Jim Luce Visits SUNY Maritime College, Founded by His Forebear

Bronx, N.Y. Rear Admiral Michael A. Alfultis, Ph.D., president of SUNY Maritime College, asked Jim Luce if he knew his great-grandfather several times removed Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce had founded the U.S. Naval War College at Annapolis?

“Yes,” Jim replied, “My grandmother (Agnes Foote Luce) dragged me there as a child – I know it for sure!” Fine, the president asked, but did you also know that twelve years before that, he had founded the Nautical College of New York – which is now SUNY Maritime? Jim reports, “I was flabbergasted… I had no idea at all.”

James Luce Visit Maritime College 11292018 - 15Jim Luce and Rear Admiral Michael A. Alfultis, Ph.D., president of SUNY
Maritime College, pose in front of a portrait of Stephen Bleecker Luce in
the Luce Library at SUNY Maritime. Photo: SUNY Maritime/Vira Wong.

Two weeks later Jim visited the campus and was overwhelmed with emotions to witness the grand library named after his ancestor. The Stephen Bleecker Luce Library at SUNY Maritime College is named after Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce, founder of the U.S. Naval War College (1884) and the Nautical College of New York (1874) which became SUNY Maritime College (1948).

James Luce Visit Maritime College 11292018 - 17SUNY Maritime plaque. Photo: SUNY Maritime/Vira Wong.

On Nov. 29, Jim visited the campus at Ft. Schuyler on the Bronx peninsula under the Throgs Neck Bridge. There, he was picked up from the “6” Train by Doug Hasbrouck (E.D., Development) and taken to lunch in the President’s Home (“Quarters”) where he met Mike’s charming wife Kim, Dr. Joseph Hoffman (Provost), Cpt. Mark Woolley (Chief of Staff), William Imbriale (Dean of Students), and three senior cadets graduating this May.

James Luce Visit Maritime College 11292018 - 36Rear Admiral Michael A. Alfultis, Ph.D., president of SUNY Maritime College,
shares an original copy of Stephen Bleecker Luce’s “Seamanship” with Jim Luce.

After lunch, where they discussed “What is Leadership?,” Jim was escorted through the fort grounds and given a private tour of the library, museum, bridge simulator, and classrooms. Campus photographer Vira Wong captured the tour.

James Luce Visit Maritime College 11292018 - 38Photo: SUNY Maritime/Vira Wong.

Then, Jim and Mike retreated to the President’s Office to discuss ways they could cooperate with each other, as SUNY has begun to cooperate with International Maritime University of Panama with student exchanges and  Mike carefully unwrapped an original copy of Stephen Bleecker Luce’s Seamanship (1866) to share with Jim.

James Luce Visit Maritime College 11292018 - 43Seamanship. Photo: SUNY Maritime/Vira Wong.

The year 2024 will be the 150th anniversary of S.B. Luce founding what is today SUNY Maritime. Mike plans to serve as president through then. He is “Charting New Course” with a 2018-24 Strategic Plan that includes many facets related to the work of the J. Luce Foundation.

James Luce Visit Maritime College 11292018 - 40Jim Luce holding Stephen Bleecker Luce’s treatise “Seamanship.”
Photo: SUNY Maritime/Vira Wong.

Speaking with The Stewardship Report, Jim states:

I was proud and delighted to learn that SUNY Maritime, the oldest institution of its kind in the U.S., was the first maritime college in the country to graduate a woman and is today considered America’s oldest and finest educational institution for the merchant marine.

James Luce Visit Maritime College 11292018 - 25Photo: SUNY Maritime/Vira Wong.

Joseph William wrote in Four Years Before the Mast: A History of New York’s Maritime College:

The State University of New York Maritime College began as the New York Nautical School when in 1874 the federal government, in order to reinvigorate the American shipping industry, authorized the Navy to lend ships to individual states to set up specialized training schools for the merchant marine.  New York became the first state to take advantage of the law, and on January 11, 1875, the first group of 26 boys enrolled in the Nautical School.

