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Title:
Interview with James F. Merritt, November 9, 2006
Date:
November 9, 2006
Description:
Dr. James F. Merritt discusses his 30-plus year history at UNCW. He came to the biology department in 1973 (when the university had around 1700 students) to teach courses in genetics and related areas. He moved into administration, first as department chair and then as director of the Center for Marine Science Research following Dr. Ralph Brauer's retirement. Discussion includes Marine Expo in 1985, 1987, and 1989 and the Center for Marine Science facility in Myrtle Grove, which opened in 2000.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Merritt, James Interviewer: Riggins, Adina Date of Interview: 11/9/2006 Series: Voices of UNCW Length: 75 minutes

Riggins: Hello. Today is November 9th, 2006. My name is Adina Riggins, I'm the university archivist, and I'm standing behind the camera today. I'm very fortunate to have a guest here in front of the camera who will be talking to us about a lot of things, including marine science at UNCW. Please, Dr. Merritt, state your name for the tape.

James Merritt: James F. Merritt.

Riggins: Thank you. Thank you very much for being here. We will be discussing your longtime service in leadership of marine sciences at UNCW. First, though, I'd like to get some background information. Let's find out a little bit about where you came from before you got here. Where were you born, Dr. Merritt, and where did you grow up?

James Merritt: Okay, I was born in Wake County, North Carolina north of Raleigh, on a small rural farm. I grew up there in Wake County, went to high school, elementary, middle, high, the whole thing all in one little school building. In fact in each class there was about 30-some people per grade total. So there were 12 grades in the school, and there was-- they started out, well, there they may have been 40 or so at the beginning, but by the time we all graduated, the class I graduated in in 1962 was the largest. If you were graduating, there was 33 people in it. That was the senior graduating class. Everyone graduated who was there. It's interesting. Very few every dropped out. So...

Riggins: The proverbial one-room schoolhouse?

James Merritt: Well kind of. Well... (laughs)

Riggins: Well you couldn't have one, no.

James Merritt: It wasn't one room, but it was one school building does the whole-- serves the whole community from first grade through twelfth grade. There was no kindergarten at the time. It was just first grade through twelfth grade. We had a hard time with sports because we didn't have enough players (laughs) for some of the teams.

Riggins: I wouldn't think so, especially for football.

James Merritt: Yeah, football was a trouble.

Riggins: But you still played it.

James Merritt: We still played it. In fact, I played football. I was a guard, believe it or not, as small (laughs) as I am, because there weren't a lot of big people, and just about anyone who was willing to could play.

Riggins: They'd say "Come on."

James Merritt: Which is sort of interesting. You know, now you really have to compete. But then, if you wanted to, you could do it. It wasn't like a competition from that regard. So that was high school. Then I went off to college, East Carolina, for a Bachelor's degree and Master's degree, and a PhD at NC State in genetics. I was interested in crop genetics or plants growing up on a farm, why things grew like they did. So when I figured out-- when I learned enough to know there was cause and effect there, then I got into the prospect and went and got a degree in genetics.

Riggins: And the PhD was also in genetics?

James Merritt: Right. Well the Master's degree was general biology, and I did some plant anatomy work. But the PhD was in genetics of crop plants. Actually it was work on the genus to which the tobacco belongs, nicotiana. There's 60-some species in the genus, and I worked a little bit-- did some cytogenetic work on all of them, looking at differences and comparisons. And it was a-- your kind of a pure source, based on a plant that was of commercial interest. And of course in the early 60s it was getting tobacco-- it was before it was discovered it was such a nasty health hazard.

Riggins: But did people really suspect, in the sciences, that it was bad for you?

James Merritt: Well, I don't know, because it never was looked at. We were just looking at it as a research. I grew up on a farm where we grew tobacco, and my father smoked. But he said, "You shouldn't smoke. You shouldn't have anything to do with it." You know, he realized it wasn't something positive about it. And later he finally quit. But my mother never did. And so yeah, there was some recognition that anything like that's not necessarily the best for you, because you're not eating it. It's a drug. It's something you're doing. So...

Riggins: Right. So there was recognition. But in your community where you grew up, was almost everyone farming families?

James Merritt: Yeah, Pretty much the whole-- there was a little-- few people who lived in the town worked in different-- there was a monument shop that cut stones for graveyards, and the little stores there where some people worked. And in later years a little light textile industry came in that changed over. It didn't last too long. But most of the people either work on a farm, or as they grew up they went to Raleigh, found a job, and worked in some business there, either for the state, some state agency, or some private concern, either Raleigh or Wake Forest. So most of the people-- the predominant number of people there were on the farm, farming.

Riggins: And so the people of your generation, most of them didn't stay farming, I would guess?

James Merritt: Right. No, they didn't. There were a few.

Riggins: It's a hard life.

James Merritt: But they couldn't all stay, otherwise you'd have had a postage-stamp sized farms as they divvied it up amongst the children. So one or two may have stayed, the rest took off and went somewhere else. So, you know, I can see it now still. The farms are kind of still there, but there's only one or two of the ones who were there still farming. The rest went and did something else. And so there are a few farming families that all the members did farm, and they found farms elsewhere, you know, so they could farm. But there were very few where more than one or two stayed there on the farm.

Riggins: That makes sense. Well, when you completed your PhD, what were your plans?

James Merritt: I was just looking for a job, to work somewhere in the university. I wanted to teach and be involved. I had such a good experience as an undergraduate in having revealed what information means, and how you can use it. And it was just so exciting, I thought well, you know, I want to participate in this and share the information. So I was-- when I got close to being finished I started sending out resumes looking for a job. And the one here at UNC Wilmington popped up, and I sent in the information, and was called for an interview, and came down and interviewed, and they offered me the job.

Riggins: Really. Had you been to Wilmington before, gone to the beach?

