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FOR GENERATIONS, Maine has been known worldwide for the skills of her shipbuilders and sea captains, and for leadership in every phase of maritime affairs. It was in Maine that the first English ship built in America, the VIRGINIA, was launched in 1607, and, in the 21st century, Mainers continue to build and sail vessels ranging from custom yachts to mighty warships. Windjammers, fishing fleets, and defenders of the America’s Cup have all been part of Maine’s seafaring tradition.
Proposals for an institution devoted to nautical training began in Maine in the 1930s. Educational and civic leaders throughout the state — led by Senator Ralph Leavitt of Portland — prompted the creation of Maine Maritime Academy by an act of the 90th Maine Legislature on March 21, 1941.
The original class of 29 students reported on Oct. 9, of that year to Rear Adm. Douglas Dismukes, a veteran of World War I who came out of retirement to head the fledgling school. Classes met on the campus of the Eastern State Normal School, with students lodged at Castine’s Pentagoet Inn. The MATTIE, a coastal schooner out of Camden, Maine, served as the first training ship.
World War II required a rapid build-up of the U.S. Merchant Marine, with a critical need for new deck and engineering officers. The Academy met that challenge. By war’s end, Maine Maritime had graduated 384 men who served at sea during the war in every theater of operations.
In the post-war era, the program was expanded from the original concept of a three-year course leading to a bachelor of science degree. In the 1960s and 70s, Rear Adm. Edward Rodgers led a multi-million dollar development program, culminating in full membership in the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
In recent years, the college has grown steadily and now offers three degrees, 17 undergraduate and graduate academic majors, two lifestyles, new training labs and expanded student services. Today the proud maritime heritage thrives at Maine Maritime Academy.