1989 alum, Harold Burnham, an MMA Marine Transportation major, was one of nine 2012 recipients of a National Heritage Fellowship, an honor underwritten by the National Endowment for the Arts. These fellowships represent the nation’s highest award for achieving artistic excellence while endeavoring to conserve America’s culture for future generations in folk and traditional arts. The award includes a one-time cash prize of $25,000.
Captain Burnham is considered a Master Shipwright. He earned that distinction as one of more than two-dozen Burnhams who, over the past four hundred years and eleven generations, have built wooden boats using hand tools and locally harvested lumber. A native of Essex, MA, he spent his childhood sailing on boats, (some made by his father) and hanging out with shipbuilders, studying them as they crafted each detail of their vessels.
Attending Massachusetts Maritime might have seemed an obvious choice for a sea loving kid like Burnham, except … “I wasn’t into the military stuff … I just wanted to drive boats,” he remembered. But, because of his love for the ocean, friends had suggested he include maritime schools in his college search. Mass Maritime won his vote. It was the closest to home and the best educational deal in New England.
“Looking back it seems as if all the stars were in alignment because MMA was exactly what I needed. I have come to feel that the whole education (including the Regiment) was probably good for me in the long run. It balanced the experience. Having fun and becoming a person while in this system did a lot to prepare me for many things I have done since. Many of the folks I have worked with over the years have been extremely passionate about what they do. Harnessing that passion for our mutual benefit while keeping them challenged and feeling good about what they do … well, that’s something I learned a lot about at the Academy. I honed it at sea,” Burnham continued.
Zealous and creative about floating his wooden boats in a fiberglass world, this inventive captain has kept his final, award-winning schooner, the Ardelle, and put her to work, conducting local harbor tours. Burnham often fills the schooner with schoolchildren with whom he delights in sharing his knowledge of the maritime sciences. Click here to sign on and/or learn more or check out the schooner ardelle website.