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Maritime history students to be honored

Friday, October 20, 2017

Seven Mercyhurst University students, who completed last summer’s inaugural maritime history course aboard the U.S. Brig Niagara, will be honored Monday, Oct. 23, during a pinning ceremony at 4 p.m. in the student union.

Dr. Leanne Roberts, dean of the Hafenmaier College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, will preside over the event. Mercyhurst President Michael T. Victor will address the students, along with Dr. Benjamin Scharff, who devised the course. Crew of the Niagara and representatives of the Erie Maritime Museum are also expected to attend.

The students lived on board the Niagara for two-and-a-half weeks and were trained by professional crew members in traditional seafaring skills, an immersion experience for which they earned three history credits. The tall ship, reconstructed in 1988, is a replica of the square-rigged sailing warship that fought in the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie.

The students include:

  • James Wallace, a senior from New Franklin, Ohio, who is majoring in Intelligence and Russian Studies with minors in History and International Relations & Diplomacy.
  • Alex Feasley, a senior History major from Eden, New York.
  • Cedric Chan, a junior from Naperville, Illinois, majoring in Exercise Science.
  • Ella Santillano, who is studying Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology. She is a sophomore from Erie.
  • Logan Ford, a sophomore from Waterford, majoring in Intelligence Studies and Political Science with specialization in Applied Politics.
  • Bill Riva, a sophomore History major from Erie.
  • Donny Bryant of Wexford, a sophomore majoring in Communications.

History professors John Olszowka and Ben Scharff introduced the three-credit history course to Mercyhurst students for the first time. Scharff, who wrote the curriculum, accompanied students on their summer voyage.

Besides lessons in seamanship and maritime history, he said students acquired a deeper understanding of the seafaring culture. They also learned sailing terminology, physical skills, familiarity with the ship and the social structure of shipboard life.

Mercyhurst hopes to expand the hands-on learning opportunity in the coming years.