On Thursday May 21, 2015, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum will launch its newest Champlain Longboat, “Jimmy D.” The 32’ pilot gig is named after Jim Doolan who 40 years ago founded the Diversified Occupations Program (D. O.), a public special education program based at the Hannaford Career Center in Middlebury, Vermont. “Doolan has been involved in the building of fourteen boats at LCMM by students from the D.O. program,” recalls LCMM Outdoor Education Director Nick Patch. “With his warmth and visionary approach to special education, Jim has positively impacted the lives of so many area youth that we unanimously determined he deserved to have this boat named in his honor.” The public is welcome to attend the festive boat launch event at no charge. Starting at 11am the program includes student presentations, a parade to the waterfront, the launch of the boat, and light refreshments.
Students and educators from the Diversified Occupations Program have worked four days a week since January with LCMM staff and volunteers to construct the new boat, starting from a pile of lumber. Along the way, they also have gone into the woods with the David Brynn, Director of theVermont Family Forests to select trees and helped mill and stack the lumber for next year’s boat. Over the years, area high school students working with LCMM staff and volunteers have built 19 traditional wooden rowing boats. LCMM maintains an active fleet of 13 four- and six-oar rowing gigs used annually by over 400 youth in after school rowing programs and regional racing events. The boats, a traditional English design originally used during the 1800s to row the pilot or navigator to sailing ships as they approached coastal waters, are also used for adult community rowing and environmental education programs.
Who Is Jim Doolan?
Jim’s love of wooden boats began when he was a child and spent summer with his grandfather who was a master boatbuilder in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Jim usually has more than one wooden boat that he is in the process of restoring. With experience as a principal of two special education schools, in 1971, Doolan created Diversified Occupations, a regional special education program serving high school students from Otter Valley, Middlebury, Vergennes, and Mount Abraham. D.O. classes are held at the Hannaford Career Center in Middlebury. Those who participate in Champlain Longboats spend a semester in the boatshop at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Jim retired in 1999 and began his second career with the Champlain Longboats Program. “I love the staff and the students of D.O., the progress students make, and seeing the success of D.O. graduates in the community,” says Jim. The community may be honoring Jim at the celebration on Thursday, but to Jim, it’s all about the students.