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It’s been two years since Geronimo first sailed out of Goat Island on a 15,000 nautical mile journey across the Atlantic, throughout Europe, back to the Caribbean and up the East Coast to Newport. On Saturday, May 13, friends and family gathered on the docks at Fort Adams to welcome the boat and the final crew of the landmark trip back home. Close to 140 members of the St. George's community, from students and professional crew to faculty, staff and alums, participated in one of the legs of the trip — and it was a transformative experience for many. “Once the journey began I felt fearless,” said Julia Ludwig ’18, who took part in the spring trip in 2016, then again in the second transatlantic leg west from the Canary Islands to Grenada. “I was so happy that I made the decision to go. It was an experience of a lifetime and made me feel as though I could — and still can — do anything.”
Julia said the night watches were some of her most cherished experiences. “During this time we would all either have long conversations about our lives back home, gaze at the stars discussing constellations or play games and laugh so hard that it made the time go by in seconds,” she said. “I will never forget those long nights that I spent in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, whether they were calm, cold or rainy. They were some of the most amazing moments of the entire trip.”
Fourth-formers Colin and Oscar MacGillivray have been dingy sailing and racing for about nine years here on Aquidneck Island and are members of the SG sailing team and a summer sailing team, but their trip on the second transatlantic leg on Geronimo was clearly an adventure of a lifetime. Both of their fondest memories involved swimming, which they only got to do twice. The first time was about halfway through the trip, when the boat was in the dead center of the Atlantic and the crew had a day with very little wind, recalled Colin.
“We were all so excited to finally jump in the water we had seen all around us for 10 days,” he said. “I jumped off close to the bow and it felt amazing to be completely submerged in salt water again. … There was close to three miles of water beneath us and it was a little overwhelming to imagine. I jumped in four times.”
Oscar says he’ll never forget the first night they arrived in Grenada. Everyone onboard was extremely excited, he said, and the mood overall was very high. “After dropping the sails and anchoring after 20 days at sea, our first priority was to go swimming,” he said. “I just remember going down to the bunkroom and getting our bathing suits and it had just hit me that we crossed an ocean! We all started freaking out and hugging …”
The next priority was eating.
“After [our swim], we had the best dinner I think we had that entire trip,” said Oscar, recalling a mahi curry made with a prize fish the crew had caught a couple days before. “I remember just staring at Grenada and anticipating going on land. But that night was probably the best moment on the trip for me.”
Overall, Captain Mike Dawson said this two-year journey marked many milestones for the Geronimo program. Most of all, it helped the school reach its longtime goal of giving the opportunity to sail and study aboard the boat to more students. Fourteen student crews were able to participate and well over 100 students sailed on at least one leg of the voyage, according to Captain Dawson. In the 40-year history of the program, Geronimo had sailed across the Atlantic twice (in 1987 and in 2000) — to Spain and Portugal in the summer and then back to this side of the Atlantic that same fall. “However, she never passed into the Mediterranean and only spent about two months in mainland Europe,” he noted.
In planning the recent transatlantic trip, Mike and Head of School Eric Peterson had several goals in mind: “The route was chosen based on weather and the time of year,” Mike said. “On that route, the ports were chosen to maximize the cultural and historical exposure to our students. When in port, our focus became immersing ourselves in the culture of the countries we visited, making genuine connections with locals, learning about the history and exploring the natural world.”
Among the many highlights of the epic journey, Mike said the energy of the crew closing in on Grenada and traveling throughout Greece stand out in his mind. “Four of our student crews were really able to dive deep into the culture there, meet lots of interesting people and experience the history as we traveled around the country,” he said.
But when it comes to “epic,” sailing out of the Strait of Gibraltar “off the wind making 10-plus knots, with Europe to our north and Africa to the south,” also was high on his list. “It was a surreal moment,” he said.
Biology teacher Dr. Sarah Matarese has a unique opportunity to perform research this summer with Dr. Robert Ballard, the famed oceanographer best known for his 1985 discovery of the wreck of the Titanic.
As part of a Science Communication Fellowship run by the Ocean Exploration Trust, Dr. Matarese will be traveling to the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California from July 23-29, where she’ll board the 64-meter research vessel, Nautilus.
The goal of the Channel Island Expedition is to explore underwater caves that are known to be in the region. “Some of these caves are 400 meters deep and they remain unexplored,” noted Dr. Matarese.
Dr. Ballard, now a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, founded The Ocean Exploration Trust in 2008 to conduct scientific research in areas of the ocean floor that have yet to be investigated and to “seek out new discoveries in the fields of geology, biology, maritime history, archaeology and chemistry.”
(Note: Dr. Ballard delivered St. George’s 2017 Annual Burnett Lecture on May 5. The video is posted on our Vimeo channel.)
To ready for the trip, Dr. Matarese took part in a four-day workshop at URI’s Bay campus during the March spring break. “I met educators from all over the country who will be traveling on the boat at some point during the exploration season,” she said.
