President's Column

 

September 2017

 

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SIU President Michael Sacco reports on a half-century of growth and progress at the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center

 

As the SIU’s affiliated school in Piney Point, Maryland, enters its second half-century of operations, I remain proud of the institution’s remarkable advancement.

 

I was there almost from the school’s earliest days. It officially opened in August 1967, but, as has been well-chronicled, Piney Point was more of a construction zone than a maritime school in those initial years. I’m not sure any of us who were there in the late 1960s could have truly, fully envisioned what a first-class, comprehensive, modern training facility Piney Point would become.

 

That includes the campus’ namesake, Paul Hall, the second president of the Seafarers International Union of North America (SIUNA) and the top official of the SIU Atlantic and Gulf Districts starting in 1947. Paul was a visionary who could get things done sometimes by sheer force of will, but he was also smart enough to see how raw our slice of Piney Point was when the property was acquired. I knew him long enough, and worked for him closely enough, that I’m confident in saying while he wouldn’t have been shocked by the school’s success, he’d have been pleasantly surprised by the high-tech details and refinements.

 

By the way, although Paul is rightly credited for making the school a reality, there’s a closely related part of our history that sometimes gets overlooked. Namely, he also set in motion the founding of three other main SIU training facilities beginning in 1952. These were the forerunners of Piney Point, and they were known as Andrew Furuseth Training Schools, named in memory of the person considered the father of the American maritime labor movement. Furuseth was president of the old International Seamen’s Union, which eventually spawned the SIU.

 

Anyway, the Furuseth schools were located in New York (then the site of SIU headquarters), Mobile, and New Orleans. Paul changed the name in 1965 to the Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship – a tip of the Stetson to the first president of the SIUNA, who died in 1957. Two years following the renaming, he consolidated those operations in southern Maryland.

 

Paul would be the first to tell you that the credit for the school’s growth belongs to many, many people. Union and school officials, instructors, staff, students and employer trustees have all played essential roles as the Paul Hall Center became our lifeblood. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to help spearhead some of that progress; I served as the school’s vice president from 1968 to 1979, and I still go there every single day unless I’m travelling. I remain closely involved.

 

During previous anniversaries, we’ve published long articles and timelines and testimonials about the school. We’re trying something different this year, as detailed elsewhere in this issue of the LOG. Sometime after Labor Day, we’re mailing a special edition of the LOG to our ships and union halls. That’ll be a photographic history – representative rather than comprehensive, but a lot of work has gone into it. We’ll also be posting a related video on our website by early October.

 

Meanwhile, if I had to summarize what the school means to our union, I would say it’s one of the keys to our future, and it’s the hub of the ship’s wheel. Although we’re constantly working with the U.S. Coast Guard and others to ease the regulatory burdens on mariners, there will always be training requirements – and I suspect our industry will always be closely regulated. That means there will be an ongoing need for department- specific training as well as general shipboard safety classes for our members from the United States and Canada.

 

Piney Point will be there to deliver that training for the next 50 years and another 50 after that. Our school – the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, which includes the Lundeberg School as well as the Joseph Sacco Fire Fighting and Safety School – is second to none in the world. Visit the campus and you’ll know that’s not hype.

 

Happy anniversary!

 

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