James Merritt: I'd been-- no. I'd been through Wilmington when I was in high school. Our monogram club went to Carolina Beach for a day. And that was the extent of it. We may have been here once or twice otherwise to Carolina Beach. My, I guess, girlfriend at the time, my wife's people, had some-- had a place down in Carolina Beach with their friends, and they'd go down and stay in the summer, and I think I went down there a time or two before ever coming to Wilmington. But that was the only contact I've had here.

Riggins: Interesting. They were looking for a biology professor?

James Merritt: Someone to teach genetics. So Dan Plyler, who was-- who had been teaching genetics and moved into administration, was moving from chair of the Department of Biology to administration, so they needed someone to teach the genetics course that he had been teaching. So I was employed to teach that genetics course.

Riggins: Okay. In oral history you're not really supposed to ask dates because you're supposed to know it all, but I don't know in this case. Do you know when you came to UNCW?

James Merritt: Yes, it was fall of 1973, is when I started at UNC Wilmington.

Riggins: All right. So not that you necessarily knew all this when you came, but did it seem like UNCW was just beginning to grow right around then, a lot?

James Merritt: Well, it was. The only thing I knew of it at the time was I had this conversation. I was at NC State in the Department of Genetics and the Department of Crop Science. I shared-- I was actually housed and worked with the guy in crop science, who was also a faculty member in genetics. So I got my degree in genetics, but I worked in crop science. But in genetics I was talking to-- and I can't remember his name, Ben, (pause) I don't remember his name. But he was a faculty member there, and I was talking with him one day. And he was asking what I was planning to do. I was about ready to leave. And I said, "Well, I was interviewed for a job at Wilmington College." And he said, "Well, that's the place just been added to the university system, and there's a lot of new things happening there, a lot of excitement, a lot of growth." He said "That would be an interesting place to go." And it turned out to be.

Riggins: That would be in interesting place to start your career. (laughs)

James Merritt: So he didn't know much about it, but he knew there was stuff going on, the movement, and it was going to be a growing place. Yeah.

Riggins: Well, what were your impressions when you started here? What was the university like? What was the department like?

James Merritt: Well everything was obviously much smaller than it is now. I don't remember the numbers, but there were not a whole lot enough faculty in the department. The governance of the faculty themselves did not-- there was a not a faculty center. Everybody sat down and met, and we all could sit and meet in one room. I think we met in King Hall Auditorium. And there were still plenty of seats after the entire faculty was there. And pretty much everyone came to those early meetings, too. There was just not a lot of bodies here. There was 1,700 students when I came, so I don't remember the number of faculty. But there was lots of, you know, people coming in at that time. That was sort of the second or third year of the hiring surge to help get enough faculty to handle the student growth that was taking place.

Riggins: They wanted PhDs.

James Merritt: But then as-- it's probably not changed at all, to make a new place for the new faculty they found me a desk in the herbarium in the department because there was no office for me. This was in Hoggard Hall.

Riggins: Hoggard Hall there was herbarium. Interesting.

James Merritt: There was a herbarium, and it housed biology, nursing, earth science, I forget what else. But there were several things housed in that same building. But the marine science building at the time, which is Friday Hall was being constructed, or the construction had started on it. So the next year, next fall, we moved into the marine science building. So I then had an office, a real office. But the first year I spent on a desk, just sitting on a desk in the herbarium, or using a desk in the herbarium.

Riggins: That was designated as the marine sciences building, Friday Hall?

James Merritt: Yeah. It was called marine sciences for-- until Chancellor Wagoner got permission to name it after President Friday. I forget what year that happened, must have been early 70s, early 80s. somewhere in the 80s.

Riggins: I'd have to check on buildings on the site.

James Merritt: Remember that date, yeah. So okay, I can't even-- you know, the department was small, and there was-- you know, it was a real good atmosphere because everyone was interested in helping students, and mentoring students, and helping students achieve. The faculty who were here were transitioning from-- some had been during the Wilmington College days some had been hired after it had become a 4-year institution, and they graduated the first class. So there was a mix there, and there was a transition in approach to how we all should operate, and how we should handle students. But one thing we wanted to maintain was the connection with the students. We had a real good connection. Any student who wished to could get involved with the faculty doing something, with class, or with field investigations, or what have you. There wasn't a significant amount of research going on. There was some, but it could get involved in projects. I mean the faculty research that it may have been involved in was more directed toward getting projects for the students to do than it was for their own career publications. So there wasn't a lot of it going on, but it was just getting started at that time.

Riggins: What about you? With your background in more crop sciences, did you transition into marine sciences research?

James Merritt: Well, I actually never did much marine sciences research. I got into it in a real kind of administrative-- what the university ought to be doing, what I viewed it growing up in the system, and reflecting on the location it is, what we'd be doing. Because what happened, I came here and of course I wasn't going to continue doing research on the genus in nicotiana. In fact I was working inside of genetics, which was beginning at that time to take a change. You know, I got trained, and got all this knowledge on my cross-screen how to do it just at the time the D&A understanding was changing. And it was in a matter of 8 to 10 years cytogenetics was basically gone. It was just an old field. They were working on actual D&A then. We were looking at the chromosome that contained the D&A, trying to infer various things from the chromosome structure. Well, there wasn't...

Riggins: Probably when the double helix and all that evolved?

James Merritt: Yeah, well that was discovered in the 50s.

Riggins: Oh, okay, that was earlier.

