Graduates Prepared to Lead in a New World

Cadets Saluting

Photo: Steve Heaslip CC Times

BUZZARDS BAY — White X’s painted on the parking lot in front of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy marked the spots where graduating cadets had to stand as they waited to receive their diplomas. Parked behind the cadets, their family and friends watched from inside their vehicles, showing their support through honks, signs, and cheers.

It was only four years ago that the graduating cadets began orientation and thought about this very moment, said Regimental Cmdr. Nathan Moreira at the ceremony held at noon on Saturday for the cadets majoring in Facilities Engineering. However, many didn’t expect graduation to be quite like this, he said. “Young graduates, it is our time to lead this nation,” said Moreira. “We need to use our voice to fight and seek justice. A true patriot of this country doesn’t stand by and let the norm continue but sees the challenges the country is facing and fights for and demands what is right. Good luck to all of you,” Moreira said, dismissing the cadets.

The Massachusetts Maritime Academy graduation was spread over three days from June 26 to June 28. There were seven separate ceremonies, each separated by major. The ceremonies took place in the gymnasium parking lot, with each graduate and family limited to one vehicle. Any guests joining the graduate had to remain in the car for the duration of the event. Graduates were allowed to get out of the vehicles and, with proper social distancing, be seated with their shipmates. They were called to the stage individually to receive their degree, and a photographer was there to snap a picture to give each family a close-up shot of the moment. The entire event was live streamed, so extended family and friends could watch from home. A video of all the ceremonies will be compiled and posted online to view (links at bottom).

“Welcome to the Buzzards Bay drive-in!” said Rear Adm. Francis McDonald, Academy president, referring to the outdoor screen set up for the event. The graduation was a “crazy idea” hatched by senior cadets at the Academy, which turned out to be the optimal solution during the pandemic, he said. McDonald told graduates that he is sick and tired of COVID-19 and racism that has had terrible effects on the world, nation, state, and every community. He charged them to learn from these times and to continue being compassionate and extend a hand to those less fortunate.

“Let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture of just plain being a good person,” said McDonald. “This world, now more than ever, desperately needs good citizens.”In the words of English poet John Donne, the Admiral recited, “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.” However, “In these trying times it might be better stated as any person’s unjust death diminishes us all because we as a fellow human beings are all that make up humankind,” McDonald said.

It was a good experience returning to campus for graduating senior Luke Bridges, a Facilities Engineering major from Sandwich, after he spent the last few months at home finishing his academics remotely. “It was a great opportunity for us to see our friends one last time before everyone parted ways,” he said after the ceremony. Bridges returned to campus at the beginning of the spring semester for two weeks before the pandemic upended everything. Along with his classmates, he had to leave on short notice and quickly adjust to learning online. Although it was difficult to ignore the added distractions of learning at home, he noted that the self-discipline taught at the school helped. “It was a challenge, but we got through it,” said Bridges, who will be heading to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.

Sandwich resident Alex Monterrey, who majored in Emergency Management, could not attend graduation due to training needed for the National Guard. For the past few months, he has been administering COVID-19 tests across the state as part of his role in the Guard. He had to balance being deployed during the day with finishing his schoolwork remotely at night. Looking back at his time at the school, Monterrey said, “It was a good experience overall.”

Harwich graduate Matt Hall, who majored in Marine Science, Safety, and Environmental Protection, was excited to take part in the ceremony on Saturday. “It’s the best that we can do, and it will be good to see everybody for one last time. Missing out on the last few months of senior year had its fair share of challenges but the hardest part was being away from friends," said Hall. After graduation, many of his classmates will be embarking on their next adventures that will take them around the world. For Hall, that means joining the Coast Guard and traveling to Alaska for deployment.

Megan Bressoud, of Falmouth, who also majored in Marine Science, Safety, and Environmental Protection, was “ecstatic” that she was able to attend graduation in person versus having a virtual ceremony. She will begin her career in Seattle working for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and she credited the academy with preparing her to secure a job during a pandemic. “Most people have a love-hate relationship with the school,” she said. “They put me through the wringer more times than once, and I appreciate it.”

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