BY THE TIME you are holding this magazine in your hands, Maine Maritime Academy will have entered a new chapter. Following the academy’s 79th Commencement ceremony in April, I will have stepped down as President of this institution, and President-Select Jerry Paul ’89 will have taken the helm.
But now, as I write, the transition has not yet happened in full. I have spent the past few days cleaning, sorting, and archiving materials in my office in preparation for the transition. I have long imagined what it would feel like to sift through the papers, photographs, and mementos that have accumulated over the last twelve years, but nothing could prepare me for what it really feels like to say goodbye.
As I pack, I marvel at how the story of our beloved institution continues to unfold. In the last decade, we have accomplished so many great things, overcome so much, and proven time and time again what it means to be a Maine Maritime Academy Mariner. I will carry these lessons with me going forward, forever holding a place for the academy in my heart.
Like so many others, I came back to MMA because I wanted to learn from the best and lead the best. I believe we all wanted to apply our experiences and potential to help make our academy, our small town, and our larger world better places. I knew, from growing up here as the Commandant’s son, that this place is the kind of place that truly changes a person; that creates leaders both in mind and spirit.
As I will tell this year’s graduates, learning is not what you do only in your school years. It’s what you do every day of your life in order to seek new understandings and new appreciations… That is true learning, and that has been the lesson gifted to me as President of Maine Maritime Academy.
Over the years, I have made mistakes, but I have always tried to learn from them. I learned at times that what I thought was right was wrong, and what I thought was wrong was right. I learned that what sometimes seemed simple was fairly complicated, and what seemed complicated just followed basic principles. In many ways, I have been a student alongside the young men and women who arrive in Castine in pursuit of their college education.
As I will tell this year’s graduates, learning is not what you do only in your school years. It’s what you do every day of your life in order to seek new understandings and new appreciations. Every day, we must think critically and for ourselves. And we must especially do so in ways that learn from those who come from different backgrounds with different life experiences. We must all strive to learn from those around us, near and far. It is shallow validation, not developmental learning, to seek and listen only to those who already think like we do. True learning, the kind that makes you a more informed, analytically rigorous, and accepting person comes from the challenge of understanding and valuing the experiences of others. That is the lifelong process of personal and professional development. That is true learning, and that has been the lesson gifted to me as President of Maine Maritime Academy.
I consider myself truly fortunate to have been able to learn and grow here, and to have gotten to know so many wonderful people associated with this amazing little college. Because of our ability to change and adapt, I know that our reputation and success will continue for many years ahead on the path forged by our alumni. As always, I am incredibly proud of our students, alumni, and friends of the institution as a community. I know that your strength of character and dedication to superior performance will continue to bring distinction to Maine Maritime Academy.
Thank you for everything you have done to serve the mission of our institution, the success of our students, and the reputation of our alumni. You have each helped write the last decade of MMA’s history alongside me, and I will be forever grateful for your contributions. I wish you all fair winds and following seas.█
William J. Brennan, President