KINGS POINT, N.Y., February 14, 2014 - On Tuesday, January 28, 2014 Dr. Jennifer L. Speelman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) lectured a group of retired individuals at the Cumberland Avenue Adult Education Center in Great Neck. Rear Admiral James A. Helis, Superintendent applauded Dr. Speelman’s engagement with the community and said, “it is our strong desire as an institution to be better connected with our neighbors.”
She received a very warm welcome from about 50 adult learners. “Dr. Speelman was very informative regarding the history of USMMA and its importance to our country in peacetime as well as during times of conflict. She was very well received by our group,” said Irma Wolin, Retired Energetic Active People (REAP), Program Chair. “Dr. Speelman’s enthusiasm and knowledge impressed our members and was exhibited by their comments and accolades after the end of the program.”
Calling USMMA “Great Neck’s Best Kept Secret,” Speelman lectured on the passage of the Marine Act of 1874 which first established state maritime colleges, the Morro Castle disaster of 1934, the establishment in 1938 of U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps, and the eventual dedication in 1943 of the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point – our nation’s first federal Academy dedicated to training Merchant Marine Officers. She emphasized the importance of USMMA to our nation’s maritime industry and explained how Midshipmen gain that experience not only from curriculum at the Academy, but also from the 300 or more days that they spend as cadets aboard commercial and military vessels during their Sea Year. Speelman also invited the group to learn more by visiting the Academy and the American Merchant Marine Museum which is located on Academy grounds in the former William Barstow estate. Barstow was an electrical engineer who became the first Mayor of Kings Point. The Museum is open to the public Tuesday through Friday 10am to 3 pm.
“We welcome visitors from the local community,” said Rear Admiral Helis. “Their support has allowed USMMA to successfully educate and graduate licensed merchant mariners and leaders of exemplary character who served America’s marine transportation and defense needs for over 70 years.”
Speelman teaches in the Humanities Department and offers courses in Maritime History, Naval History, and Civil War History. She received her B.A. from the Pennsylvania State University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Temple University in Philadelphia. Prior to joining the Humanities Department at Kings Point, she taught for nine years at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. Jennifer is an active member of the Society for Military History, the country’s fourth largest historical association. She served as the Coordinator for the 2005 Annual Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina and is now in her second term as Trustee. Jennifer has written several encyclopedia entries including “Naval Apprentices” for Naval Warfare: An International Encyclopedia and “The Citadel” and “The Merchant Marine” for the Encyclopedia of War and American Society as well as contributed a chapter entitled “The United States Navy and the Genesis of Maritime Education” to the volume Beyond Combat: Essays in Honor of Russell F. Weigley. She is currently working on a manuscript entitled “When the Sea was a Hard School: A History of United States Maritime Education, 1874-1941” and a study of the Charleston Navy Yard, 1905-1995.