JU christens floating classroom

R/V Larkin takes learning to the St. John's River.

Ju+president+%2CTim+Cost%2C+discusses+the+impact+of+R%2FV+Larkin+with+the+research+vessel+in+the+background.

Stefanie Keeler

Ju president ,Tim Cost, discusses the impact of R/V Larkin with the research vessel in the background.

Not all classrooms are confined within four walls, a white board—or even land.

The Marine Science Research Institute has received a new floating classroom, a 48-by-12 foot pontoon boat called the R/V Larkin.

The boat carries 29 students, two crewmembers and Coast Guard Capt. Gary Kirkland.

“We can take an entire class out and we can show them living things coming right out of the water, but turn them loose into the river,” said executive director of the MSRI, Quinton White, Ph.D. “It is going to be a huge opportunity for students.”

The city of Jacksonville has recently begun to refocus on the river in the recent decades.

“The city of Jacksonville turned its back on the riverfront many years ago,” White said. “In 1976 the city began to embrace the river more. Recently, the trend has continued to campus with the Negaard Rowing Center, MSRI and riverfront activities.”

Planning began about ten years ago during the presidency of Kerry Romesburg, according to White.

“He finally said, ‘all right, let’s go do it,’” White said.

It took about four years to raise funds for the MSRI building, outdoor classroom, dock and boat. The department raised approximately $544,000 through a variety of large challenge grants and donations from alum’s and board members.

Lawrence Kurzius, whose daughter graduated from JU in 2012 as a marine science major and is who the boat is named after, was one of the main donors. He became a Board of Trustee Member while Larkin attended JU.

Another donor, Charles Wodehouse, said the school was lacking hype. He wanted to help bring excitement back to JU, especially to the Riverfront.

“What’s a marine science school without a boat,” he said.

The pontoon, floating classroom is a pristine boat, White said.

“We sat down with several people and started telling them what we wanted in a boat,” White said. “The manufacturer thought it was actually better, easier and cheaper to build a brand new boat instead. So we’re getting a brand new boat.”

Faculty, trustees, donors and professors are not the only ones who are excited about the new addition.

“It’ll get us out of the classroom,” said Kalli Unthank, junior marine science major. “It will also help us learn more about the river since it is such an important aspect of Jacksonville that needs to be studied more in depth.”

The dedication for the R/V Larkin, new dock, rowing shells and sailing fleet was on Friday, Jan. 31 at 4:30 p.m. at the new dock behind the boathouse.

Speakers shared gratitude for the donations, including freshman marine science major Victoria Caba, varsity sailing coach Jon Faudree, sophomore on the sailing team Ellis Harr, director of rowing Jim Mitchell, sophomore on the rowing team Julianna Welch and President Tim Cost.

“The new dock is world class and will allow our program to continue to grow in size, purpose, competitive results and will allow us to continue to represent JU in the most positive way,” Mitchell said.

The new additions have helped push the MSRI into being a more innovative program.

“The building was a big deal, the dock was a big deal and now the boat is a big deal,” White said. “I think it is all coming together.”

It’s hard to deny the many additions and changes occurring on campus.

“Previously JU said ‘there’s no better time to attend JU than now,’” Kurzius said. “They were wrong, now is the best time to attend JU.”