James Merritt: In the early 50s. But, you know, understanding it and then working with it took time. And as all these things were unfolding and unraveling, the site-- you know, one of the earliest things to look at was the chromosomes. And you could just determine different species, and different chromosome numbers, and look at morphologies, and look at relationships based on different chromosome numbers, and look at activities of the chromosomes themselves based on various staining methods and so forth. And that was fading out. When I started here, you know, I had to-- I was looking for some way to continue cytogenetic research, and started working with, it was then Gene Galetta at NC State, the Horticultural Crops Department out at the Horticulture Crops Research Station at Castle Hayne. They had large blueberry experiment plots going on. So I just transferred the cytogenetic work, I was working on nicotiana, to vaccinium. And so I was working with him, I said, Why reinvent the wheel? They've got all their stuff out. We'll just-- I'll just work with the NC State on that." So we started working with that. And then he left and went to Beltsville. And I got a little small grant. Had nothing to work with. I needed a microscope, there was no microscope here that I had access to that was of the quality to look at chromosomes. So I put in a grant proposal with the North Carolina Board of Science and Technology, I think it was. We funded enough money to buy a microscope to start this project. So I started looking at blueberry chromosomes at the time. And that transition into trying to work out of a phenology study, and we had several bad late frosts which killed all my stuff off. And so I was left with incomplete data and no data. And at the same time this was in 1977, '78, I ended up department chairman.

Riggins: Right around...

James Merritt: '78 became department chairman.

Riggins: Of biology.

James Merritt: Of biology at the time. And so then all this stuff took a back seat. I had just taken a hit with the data, I was going to have to start over with it, now I was department chairman and I couldn't get started over with it so I had all this data set on flowering times, and there was lots of vaccinium chromosomes. Actually I had spun off four or five student projects. Students got their work done, and they got presentations at scientific meetings. I didn't get anything out of the blueberry work because mine was too long and it got cut off at the past. Now I was department chairman, trying to do this. And so it kind of got-- taken a back seat. And at the same time I started looking at fish chromosomes. And some of the student projects were on fish chromosomes, because we had plenty of fish around here. And so we were doing some cytogenetic work on fish chromosomes. It took-- I got into administration. And the first chromosome fish paper was finally published in about 1992. this was '78. I started it.

Riggins: Well, it just takes time to do research plus all your other obligations.

James Merritt: Well, I got this-- you know, sidetracked into this totally different arena. And part of the reason I got sidetracked in it was because once I became chair of the department we had the marine science program. That's where I got into the marine sciences effort here at UNC Wilmington. Because I realized that what had happened, we had a marine sciences program that started in '72. I came in '73, Dan Plyler-- the first director was no longer director. Dan Plyler was the interim director of marine sciences. In '75 Gill Bain [ph?] was hired to be the director of the marine sciences program. It was beginning to operate during the time I was, you know, figuring out what was going on here. By the time I became chairman in '78, the marine sciences program was operating, which was charged with developing not only marine science research, but also any environmental studies, curriculum, a degree. The biology department had a BS in marine biology. That was part of the thing that was started as this marine science program was started. So it had a BS in marine biology. And then the program was supposed to also start an EVS program. So Gill Bain spent his time trying to get some research festered up, so to speak, as well as leading the charge to establish environmental studies curricula so we could get a EVS degree. So I come in to department chairmanship in '78 where we've got these huge numbers of students in marine biology, and we've got the environmental effort going. And so I'm dealing with student, after student, after student, and parent, after parent, after parent who dropped by for a visit, who's interested in marine biology or marine science. And, you know, it didn't take-- it wouldn't take somebody long to figure out, well these are people-- some of them, a good number of them are out of state. But a lot are in-state. These are people who viewed this university as a resource for marine studies. And it is on the coast, it's the only one we've got on the coast. So, you know, I then decided well we really ought to be doing the very best job we can for the state, in support of marine science education. Whatever that means, we should be doing the best job that we possibly can. As sequences unfold, I was teaching genetics at the time. You know, I started teaching genetics and taught botany and so forth, and then I dropped back as I became chairman to just teaching one course in genetics. I also started a course in genetics and human affairs, in addition to the general genetics course for the non-science people, because I thought that everyone should have an opportunity to learn something about what makes them tick. To this day a lot of people still don't care, but they really ought to know what makes them tick, because it changes around your appreciation for just what a living being actually is. Anyway, so here I was sitting in the department chair with this growing-- we had probably 10 percent of the student body in the department in those years.

Riggins: I can believe it. You know, I'm from this area, and I remember when I was-- well my brother, when he graduated, which was in '76 or so, he had a friend who came here for marine science. It made an impression. I said "Oh, yeah, the beach. Marine science, that makes sense, marine biology."

James Merritt: (laughs) Yeah, who would ever figure that, you know. You know, why, just as a side, why the state had made more of an effort other than the political battles between the hat and the blah, blah, blah, hadn't recognized it. We can certainly do a much better job training students when we've got them on the coast than having to transfer them. See, I went to East Carolina. I took a field biology course. We took a day trip to the beach and looked at all the kind of critters there. And that was our-- basically our connection with it. That was like exposure to a coastline that's huge, relative to the state.

Riggins: Diverse, yes.

James Merritt: So all these things factoring in, I said "We really ought to be doing everything we possibly can to service the people of this state with regards to marine science, you know." That took me back to the information I had heard from Gene Huguelet during those years in the 80s, '78 to 80s, from a lot of them that this program was put here. And I could think, "Why would they put it here other than it's on the coast?". And they figure that's the place to grow and develop a marine science program, really.

Riggins: A state-supported one, yeah.

James Merritt: So, you know, that's how I got into the marine science administrative push. So here I was in the...

Riggins: Did you have the Wrightsville Beach Facility at this time?

James Merritt: Okay, at this time now the Wrightsville Beach Facility became a part of the university in 1972, I believe it was. I'm not absolutely certain, but I think it was 1972. It was about to fold up, the university took it, the state legislature passed a little bill that provided some funds to support the acquisition of it. The university assumed it along with the director, who was Ralph Brower at the time. It was the Wrightsville Beach Marine Biomedical Lab. They changed the name to Institute for Marine Biomedical Research. Dr. Brower then proceeded to continue with directing basically his research program. That's really all that was going on there. It was high pressure research, and his team followed what it-- that thrust that he was interested in. A few students interacted, but not much. The departmental faculty didn't interact much in the early going.

Riggins: And he taught some on this?