What Dr. Matarese is most looking forward to is “working with Dr. Ballard and his team of scientists and exploring a part of the ocean that has never been explored,” she said. “I’m so excited to have this opportunity.”
Dr. Ballard hopes educators who participate in the program will be inspired to share “the excitement of exploration and research with students and public audiences in their communities and around the world.”
All are invited to follow Dr. Matarese and the team’s research online, live, in July. “Anyone can log in to nautiluslive.org and follow me while I’m on the boat,” Dr. Matarese said.
(Editorial warning: If you are fascinated by underwater creatures such as octopuses and spider crabs, this live feed can be very addicting.)
Ed Roberts ’01, now chief of staff for the City of Columbus City Council in Ohio, was on campus May 10 to support an initiative close to his heart: creating educational opportunities for the city’s youth. Joining Ed on campus were two men hoping to establish a new boarding school for African-American boys in Columbus.
Dr. Robert Murphy, founder of the Masters Preparatory Academy, and his chief advancement officer, James Ragland, met with several St. George’s administrators to discuss all aspects of boarding education, tour the Hilltop and visit classes. “I am behind these guys 100 percent,” Ed said. In his previous job as Central Ohio Director in the Office of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, Ed said he worked hard to support the SEED Foundation, a network of schools providing a college prep education to underprivileged students. “Ultimately, our efforts came up short so I’m glad that someone else is moving it forward,” he added. When the Masters Prep founders approached the mayor’s office for support, Ed said he was “ecstatic.”
Still in the fundraising stage, Masters Prep is planning to open sometime between 2018-2021 — and for the city that’s a very positive development.
“Columbus is growing and thriving, but the disparities are real,” said Ed, himself a native of Dayton, Ohio. “The lack of opportunities for African-American men in our community result in strained community relations with the police, high unemployment rates among minorities and low morale. A public boarding school will go a long way in trying to address [these issues].”
One of St. George’s most promising football players of the modern era, Tyshon Henderson ’13 reached a remarkable milestone this past weekend when he learned he’d caught the attention of the National Football League: The Chicago Bears signed Tyshon as a free agent following the NFL Draft on Saturday in Philadelphia.
Now a 6-foot-7, 340-pound offensive lineman for the Clark Atlanta University Panthers, Tyshon never played football before he arrived at St. George’s in 2009 from Newark, New Jersey, and met head coach John Mackay. Read more here.
A gentle giant off the gridiron, a towering lineman with an expansive reach on it, Tyshon was recruited in his sixth-form year at SG to play Division 1 football for the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. He was at UMass Amherst for three years, appearing in 30 games creating holes for the team’s running plays from 2013-15 before arriving at Clark Atlanta last fall.
Signing to the NFL this past weekend represents an extraordinary accomplishment for a college athlete. According to the NCAA only 1.5 percent of all football-playing NCAA Division 1 athletes make it to the NFL.
Tyshon will report to the Bears on May 13, the day after he takes his final exams.
“I always told him that I thought that he could play on Sundays someday if he wanted to,” Coach Mackay said.
That makes two of Dragons in the NFL this year. Alumnus Cooper Helfet ’07 is a tight end for the Oakland Raiders.
Following an extraordinary 29-year tenure at St. George’s, Dr. Patricia Moss, a dedicated steward of St. George’s academic program, will close her final chapter on the Hilltop at the end of this school year. “We all know that St. George’s wouldn’t be the place it is today without the work of Pat Moss,” Head of School Eric Peterson reported to faculty earlier this week upon announcing Pat’s departure.
Pat arrived at St. George’s in 1988 from the prestigious all-girls Madeira School in Washington, where for many years she served as director of admission. First hired as dean of academics and head of the Latin Department at St. George’s, she rose to the highest ranks of the administration, serving as interim Head of School in the fall of 1998 when former headmaster Charles A. Hamblet and his wife, Carol, were on sabbatical. She was named assistant head of school for academic affairs upon the Hamblets’ return, is the longtime head of the Latin Department and for two recent years served as director of academic research.
A scholar with a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Pat has become known for challenging students to reach their highest potential and for holding the line on St. George’s rigorous academic standards. A longtime champion of women’s rights, she has been a stalwart advocate for female empowerment among both the faculty and students.
In 2010 Pat made news when she co-authored with Dr. Judith Owens a landmark study on adolescent sleep behaviors. The research, published in the American Journal of Medicine, helped many schools across the country better understand how teenagers’ sleep patterns can impact their academic performance. Here on the Hilltop, the study resulted in St. George’s moving the start time of the school day from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Citing the convincing results of the study — students reported being more alert in class and eating and sleeping better — many schools followed suit.
As she readies to leave St. George’s, however, Pat doesn’t wish to say she is retiring. “I hope there is a lot for me to do,” she said. “Just not grading Latin papers at 2 a.m.”
If you wish to share an anecdote about Dr. Moss, or send your appreciation, please share your thoughts on our tribute page.
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