EASTPORT, Maine — Graduates from The Boat School-Husson University received their diplomas on Friday, May 8, with a Boat School history lesson from the former president of Washington County Community College, Ronald Renaud.
Renaud, who has been part of postsecondary education in Down East Maine for the past 40 years, shared with graduates and 150 guests the remarkable story and challenges of building America’s oldest boat-building school. His words were filled with history and lessons for all in the audience of the importance of having a “can-do spirit.”
In 2007, after 38 years under the stewardship of Maine’s Community College System and its predecessors, the Maine Legislature turned the Boat School back to the city of Eastport.
Husson successfully took over delivering the Boat School courses and programs.
Diplomas were given Friday to six two-year students in the school’s Boat Building Technology Program and two students in the one-year Boatbuilding Program by Husson University President William Beardsley, Husson board of trustees President Dr. Arthur Fuller and New England School of Communications President Thomas Johnston. These are the first two-year students to graduate under Husson University.
The day also included the launch of the student-built boat by the graduating senior class. The boat is a Downeast Skiff.
The lines for the Downeast Skiff originally came from the drawing board of the late John Gardner, a Calais native, who was curator of small craft at Mystic Seaport Museum from 1969 until his death in 1995.
Gardner made a few trips to the school when it was in Lubec and at least one after its move to Eastport.
The Downeast Skiff design appeared in the December 1981 National Fisherman and in Gardner’s book “Building Classic Small Craft.”
The first Downeast Skiff built at The Boat School was built as plank on frame, and from then on as cold molded.
An estimated 1,800-plus student hours have been spent finishing this project. The boat was named the Ronnie and Vic in honor of Eastport residents Rhonda and Victor Voisine, who donate many hours each year to The Boat School.
After the graduation and launch students and guests were treated to a cookout.
The Boat School-Husson begins classes again at the end of August.
“We hope to welcome 30 to 40 students with the start of fall semester,” said Boat School administrator John Miller. “Husson has made a tremendous commitment to this school, the community and the entire region with all the efforts that have gone into rebuilding this great institution over the past two years.”