James Merritt: Not until later years. There was not a lot of interaction. It was not until somewhere in the middle 80s, or maybe it was early '82, '83, somewhere in that range he and, or at least Bob George [ph?] was turned-- he was full time working with him, but he was made halftime, halftime to teach. We hired Bob Roer and Dick Dillaman half at the institute and half in this department. So that was beginning to make a connection, there was a sort of a transitioning there, to connect the institute. Prior to that there wasn't a lot of connection. We had the marine sciences program with Gill Bain on campus at the same time. There was no connection. They were separate. The institute had its little thrust and it's budget, marine science program had its little thrust and its budget, the department had the curriculum in marine biology to worry about. Earth sciences participated in one way shape, form or fashion. So there are all these little paws running around here with no real-- they're all going in a direction, and all growing, but it's kind of like you throw a bunch of seeds in the ground and see which one grows.

Riggins: Everyone's kind of got their own thing.

James Merritt: You know, the way I look at it now we've got these different things, and they're all kind of just gestating, but nothing has sprung up as yet. One of the things that was of bigger concern to me was our research capabilities were poor, I'll have to say, when I first came, and in those early years. We had little infrastructure support for research. We had little mentality for research, what it takes to do research. Most of us came from research institution. I came from NC State where everything was set up and geared. There was a mechanism to do research. There were certain things you didn't even have to worry about. Where here you had to worry about everything, because there was nothing available. I didn't even have any equipment, you know. Hardly I could have access to a typewriter if you needed it in those days. So it was just-- it was very difficult to get anything going. So here I set now as department chairman, all these people coming in wanting to hear about our wonderful marines biology program.

Riggins: All the parents, all the students, right.

James Merritt: And looking at-- here we're struggling. We can give them information, but we're trying to give them experiential learning as well. Access to tools and equipment, we don't have much. It was, you know, frustrating. I said, "You know, what we've got to do is put ourselves in a position." So I started, you know, doing everything I possibly could to promote this with the administration, what have you. And I guess that's what led to one first marine expo, because the town and city, and I think it was Bill Schwartz [ph?] at the time, thought that we should try to put something in the fall that was a educational expo around the marine environment. So the chancellor called and says, "Go help him." So I asked, you know, "Well I'd be interested in it." Well I go help him, I end up chairman of the first marine expo. There's a group with the city and the county that was working on it, and of course the mayor at the time was really promoting it, so that helped, you know, helped promote it. So we worked on it for about a year. And then finally in '85 put on the first marine expo.

Riggins: And that was an exposition expedition.

James Merritt: And it was designed as a marine educational expo to focus on all of the marine activities in this region, you know, so people could really get the feel for what's going on here that connects us to the water. The educational program's here, the Cape Fear Community College, well it was Cape Fear Tech at the time, the boating industry and all the things, and other things around it that support boating operations. So I end up being-- participating in this, and end up being the chairman of it. I guess I was-- everybody said, "Who wants to be chairman," and everybody stepped back and left me standing in front. (laugh)

Riggins: (laughs) You didn't react quickly.

James Merritt: But no, because here I was in the marine biology curriculum at the university, with the program. You know, we had had a marine science curriculum, and I need to bring you up to speed on what's that. But we can we take a break? I need to...

Riggins: Oh, certainly.

James Merritt: I think it was about 1984 when the marine expo got to cranking and I got involved in it primarily because of what we had been going on at the university. All of these things led me to be more involved in marine science even though I had no marine science training whatsoever. I was going to say I became the administrator of it. I'm trying to explain how that all came about. Not long after I became department chairman in '78, we began working on a Master's in marine biology, along with Gill Bain and the marine sciences program. So we put together a proposal for that, and I helped finish it off. And actually we implemented it in 1980. It was the first Master's program in the College. And the business, I think-- no it's-- educational business had started the year before, I can't remember.

Riggins: I think it was education.

James Merritt: Yeah, I think it was education. And business may have started either at the same time or a year after, because we had several of us started in there together, because it was kinds of interesting. At graduate registration there were three of us, one from biology, one from business and one from education sitting there helping with the registration in those early years. So it had a Master's program in marine biology that was getting under way at that time. The marine sciences program took a different twist when the Master's was installed, in that Gill Bain who was the then director had submitted a proposal and won a grant to initiate what was called a SURF, Submersible Undersea Research Facility, that became NERC, which is in existence today. he put in the proposal, got the grant funding, and it started as a project in the early '80s, somewhere along in the early 80s. The marine science program was kind of basically dissolved at that time. Resources that had been used for it were divided amongst biology, chemistry and earth sciences. And we had some factor then that were kind of-- had been already, but continued to be half research, half faculty. So we had some not only on campus that were half research, half teaching, but now we had some coming from the institute. You know, I mentioned we were hiring some of those. So we had kind of a conglomerate of halves within the departments, and which was creating a...

Riggins: So you had a marine science major?

James Merritt: Marine biology.

Riggins: Marine biology major. Okay. And then with this change, did you still teach...

James Merritt: We added a Master's degree in marine biology in 1980. Okay? So in 1980, prior to 1980 we had a BS in marine biology. We started a marine sciences program in 1975 that Gill Bain was directing. The institute was picked up in '72, and it was operating with Brower. That's what I mean, we had a pod here, a pod here, and we had a pod there, all involved in marine science activities. I had all these students, overwhelmed with students coming in during that same time period that we're talking about the marine science program at UNCW, and, you know, I wanted us to be what we certainly seemed in the minds of everyone else.

Riggins: Which was great, and wonderful, and well-founded. (laughs)

James Merritt: Yeah, right. (laughs) That's right, you know. Get all those things, your cutting-edge work. Gee, we don't even hardly have-- we have, you know, one boat. We're supposed to be out doing marine research, we've got one boat. Well maybe two sometimes if both-- if one runs, if they're both running. So we have the BS degree, we have the MS degree. The institute's running along, the marine science program is being dissolved. The resources are put into departments, we have NERC starting up as another supported program, kind of affiliated with the department because it had to have some kind of home, but really working out of the provost and research administration office. It really didn't have a home. It was stuck over in Friday Hall as well in those early years. It grew so fast that during that same timeframe it moved its offices down to the state ports, rented some space and moved down there because it had a boat. Once it got the first Sea Hawk, the vessel, it had to berth it to port so they got it out on a place there. So in that period of the early 80s we had all these things taking place.

