Changing of the Guard

Barclay Collins speaking at the annual Members' Meeting on September 27.

Barclay Collins speaking at the annual Members’ Meeting on September 27.

With a River Room jam-packed with milestone members and Mystic Seaport staff and friends, at 3 p.m. on Friday, September 27, the Members’ Annual Meeting elected the slate of trustees and witnessed the change of leadership from Chairman Richard Vietor to new Chairman J. Barclay Collins II. Richard served the Museum extremely well in the capacity, following in the footsteps of other Chairmen Bill Forster and Bill Cook, both present. Other past chairmen include familiar names such as P.R. Mallory, Percy Chubb II, William Ridgway Jr., Rudy Schaefer III, and Clifford Mallory Jr. Mystic Seaport has been fortunate indeed to have had such strong leadership over the years guiding and supporting the Museum through both following and head seas.

When I assumed the helm as President in January 2009, the economic world was imploding, levying incredible stress on the financial underpinning of Mystic Seaport. From my earliest days here, Richard Vietor was a pillar of strength and dedication, working tirelessly with me, staff, and trustees to keep the Museum on an even keel and, further, to embrace a strategic vision that would help the Museum emerge from the economic chaos strong and debt free. Non-profits like Mystic Seaport depend mightily on Board leadership, and Mystic Seaport has been blessed over the years with a strong dynamic Board with a strong leader at the top. At the annual recognition dinner on the September 27, Richard was suitably honored by his peers and other donors to the Museum, while Barclay was welcomed to his new role.

Barclay continues in this tradition of leaders, and I am fortunate to have the chance to work with another chairman who believes so deeply in the Museum’s mission and who assumes his volunteer role with the same commitment and focus as would have been given to his work prior to his retirement. With his classic ketch India on the river and with grandchildren enrolled in summer programs, we can expect to see Barclay frequently on the water and on the grounds. I’m confident that you will enjoy meeting Barclay, and he looks forward to getting to know as many staff and members as possible.

Other elements of the annual meeting included comments from Richard Vietor and Treasurer Steve Munger regarding the Museum’s financial position at the close of the fiscal year on April 30, 2013. You will see both of their presentations in the 2013 Annual Report, soon to be issued on the Museum’s website. In summary, Mystic Seaport remains in a strong position, thanks in large part to stable attendance, strong market growth for the endowment, prudent management, and generous donors. While Mystic Seaport remains debt free, we still rely too heavily on endowment income, and Barclay Collins has announced that easing that dependence will be a top priority over the next three years with increasing the size of the Annual Fund as a key component to that strategy.

Since the close of FY 2013, the highlights of FY 2014 have been “The Launch” with nearly 25,000 witnessing it onsite, “on-river,” and online; the launch of a new website; four significant state and federal grants; an uptick in attendance; and a strong beginning to the Annual Fund. The balance of the year will see the staff focused on the visitor experience, the launch of the Mystic Seaport for Educators website, fulfilling “The Year of the Charles W. Morgan” and of course the preparations for the ceremonial 38th Voyage, set to begin May 17, 2014. It shaping up to be another outstanding year!

Steve White