Dr. Mary Malloy
Professor, Maritime Studies
Mary Malloy quickly set the tone of Maritime Studies S-193. "She opened her first class by singing a song," recalls Kett Murphy, 20, a student. "It was a very refreshing change from everything. It shocked us into attention."
It was through music that Mary came to Maritime Studies. Music was Mary's life until well into college, as she pursued a career as a classical violinist. In 1976, while an undergraduate, Mary traveled to Ireland and fell in love with traditional music. Upon her return to the states, Mary jettisoned the classical music and joined a traditional Irish band, playing violin and singing sea songs.
At a gig at the San Francisco Maritime Museum, Mary met her husband, Stuart Frank, now director of the Kendall Institute at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The pair started their own band, and have performed traditional sea music for 25 years all over North America, Europe, Australia, and Japan. Mary plays violin and sings while Stuart plays guitar, squeeze boxes, and accordion. "It was from playing those songs, which were actually used to get the rhythm of work on shipboard, [that] I got interested in maritime history," says Mary.
In 1991, while working on her Ph.D. in American civilization at Brown University, Mary first started teaching at SEA; the next year, she was hired full time (currently Mary's working three-quarter's time, and teaching a course at Harvard). In the 14 years she's been with SEA, Mary's teaching has evolved from looking at a very broad picture of seafaring to a narrower concentration on the place to which the students will be traveling. And of course, music is a part of the syllabus, as Mary and Stuart perform, usually at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. "Mary is a treasure. "Her playing her music was an amazing thing," says Kett Murphy. "It brought the past alive."
On one trip Mary took with the Seamans, she saw her doctoral thesis on trade between New England and the Northwest coast came alive. En route from Sitka to Tacoma, the Seamans sailed the route American trade ships had traveled two centuries before. At a stop at a tiny village in British Columbia, Mary was taken back 200 years, to the time when, at the very same spot, two American ships had had violent encounters with the native Haida Indians. "It was a moment," she says, "that absolutely captured my imagination."
Despite teaching more than 50 different Maritime Studies classes, Mary, an upbeat woman with a sing-song voice, remains energized. "It continues to astonish me. Each class is different from any other class, each has its own unique personality," she says. "And because I'm gearing things for the specific cruise tracks, that is the thing that makes for the constant change."
In Foxboro, Mary's four-bedroom Queen Anne Victorian house is a maritime and music museum of sorts. She and her husband collect sheet music and other ephemera related to Grace Darling, an English maritime heroine of the 19th century. The couple also has more than 600 figurines playing the concertina or the accordion, from all over the world. Says Mary of the latter with a laugh: "The stupidest collection in the world."
Mary recently finished two books she's now trying to get published: a novel about a historian who solves mysteries by historical research and a biography of American sea captain Samuel Hill. With so many interests, however, teaching never takes a back seat, even to students long gone. Jason Greer, 25, of Montana, an alum of S-185 and a fledgling writer, says Mary took him under her wing and continues to encourage his writing through regular communication. "By far and away," says Greer, "she has invested in my talents and education beyond any teacher. She is engaging, charismatic and passionate."