Riggins: And when you say the marine sciences program was dissolved...

James Merritt: Let me-- the program at the university did not disappear, the administrative unit that was called marine sciences.

Riggins: I see, because the department was growing more.

James Merritt: Was dissolved. The resources were then used to support in part the Master's in marine biology. Okay? So they took it away from here and put it over here. And that pretty well upended that funding for marine science administrative effort, okay. Bain, at the same time was working on this submersible puzzle. So then he goes off with the NERC, which ultimately became NERC. So that started in 1980, or '79 or '80.

Riggins: And that was federally funded, yeah.

James Merritt: Yeah. And it's still going on today, and has been a real benefit to have around all these years. So that's how I got involved in expo, because I it was doing all these things, marine-related, and was connected with federal funding, with educational activities, et cetera. So we created this marine expo, which was designed to focus on those kinds of activities in this region. And we set up this big show and exposition, got all these things set up, and the first year went along pretty well, had symposiums and so forth. And you've probably got some stuff in the archives already. If not I've got a big-- one of the first art things of the way that it was done with expo '85, expo '87, expo '89, little tickets stuck all over it so I'd remember we had three of them before it ultimately dissolved. But we discovered that people really don't want to come out for an educational event unless you've got some sort of big entertainment or something to sell, because we had it the first year in Trask. We had a number of school groups come through, and a few scattered sprinkling of the community. The second time in '87-- plus we had used the campus for seminars and presentations. In '87, Jack Mannock [ph?], I think, was chairman. And we did a similar kind of thing, except we may have used the Coastline Convention Center. In '89 it was fading even more. And soon it kind of morphed in to the-- what was left of it was picked up by Michael Bradley [ph?] with the small business thing, and became a boat exposition, which ultimately came to what he's doing now, trying to promote maritime boating, or what...

Riggins: Trades, yeah.

James Merritt: Maritime trades, yeah. So that came from... (laughs)

Riggins: Interesting revelation.

James Merritt: It evolved in that matter. We continued with some exhibits along with Riverfest for a while, and then it kind of all faded out.

Riggins: Well, you know, can't do everything.

James Merritt: So that was the marine expo. All that involvement is most likely what led me to the Center for Marine Science.

Riggins: Really, that led you to that concept, you mean?

James Merritt: No, put me in a position to be placed as acting director of the institute in 1986. I'm assuming, because Ralph Brower was set to retire with the institute. So after several conversations I agreed to do it and try to figure out what was really happening. And when I go there I discover, you know, what I know, that what the institute basically was, was Dr. Brower's research program, and that other people were working on his research agenda. And so as a unit, administrative unit, it had no real mission, goal, where you all fit in. It's just like NERC now, it's just a faculty research program, but it has a place. And Dr. Cahill talked about, you know, we should be using these facilities in such a way as to integrate them so that the synergy between them and the university et cetera, because he had seen as well that there's this pod here and that pod there, and the twain don't very much meet, and you can't do as much. So we set about to figure out just what the faculty wanted to do. And they established a committee, I forget the exact committee, but most of it was Plyler, and it think it's Dick Zulu [ph?], and Bill Harris, and may have been a couple of others, I can't remember.

Riggins: You were the chair?

James Merritt: I was chair of it, yeah. I was responsible for working it up. So basically I created-- I did a bunch of research, looked all over the country and talked to lots of different people about what was where. And basically wrote up the proposition for the Center for Marine Sciences mission, goals and objectives. And we discussed it ad infinitum, and two years later the center was born. (laughs) You know what happens at the university. Of course it didn't-- you know, it started in '86, but it really didn't get started until '87. Well about the fall of '88 we got official word, we got it approved by general administration to change it from the Institute to the Center for Marine Science Research at the time.

Riggins: CMSR.

James Merritt: Right. And so I became the director, and then I resigned as department chairman. Then Ron Sizemore took it up, was department chairman in 1989, then we then set about to build a center. And the first challenge was to get the resources all together. You know, I recognized that if we were ever going to be anything in marine science, we had to have enough of a focus and enough of resources collectively to put in place the support for all the students and faculty, et cetera. So the administration was willing at the time, Dr. Cahill was. So we (laughs) pulled the resources out of biology, out of our science, and out of chemistry, and put back together with the resources for the institute to create the Center for Marine Science.

Riggins: The predecessor to CMS, were classes held out there?

James Merritt: No, it was just the Center for Marine Science Research. It was to support, facilitate, and we had goals, mission statements, you've probably got them in the literature somewhere. If not, I need to make sure you've got a copy of that early proposal to create the Center of Marine Science.

Riggins: Yeah, I'll have to check and see if we have that proposal.

James Merritt: Because that went through the administration. So, you know, it went to the provost, to the chancellor, up to general administration, then they created the Center of Marine Science, with missions-- with the mission statement goals and objectives, whatever. To help support that then, and to help get everyone collectively together, we then took some of the resources and created a what we call a summer stipend program. Faculty members submitted requests, and we would fund a month, or sometimes two-month summer salary for them to do research. So the goal of the center was to promote research, and to get the infrastructure in place to get us to doing research at a level that I would feel more comfortable with when we talk to people and say, "Yeah, we're doing this wonderful stuff."

Riggins: How great we are. Right.

James Merritt: You know, it didn't want-- I hate to really say this, but occasionally I hate for somebody to say, "Well prove it." Because, you know...

Riggins: People just assumed that we're great, you know.

James Merritt: But I knew. You know, we've got all this great capability, but we've got to have the infrastructure in place to make it all a success.

