BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — Coast Guard personnel are known for executing complex missions such as saving lives and rescuing distressed vessels, but what do you say about an officer who did all this and was in charge of relocating an entire lighthouse?
You might say, please join the board of directors of the Custom House Maritime Museum.
Rear Admiral (ret.) Daniel May joined the board shortly after moving to the city a year ago, and assumed the chairmanship in May when then-chair Mark Griffin stepped down.
The designation seemed appropriate, because there isn’t much that the personable May doesn’t know about the sea or its history.
“I’ve had many commands and carried out numerous missions,” said May, who was one of just 40 admirals in the 40,000-member Coast Guard when he retired. “One unusual one was relocating the Block Island Southeast Light, the first move of a major lighthouse structure within the United States (in the early ‘90s).
“When it came time to retire, my wife, Leslie, and I chose Newburyport. I had commanded this general area toward the end of my career, and we just loved coming here. We’re very pleased it worked out this way.”
May’s ascension to the chairman of the Maritime Museum comes at a time when the organization has entered a period of revitalization.
Membership is surging; the number of annual visitors doubled in 2012 to close to 17,000.
The organization will hold a celebration on Saturday evening, Sept. 7, to mark the completion of its longstanding efforts of exterior preservation of its historic building.
“Dan brings a great deal of knowledge to the board,” said Michael Mroz, executive director the Maritime Museum. “He has broad expertise in operations, and is a very genuine and capable leader. We feel fortunate that he’s joined our organization.”
May, a native of Orlando, graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1979. He’s held leadership positions in numerous ports, including on the North Shore.
Perhaps because he has skills in both engineering and operations, May has been chosen for numerous challenging posts. As an engineer, he supervised the moving of the lighthouse on Block Island, and also a similar structure on Cape Cod. As an administrator, he served as assistant superintendent of the 1,000-student U.S. Coast Guard Academy, among other high-level posts.
May has exhibited energy and achievement in his three-decade career, and his interest in work and people has resulted in a full-time position in his “retirement.”
May is currently academy director at the Reading Police Academy, a state facility that trains police recruits to serve in law-enforcement positions in towns and small cities.
“Dan became a finalist for the job because of his work at the Coast Guard Academy,” said Daniel Zivkovich, executive director, Massachusetts Police Training Committee. “Since he’s been here, his experience has enabled him to learn the nuances of our program.
“He’s very personable, and good with the recruiting process. He has become a contributor in a short time,” he said.
Zivkovich and May will greet a new class of about 43 potential recruits in Reading in mid-September.
May said his priorities as chair of the Maritime Museum include continuing to work to preserve the historic building. Education is also an important aim, and he plans to ensure that all students in this area will have visited the museum by the time they graduate from high school.
“We also want to support preservation as a whole,” he said. “We appreciate our great history, and want the museum to be a meeting place for those who want to keep our maritime heritage alive.”