When Brenda Callinan took her daughter swimming at Massachusetts Maritime Academy as a child, it never entered her mind the girl would one day graduate from the college. On Saturday, Shauna Callinan, 23, of West Falmouth walked across the outdoor stage and received her diploma with the rest of the academy’s Class of 2012.
“Going here is exactly what you make of it,” Shauna Callinan, dressed in full white Merchant Marine garb, said before the ceremony. A Cape Cod resident who also attended college on the peninsula, Shauna Callinan has no plans to stay put here; next month she leaves for China, where she already secured a job supervising a shipyard.
The graduating class of 304 cadets marks the largest in the academy’s history, said Rear Adm. Richard Gurnon, the school’s president. About 60 percent of those graduates have already found employment, he added. “The Class of 2012 is one of the most mature (classes)” in memory, Gurnon, who has spent 34 years at the academy, said. “They’re like 40-year-olds in 20-year-olds’ bodies.”
Joseph Kaster, a graduate of the emergency management program, joined the ranks of the employed shortly before the commencement ceremony. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. The grounds at the academy looked like a military base as uniformed men and women scurried around in preparation while Kaster took his oath. “It’s great to say that I graduated college,” Kaster said in an emotional speech. “But it’s a whole different level to say that I’m a Marine.”
At 10 a.m., family members and friends seated under tents set up near the academy’s baseball field turned their heads toward the parking lot, where a seemingly endless line of uniformed graduates marched to their seats in front of the stage.
In his “charge to the Class of 2012” speech, Col. William Sinnott, who received an honorary doctoral degree from the college, compared the young class to the generation of Americans who lived during the Great Depression and World War II. “We are facing complex … times, but they’re solvable problems, and you have the tools,” Sinnott said. “We are in the hands of the next ‘greatest generation.’”
Co-valedictorians Michael Senzapaura and Emily Burbank encouraged their classmates to thank the academy’s faculty, as well as their families. “We leave here with the discipline to get the job done at the end of the day,” Burbank, of Yarmouthport, said.
White hats rained down on the lawn after the graduates hurled them into the air in celebration of First Class Jack Gomes, a regimental commander at the academy, who closed the ceremony. “You are dismissed!”