Riggins: Right. The equipment...

James Merritt: So what the center started doing was buying equipment that it could buy, it was pooling funds, it put supper stipend money back in his hands to help get research underway. Paid graduate student stipends to help get graduate students involved and pay them to do the research, and help get things going. We created this contribution number series that I talked about to try to focus attention on all of it to get the things going. And so the first step was to get the program organized, and get it functioning. And we did that in '89, or '90, or '92, so it started functioning. People began to see funds, grants started to increase in number which created a little bit of overhead that we could use to pull back into buying other infrastructure. We upgraded the boat fleet. The state had provided a placement budget fund for boats. Well you had to have a boat to replace. Well where do you get the boat from in the first place to replace? So we were able to pick up boats, either beat-up boats, or donations or what have you. So we then set it up, and then we would replace it with a new boat. So we increased the fleet from probably we started with one or two to over the years now we've got 19 or so vessels. So we've got enough boats to support the research effort, and to where people can expect to get out to do research if they need to. But one of the other things that happened early on that I recognize really needed to happen was the boats that the university operated were operated by the Department of Biological Sciences. The name was changed somewhere in the late 70s or early 80s. and it operated all the boats. Well there was no support for boats, unless somebody had a grant that provided money for boats. We had little support because all our support was going to fund education. Our courses had to be funded first. That was our first priority was to make sure that courses were funded for whatever supplies were necessary. So that left little to look after boats. So once the center was created in 1989, I moved the boats, I was-- and before, As Sizemore took over as department chairman I moved all the boats to the center, knowing I had staff and personnel there to keep them up, and could get staff to focus on the research infrastructure support that was necessary. So we moved them all there and started building the boat inventory. And that's how the boat inventory got built to that level. So that takes us to about 1989 or '90. We've got these programs in operation.

Riggins: And it's saddled to where science is still sometimes out there as well as in their department? Is that how it worked?

James Merritt: Yeah, there were some still had offices at the center. But one of the things that we did do to create the funds to create the center and to make it work, and this is were we got good support from the administration, was converted all of the half-time research positions to full-time teaching positions, freeing up the half-salaries to give back to the faculty as incentives for summer salaries, and to pay graduate students. So what's how we started, that's how we got the funds in place to get some dynamic activities going on to focus on research, and get more and more research activities taking place. And of course I had an advisory committee that helped, you know.

Riggins: I'm sure. How did they feel about this? They must have been glad, because I'm sure they wanted to do research, they'd like to do even more research.

James Merritt: I think it all worked, so it must have meant-- you know there was the normal grumblers and gripers about this, that and the other. But it all worked for a good number of them. And a lot of faculty got funds for summer months. They got more involved in research. And the more they got involved the more stuff we got to support research so that others could come in to play. More graduate students could get better opportunities for their research. They weren't as restricted in what kind of projects they could pursue, because they had more stuff available to do. So things were just simply working and growing. At the same time I recognize that if we're going to have a marine science program that is supportive of the state as a whole in terms of what our mission ought to be, we've got to have a place on the water. One of the other moves that...

Riggins: And this place was not...

James Merritt: And the institute-- Wrightsville Beach is not connected to the-- I mean you could throw a rock to a little pond out back that's connected to the ICW, but you can't navigate from it.

Riggins: It was right near what used to be Babies Hospital.

James Merritt: Yeah, it was right behind there.

Riggins: You'll have to fill is in too on what's going on with that property, if you know. I know the university is selling it.

James Merritt: Yeah, well the property's supposedly sold. It hadn't closed yet, but it's supposedly been sold to pay for the upgrade. I'll get to that upgrade at the center. So at the same time we created the proposition for the Center for Marine Science, I created a proposal to construct a facility at the Myrtle Grove property. One of the things that the forefathers did, and this is really an issue that I hope that does not get lost somewhere. We had some folks early on that set us up. The folks who set us on to 600-and-some acres for this campus set us up. If they hadn't done that, this would be a little landlock campus just like the other campuses, struggling to get funds to grow. At the time they-- the time the state acquired the institute, which was Wrightsville Beach Marine Biomedical Lab, there was basically an old waterway lab attached to it, which was the location, current location of the bridge tender, marina, the bridge tender marina and the bridge tender restaurant. That was a waterway lab. That was a part of Baby's Hospital. It was a part of the institute. Okay, that was sold. Funds from the sale of that, or some funds in some formal of fashion, and I think Addison Hewlett [ph?] was the primary responsible party there. They found this piece of property that we're now on at Myrtle Grove, an bought it to maintain a water connection. But there was nothing down there. In 1977 going back, I had tried when I was-- well in 1978 when I first became department chairman, I made a little push with the provost to get some facilities down there so we could use it as a research station at least. At least get something down there. Nothing happened. I mean they talked a little about it, and wonderful, but in the late 70s it was a bad economic time, and nobody wanted to do anything much. So nothing went very far. So I already knew it was there before I went to the center. And I knew that it should be developed if we're going to do research. So for part of the proposal for the center, there's a second book I devised that designed the facility to be funded to be built on the Myrtle Grove property, and set that the ladder. Of course that was sitting there. What that generated when the provost, Cahill then took it to the general administration in Chapel Hill, what that resulted in was, "Well, let's get together and make a cooperative PhD program."

Riggins: Of course, with the other...

