recipients were Mr. Markey and Coast Guard Admiral Karl L. Shultz.
“You have lived up to the MMA motto of discipline, knowledge and leadership,” Mr. Schultz said to the Class of 2019, “now, you are ready to serve as honorable mariners.”
The Class of 2019 had co-valedictorians, Leanne M. Rossi and Alec M. Schenning.
A regimental commencement address was given by Regimental Commander Liam Martin.
“On more than one occasion I am sure that every cadet here has questioned their decision to attend Massachusetts Maritime Academy,” he said. “It was all absolutely worth it.”
“Every challenging class, every regimental obligation, every inconvenience, it all paid off because we can consider ourselves graduates from the most prestigious maritime academy in the entire country,” he said.
At the end of the commencement ceremony, the graduates' white caps filled the sky as they threw them into the air in celebration.