The Nautical School, despite being poorly funded and forced to continually defend itself against efforts to shut it down, managed to thrive.  By the turn of the 20th century it had produced a steady stream of sea officers who would go on to become leaders in their vocation. The school now had become the preeminent institution of its kind, which was reflected in a change of name; first to the New York State Merchant Marine Academy in 1929, later to the New York State Maritime Academy in 1941.

By the 1920s, it became clear that in order for the school to maintain its place as the finest school for the merchant marine in the country, it needed to have a permanent shore base.  The institution lobbied to obtain the property at Fort Schuyler on the Throgs Neck Peninsula from the U.S. Army.  The political brouhaha that followed involved many prominent politicians of the day as Robert Moses had wanted to convert the property into a public park.  However, due to the support of leaders such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Lehman, the school won the property after a hard fought battle.

Fort Schuyler was constructed between 1833 and 1856. It was part of the “Third System” of coastal defense that was developed in the wake of the War of 1812.  By the early 20th century, the Fort was obsolete for use as a port defense, and fell into disrepair.  The school, through the support of Depression-Era public works grants, reconditioned the Fort for use as a proper home for the school.   On May 21, 1938, the rebuilt Fort Schuyler was officially dedicated for the institution’s use.

World War II brought further changes to the school including an accelerated training course to support the war effort.  After the war, the college was authorized in 1946 to offer bachelor degrees in Marine Science.   In 1948, the school joined the State University of New York (SUNY) as a founding member.  The next year, the school changed its name to its current form:  The State University of New York Maritime College.

James Luce Visit Maritime College 11292018 - 4Photo: SUNY Maritime/Vira Wong.

According to Wikipedia:

During the academic year, regimental students are obligated to fulfill duties above those necessary for their degrees, as a component of their training. Cadets are required to adhere to regimental rules and regulations, wear prescribed uniforms during business hours, stand watches as part of a duty rotation, and attend formation/muster each morning during the academic week, as well as a weekly uniform inspection on Friday afternoons.

Prior to their freshman (fourth-class, or MUG – an acronym meaning “Mariner Under Guidance”) year, incoming students attend a ten-day indoctrination period, similar to the United States Naval Academy‘s “plebe summer,” which is designed to introduce them to the regimental lifestyle.

During “Indoc,” MUGs go to morning physical training, learn to march, engage in teamwork-building activities, and are immersed in the nautical terminology and lore of the College.

James Luce Visit Maritime College 11292018 - 30Photo: SUNY Maritime/Vira Wong.

Stephen Bleecker Luce became a naval midshipman in 1841 and spent six years at sea, before being appointed to the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Graduating in 1849, Luce’s experience caused him to think about improving naval training and education, and he became an instructor of seamanship and gunnery at Annapolis in 1860. During the Civil War, Luce alternated between the academy and participating in the Union blockade of the Confederacy.

James Luce Visit Maritime College 11292018 - 3SUNY Maritime plaque. Photo: SUNY Maritime/Vira Wong.

After the war, Luce experimented with training reforms, observing Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s efforts to establish an army postgraduate school system. Luce’s efforts resulted in the establishment of the Naval War College at Newport in 1884. He was its president from 1884 to 1886, when, promoted rear admiral, he turned the college over to his friend and protégé, Capt. Alfred T. Mahan, and took command of the North Atlantic Station until his retirement in 1889. Luce continued to write, served as president of the Naval Institute, and later rejoined the Naval War College staff.

Jim Luce is a writer, publisher and educator in New York focused on raising and supporting young global leadership. He heads Orphans International Worldwide, The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation, the New York Global Leaders Lions Club, and serves as an adjunct professor of the Caribbean Maritime University in Kingston, Jamaica where the Luce Centre for Leadership opens this spring. The Luce Leadership Centre of Vancouver also opens this spring, and is scheduled to open in Beijing next year. He is also a board member of the American Caribbean Maritime Foundation, helping alleviate poverty and transforming lives in the Caribbean through maritime education and community development.

See: Biography: Rear Admiral Stephen Bleecker Luce (Stewardship Report, August 11, 2011)

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The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org). There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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