James Merritt: With NC State. They tried it at Chapel Hill, and the wouldn't have any part of it. So the vice president for research and academic affairs went to NC state and said, "You will participate, and you will make a cooperative PhD program with UNC Wilmington. So I spent some time there. We were working together to create a cooperative PhD program. So we started that '92, 3, somewhere along in there, and was making headway, just to take you on that junket, we were making some nice headway with it and getting it organized, and then they decided to cut the funding out, because we got some money, NC State got some money, and we were building it. You know, it took a few years to figure out how to vest position, and to get students in it. And as things started, then they took the money away. Well that pretty well wiped it out, because there was no incentive on either end to continue it, because it took a little extra effort, unless there was extra money. So that program flamed up, and then flamed out. In the meantime, you know, I think it was Chancellor Lewis [ph?] who came in 1990, was a big supporter of the marine science push. Began to then promote marine science to the extent of promoting the funding of this facility. So he promoted it. We had all kinds of battles, and I don't want to get-- I mean you could spend a day talking about all that. The battle-- in fact he's the best one to get to talk about that, the battles with the other institutions over marine science. But there were lots of those went on. And finally we got some funding for planning in '95 I believe it was, and funding for construction in '96, and it started in '97 for the new facility. And we moved in in 2000. I had told them up front, once we get this thing going, you need to look for another director, because once we get this thing put in place and it's all institutionalized, then we need someone who's not been caught up in all this garbage to look at it from a national perspective and say, "Here's where we need to go now." And Baden came in in '99, and we moved in the building in 2000. And I stayed around as-- I was director from '89 to '99. And I stayed on as associate director until I retired this June. And the program itself is morphed based on his directions. The center changed because we added a marine science-- Master's degree in marine science to his responsibility, so we dropped the research off to reflect that it's more than just a research facility supporting the education missions. And it's just been growth since.

Riggins: A Master's degree in marine science now, as well as a Master's in marine biology.

James Merritt: And, you know, in the sidelight, I wasn't involved in this PhD in marine biology. That was done by the Department of Biology on the sidelight. I may have left out things, but that kind of is what I've done all these years, you know.

Riggins: That's a great synopsis. Let me just see. We can always go on to another tape because I will have a couple more questions.

James Merritt: Oh good. You didn't get a chance to ask any questions. I just kind of... (laughs)

Riggins: Yes, I just pushed the "On" button here. That's great, though. Well, how has it been being in that facility? Gosh, it's been six years now.

James Merritt: Well it's hard to believe the time has passed.

Riggins: It's gone quickly.

James Merritt: Yeah, I reflect back somewhere around the middle 90s, one of these community meetings that we had to go through-- had to go to, I went to. And for some reason I was talking to Keith Osborn [ph?] who was in the-- he was my administrative associate, whatever, business officer. And we were talking about it and I said, "You know, things just-- everything just keeps falling in place. It's like we must be on the right track, because this is meant to be." And I was really convinced this university should be charged with the primary responsibility of education marine-oriented research programs for the state. Sitting here on the coast there's no other one on the coast there's no other one on the coast. For all the rest it's more of a trouble. Chapel Hill does have a lab at Morehead City, but still you got-- you can't get the masses of students back and forth that you can get here. Plus we've got students who are not taking the degree that are going to influenced by it. So what we do, how we set is going to ripple out to a lot more people than any other institution could hope to. But, you know, that's very difficult to get our buddies at other institution to reflect on, how we can best serve the state by making a really top-notch program available at Wilmington, because it's going to rub noses with lots more people than anyplace else. So they missed the point is, you know, "What can I do for-- to serve my own ego, or what have you, and how can I be close to decision-making process?" Well the best way to be close to the decision-making process is to impact as many people as you can who are out there in the general public impacting the decisions. If the public has enough knowledge to make a statement, they're going to affect the policy. Where the policy-maker made you rely on some research, and then he's going to make it, if he's got no echo from the general public, it's going to make it without their input. But if they get a concept of the education, then they can have an input that' more reflective of what they perceive and what they need. So that's why I'm in all this. I think this university should be pushing hard to have a school of marine science, a school of oceanography. There's not one in this state. Isn't this ridiculous? We've got a coastline that's second to Florida on the east coast. Many of the other states have schools of oceanography, at least one. We don't.

Riggins: Yeah, I just hadn't thought of it.

James Merritt: There's a vacuum sitting there, somebody's going to jump into it, and we're going to be sitting around saying, "Well." And it's more difficult for the others because they're not on the coast.

Riggins: A school of oceanography.

James Merritt: That's what's held them back. And yet, you know, I've kind of pushed it as much as I can push it. And, you know...

Riggins: Well, if you don't mind, if we can stick a little break in and switch tapes, so then I can ask you about some of your other visions for where you think this university and region are going.

(tape change)

Riggins: We're back with Tape 2. My name is Adina Riggins, University Archivist, behind the scenes still. It's November 9, 2006. And we're here with Dr. James Merritt to talk a little bit more on this Oral History interview about some things. Now, that was real interesting what you were saying about, if there's going to be a school of oceanography in North Carolina, why not put it here at UNCW? So is that something that is being discussed that you see people (inaudible)--

James Merritt: Well, it has been discussed a little bit. But there's no real movement, one way or the other, that I can tell, at present. Maybe, the administration has some other priorities. You know, marine science has been a focal point for the University for a number of years, while lots of other things are still growing and developing. I mean, you have to have more than just a marine science program that you think is great. We've got to have a full-fledged University here that's great. What I think the marine science program has helped do is help bring in lots of people to help fuel the development and demand the development of the rest of the University along with it. If nothing else, people. In the late '70s, early '80s, it was bringing in lots of people, drawing them to the University, who were changing their major. Clearly, we weren't graduating 10 percent of the student body a year. What was happening is that in those early years, there was no general college advising center. So students had to declare a major. And that's how we ended up with about 10 percent of the student body. In fact, the faculty acknowledged they were advising something between 30 and 50 students per year. And some of the other departments had three or four per faculty. So we had a heavy load. The general college advising program was put in and that evened out the playing field. We didn't get them until later. By then, a number had dropped out. And where I was going with this was what that did was brought students in that first year. Once they decided science may not be their bag, they were going to business, education, et cetera. So they were filling up the roles of the University by being attracted here. So--

Riggins: And it was attractive to them.

