The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

March 9, 2012

Titanic discoverer to speak at Thomas Jefferson graduation

JOPLIN, Mo. — Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard will deliver the commencement address for the class of 2012 at this year’s graduation at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School on May 27.

“In looking for a speaker, we wanted one to appeal not just to graduates, but a sizable portion of the student body,” said Steven McCollum, academic dean. “His work in oceanography and the JASON Project will hopefully get lots of kids interested in this type of scientific activity.”

The JASON Project is a nonprofit organization founded by Ballard in 1989 that is managed by the Sea Research Foundation, and works to connect students with scientists to encourage education in science. McCollum said the seniors have had a positive reaction to having Ballard speak.

“We think that he’ll make an impression on the kids and increase their interest in science,” McCollum said.

The school looked at athletes and actors as potential speakers as well, but decided Ballard was the right fit.

Ballard is chairman of The JASON Project and explorer-in-residence with the National Geographic Society. His most famous discoveries, besides the Titanic, are the Lusitania, Bismarck, U.S.S. Yorktown and 11 warships from the World War II fleet of Guadalcanal. Ballard also helped develop remote-operated submersibles for deep underwater exploration that aid in the discoveries of sunken vessels.

This year marks the 100th anniversary since the “unsinkable” luxury liner Titanic struck an iceberg and sank while taking its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York. The death toll was 1,517 people. The ship now rests 12,415 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. McCollum said having Ballard come to the school the same year as the anniversary of the sinking was purely coincidental.

This year’s graduating class has 18 students. The school’s current enrollment is 265 students. The ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 27 in the TJ Concert Hall, 3401 E. Newman Road. If guests wish to attend, they can call Robert Carlson at 417-781-5124.

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