Sixty years ago on Jan. 15, the predecessor of the Fisheries and Marine Institute held its snowstorm-delayed official opening at Memorial’s former Parade Street campus in St. John’s.
Classes started at the College of Fisheries Navigation, Marine Engineering and Electronics less than seven months after Premier Joseph Smallwood’s mid-1963 announcement to create a college serving the educational needs of the fishing and marine transportation industries.
Dr. Paul Brett, vice-president of Memorial University (Marine Institute), says the new college immediately distinguished itself by offering unique oceans programs not found elsewhere.
“In the early days, the focus was on training for very specific industries in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. “But in the long run, the founders laid the groundwork for the Marine Institute to be a global educational and research leader for the oceans sector.”
Led by its first president, Dr. William Hampton, the college delivered two preliminary programs to 146 students thanks to the efforts of 22 instructors, 12 administrative staff, a librarian, a registrar and a three-member advisory board.
Those courses offered instruction on marine navigation, fish processing and care of nets and other fishing gear.
A Newfoundland and Labrador scientist who had worked in the seafood industry, Dr. Hampton labelled the early courses “shake-down cruises” designed to learn more about the students, their education needs and the challenges ahead.
The lack of high school diplomas among many potential students was one challenge facing the new college.
The solution was offering pre-training courses in English, math and general science to provide a high school equivalent education.
“I think we are making quite good progress, although some of the problems facing us are really quite difficult . . . text books for the kind of courses we must offer just do not exist,” wrote Dr. Hampton in a 1964 article for the Newfoundland Journal of Commerce. “Virtually, we have to prepare all the text material ourselves starting at the very beginning.”
Based on those early lessons, the college developed two types of programs for September 1964: diplomas of technology in nautical science, marine engineering and naval architecture; and short courses in watchkeeping, navigation and engine repair and maintenance. Both remain key parts of the institute’s academic programming today.
Research was also on the college’s radar.
“We plan to make our College of Fisheries a first-class institution,” wrote Dr. Hampton. “We will act as a centre for dissemination of information and as a centre for research. Our major interest in the latter field will be in technological research . . . In due course we will plan to act as a centre for special studies which might be carried out under contract or by grant from either government or industry.”
Certificates to doctorates
Today, the Marine Institute offers a range of oceans-related programs from technical certificates to doctoral degrees.
In 1985 the institute moved to its Ridge Road building which was equipped with a seafood products laboratory, acoustic tank, marine simulation facility and a lecture hall named for Dr. Hampton.
The world’s largest flume tank was completed three years later.
By 1992 the institute joined Memorial University, expanding its programs to include undergraduate and graduate degrees in fisheries, maritime studies and ocean technology.
Its applied research centres and specialized training units provide practical, industrial solutions and deliver community-based and industrial-response training courses to hundreds of participants annually.
The Launch in Holyrood offers a safe and reliable near-Arctic environment to test new technology, train in harsh conditions and explore the next advancements in ocean research — in, on and under the water.
1/ Official opening
2/ Fish processing
3/ Class in session
4/ Mending nets
6/ Marine engineering
“We offer a post-secondary model that remains strong and relevant to our students and the industries we serve,” said Dr. Brett. “We have an equally strong vision for the next 20 years to guide our province to the world through our leadership in oceans education, training and research. We are well positioned to serve our province in growing our oceans economy.”