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JU dedicates state-of-the-art floating classroom, new docks and vessels on St. Johns River

With the St. Johns River behind them and a future emphasizing JU’s waterfront in front of them, University officials and donors unveiled more than $500,000 worth of research, sailing and rowing vessels and docks on Friday, Jan. 31. (See a Facebook photo gallery at  http://ow.ly/tvQD8.)

The Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute’s new state-of-the-art floating classroom, the Gentry Family Floating Docks and JU’s new sailing fleet and rowing shells were shown off to an appreciative crowd at the Negaard Rowing Center, with a blessing of the fleet and tours bookending the festivities. Speakers included JU President Tim Cost, MSRI Executive Director Quinton White, JU Varsity Sailing Head Coach Jon Faudree, JU Director of Rowing Jim Mitchell and JU students.

“These essential investments in our waterfront are a significant part of our effort to create a great place for learning and growth for our students,” Cost said. “I’m very proud of our entire school, staff, faculty and Board of Trustees for sharing in this highest of priorities.”

The 48-foot-by-12-foot floating classroom and a new companion dock will allow students and faculty to conduct engaging and immediate research, classes and study. The Coast Guard-certified pontoon vessel is equipped with student-oriented design, lab stations, electrical power and the capability to accommodate classes of up to 28 people. On board, students will be able to engage in sampling and observation of river life and have access to equipment such as microscopes.

The floating classroom was funded largely by Rene and Lawrence Kurzius with a challenge grant gift from JU Trustee Chuck Wodehouse and his wife, Camilla. It was dubbed the “Larkin” for the daughter of the Kurziuses. The new dock was funded largely by a challenge grant from Susan and W.C. Gentry and the Kurziuses.

The 12 new Z420 sailboats christened are newly designed specifically for college sailing, and JU has one of the first fleets. More than 200 donors raised nearly $100,000 to help fund the JU Sailing team and purchase this fleet.

“The love of the water is what draws many people here to JU,” said Sailing Coach Faudree. “We hope we will become a gateway to our river in the future.”

In addition, two eight-person rowing shells, dedicated last November, were on display. They were christened with the names “Cookie Petrakis” and “John Petrakis” in honor of the couple’s generous contributions and support of the JU rowing program. John Petrakis is a JU alum.

“The new floating classroom opens more area on the river for research and lab work,” said Krystal Dannenhoffer, a JU Marine Science senior watching the festivities.

Ciarra Slater, 21, a Marine Science junior, agreed.

“We are up to date with our competition with this new classroom. We are going to start getting a broader range of students because of additions like this.”

About Jacksonville University

Jacksonville University works to prepare each of its more than 4,000 students for lifelong success in learning, achieving, leading and serving. Its nearly 200-acre riverfront campus is just minutes from downtown Jacksonville and the Atlantic Ocean. It has been named one of “America’s Best Colleges” for 10 straight years, and ranks in the top 1% among all Florida colleges for Return on Investment for its graduates. With a 12 to 1 student-faculty ratio and full-time faculty percentage of 80 percent, it offers small class sizes, inviting campus grounds and engaged faculty and staff in a setting that promotes community, ambition and responsibility. JU has nearly 190 full-time faculty and offers more than 70 majors, programs and concentrations. Additionally, it offers graduate degrees in business, choreography, education leadership, marine science, mathematics, nursing and orthodontics. JU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) and Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).