While this may not seem like much, I had to close my office door to be able to concentrate on writing to you. The din of activity that permeates our office on a daily basis at OHPRI Headquarters is a far cry from the empty seats of a year ago. The 2020 season is shaping up to be a great one, with the ship slated to journey farther afield than Narragansett Bay, all the while serving hundreds of Rhode Islanders who participate in the range of great program opportunities we are looking forward to offering. This exponential increase in opportunity would not be possible without the tremendous efforts of our noisy new staff, who I would like to take a moment to tell you more about.
A year ago, we committed ourselves to providing meaningful workforce development programming, offering training and industry appropriate credentials to allow participants to thrive in high paying jobs in the marine trades, maritime industry, and defense sector. We have taken a giant step in that direction in bringing aboard Dan O’Connor as the Perry Corps Program Director. Dan comes from the Rhode Island maritime community and brings to his position not only a strong background in the industry, but years of experience coaching youth sports and mentoring student athletes. He is busy preparing to launch our first pilot programs with high school-age participants and adults who are accessing our programs through partnerships with social service organizations throughout the state.
At the same time, we are aggressively developing a broad spectrum of programs under the Raye Montague STEAM Initiative that tie in closely with the educational needs and curriculum standards of the state’s K-12 student population. These efforts are being spearheaded by Jennifer Kendrigan, who joins us after serving as a classroom teacher in Virginia and Massachusetts and most recently was the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Roger Williams University. You can learn more about all our staff by visiting our website.
Our new staff are not the only recent additions to the Oliver Hazard Perry community. Our board of directors welcomed three new members as of our January meeting: Paul Ferraro, Vice President of Sea Power Capability Systems for Raytheon, Vice Admiral P. Gardner Howe III, USN (Ret.), former President of the United States Naval War College, and Rives Potts, President of Safe Harbor Marinas. The willingness of these individuals to serve our organization stands as a testament to the new direction we embarked upon a year ago and to the successes we have celebrated over the last twelve months. In welcoming these new board members, we are also obliged to say thank you to those board members that have served out their terms of office, and in particular Chairman Emeritus Bart Dunbar and former Vice Chair Rear Admiral David Gove, USN (Ret). Fortunately, they have transitioned to our Board of Governors where they continue their efforts in support of our organization.
With all of the excitement of the coming season, it is all too easy to overlook important milestones and memories of the past, and in doing so we do a disservice to the future. January 30th marked the fifth anniversary of the passing of Captain Virginia Wagner, an early friend of the organization and a legendary celestial navigator and shipmaster who began her career in the world of tall ships. OHPRI has maintained a scholarship in her memory since her passing. This year, in an effort to secure the memory of Virginia and preserve her legacy as an inspiration, we are rededicating the Virginia Wagner Scholarship Fund to promote career awareness, readiness, and opportunity for young women in the maritime industry. To broaden the impact of this effort, we are partnering with the Women Offshore Foundation, whose mission is to “shine a light on women in operations, provide resources to foster long-term careers, and share the latest efforts on gender diversity and inclusion in the offshore and maritime industries.” Our goal is to provide funds to offer programming this summer aboard the ship. We look forward to sharing more about this project in the weeks to come.
On a personal note, since mid-January, I have been participating as part of the inaugural cohort of the United Way of Rhode Island and Social Enterprise Greenhouse 2020 Nonprofit Innovation Lab. It is a six month program that brings together ten organizational leaders who are hoping to bring change to both their organizations and to provide meaningful impact in Rhode Island. The culmination of the program is a pitch event in June. Stay tuned for more information.
In closing, I could not be more excited about our future, I invite you to be a part of it, whether as a volunteer, donor, visitor, or program participant.
Captain Jonathan Kabak