On a gray New England morning, officials gathered at Massachusetts Maritime Academy huddled under a white tent to celebrate the school's latest green jewel...
"I welcome you to the biggest, best, greenest and, possibly, wettest maritime academy in the country," Capt. Francis McDonald, the school's vice president of operations, said.
On Wednesday, the academy dedicated its new $23 million American Bureau of Shipping Information Commons that is so much more than your typical college campus library. Inside, for example, among the stacks of books, is a simulator of a ship's bridge, which board of trustees chairman Paul Kelly joked is like a "$2 million Nintendo game."
The building also features what Kelly described as an "ultra-high-tech" classroom where professors can capture the attention of cadets through use of streaming video.
"Not very long ago, Mass. Maritime was described as 'the best kept secret in the commonwealth of Massachusetts' — that is no longer the case," Kelly said.
"It has also been referred to as 'the jewel of our commonwealth's state college system.' That is indeed the case."
Among those in attendance were Senate President Therese Murray, noted author Nathaniel Philbrick and Robert Somerville, CEO of American Bureau of Shipping, the company that purchased the naming rights for the building in an effort to attract even more MMA students to its worldwide shipping jobs.
"I am absolutely amazed at this building," Somerville said.
Among the building's green features are geothermal energy that provides heating and cooling, radiant floor heating and water conservation features. And, even as they were dedicating the building, Murray announced another green initiative — a $500,000 grant to add solar panels on the roof.
Adm. Richard Gurnon, the academy president, was credited by many of the speakers for his dogged pursuit of funding for the new information commons.
"This will truly become the heart and soul of the campus," Gurnon said just before a ceremonial, gold-painted hammer was taken to the building.
"This is not an old-fashioned library, but rather a place where teams of students will solve problems now and in the future."