James Merritt: And once that momentum started, once the students who graduated and whatever came, then, we became sought after. And that's why the competition for enrollment in the later years got to rolling. It got rolling. You know, saw it as a focal point, originally, to attract students in. And once they started rolling through, then the others were, as the marine science program were, oppressed to stand up and do everything they possibly can to serve the needs of the students in the best way they can. So the whole rest of the University's just grown like crazy. And it's been wonderful to watch it all unfold as it--

Riggins: And that's still happening, to a certain degree, isn't it?

James Merritt: Yes.

Riggins: That students come in and think that the sciences, biology, and marine biology is for them, and not all of them make it.

James Merritt: Right. Yeah, we still have a-- but the difference now, is they come in thinking that and they're in the general college. And we may never, ever see them in the biology department.

Riggins: I see.

James Merritt: Because they go on to some other curriculum, before they ever come. But it's probably still attracting a number. I don't think it's attracting quite as many as it has in the past, because of different factors. If you remember-- you may be too young to remember. But in the late '70s was the hiatus of Jacques Cousteau's ocean explorations. And everyone saw all that and it just was enamoring lots of people. And they thought that's what it was going to be like. And when they came in and--

Riggins: (inaudible).

James Merritt: Found out there was slugging in the mud and the marshes, and it was hard, and it was cold, and it was nasty, from time to time, they'd dribble out. Plus, they had to work and study and learn. But those brought a lot in. So I think, the natural progression at the University should be, you know, what is the culmination of the ability to service the state in marine science? Well, the culmination, I believe, is a school of oceanography or school of marine science. That's the best way you can put a clear marker on the school as the place to go for marine science studies. I mean, I think. Now, the University has not pushed it very far, yet. Maybe, they will, but don't think now is exactly the time. But I think that somebody out there is going to do that somewhere sooner or later. And then, we'll have another battle. So I think the University ought to be putting a plan in place and figuring out how to make it work, realizing that internal turmoil would result. Because it would cause some realignments with campus. And there's probably a lot of resistance there. And that, probably, was why nobody has done it. They just don't want to unleash the dogs of chaos, if you say Okay. We're going to yank people from the school of arts and sciences and create another school. And there's probably a lot of resistance there to doing that. Other universities would have resistance for us having it.

Riggins: Yes.

James Merritt: So the odds are low. The people of North Carolina, however, I think, deserve it, no matter what we-- the University's quote, unquote "price," would have to be to get it. You know, when I look to see the people I grew up, you know, in the dirt of North Carolina and with the people and benefited because of what lots of good people put in place for me to benefit from. And I just think we need to pursue everything we can to do the same thing for those who are coming after us. And if I'm doing what I can do, I can, after it's all said and done, say, "Well, I've done all I can do. I can do no more." But at least, I've done all I can do. And I feel good, and I've, at least, said and pushed and promoted what I can promote.

Riggins: That's a good feeling, looking back on that. And just where we are right now, so that maybe a future viewer of this tape. With the land that used to be the CMSR, you were mentioning that from what you understand that's being sold--

James Merritt: Okay. The property that the University owns, when it acquired the institute in '72. In the early '90s, when we were getting the prospect of building and relocating, the chancellor legislatively had a bill passed by the state legislature allowing the University to keep the proceeds from the property, should we sell it.

Riggins: Instead of it going back to the system--

James Merritt: Instead of it going back to state. All property sold by the state, the money goes back into general fund. But we had to get a special legislative provision to keep it from going in the general fund. So that was done in the event we ever needed to sell it. Okay. With the construction of the building, we lost money, because of the in fighting between universities. State and Chapel Hill had to have some money. So they carved out a chunk of our money and gave some to building facilities at Morehead City. I.M.S. got a million and a half or two million and N.C. State got some money. And Chapel Hill has increased their-- and upgraded their facility. State built one in conjunction with Carter Community College. Then-- I shouldn't say this. But I don't think they've done much better with the money than they would've done without it. Because they still are functioning about the same as they were prior to having this additional space. With that we lost part of our building. We were not able to build an operations wing. So we opted to get as much building as we could. And with the bond referendum that was passed in 2000, funds-- well, about $2.7 million were included for the operation wing to be built at Myrtle Grove. Well, we had messed around for so long with that, that the cost has gone so high that we had to sell that property to get the rest of the money to get the operations building so we could finish relocating to Myrtle Grove. So that's what's happened. That has been sold. It's not been closed, yet. But it's been sold. And based on the funds we're getting from that, put with the other bond money and other monies in place, is funding that construction that's going on now at Myrtle Grove.

Riggins: Oh, interesting. Well, yeah, politics. And it's being sold to a developer and will be home to--

James Merritt: Um-hum, most likely.

Riggins: To some kind of condos or something similar.

James Merritt: I presume-- yeah, the guy who owns Babies Hospital is, I think, the one who's bought it. He's the only one that has real interest in it. And, you know, he could turn around and sell the whole pack once he gets it bought. But he might build something on it, too. But it's a prime piece of property, in conjunction with the Babies Hospital property. By itself, it's not nearly as valuable. But you put those two together, you've got a piece big enough to make it valuable.

Riggins: Really do something.

James Merritt: Particularly, its location.

Riggins: Sure. Well, you've been here for over 30 years. And along the way you've gotten to know a lot of people. And I just wonder if you could mention some of the people you've worked with along the way who, you know, just made an impact or got to know. I mean, you've mentioned some of the already. But you know, for Dan Plyler, I interviewed him, for example. I've heard really great things about him. Any stories or anything that you have about any of these folks you've known along the way?

James Merritt: Well, I've mentioned, you know, the process those that have been-- had some sort of an impact. One I haven't mentioned was Dave Seeren [ph?], who was the Chair of the Department when I came. He was really a archivist of a sort, in that he ran a barium, and really knew how to organize stuff. I followed him as Department Chair and benefited from his organization skills. Because he had everything organized, in terms of what you have to do administratively, for someone who had never done it before to make it easy--

Riggins: Well, that's great.

James Merritt: To fall into. So, you know, we'd have to say a good word about that. And he served as, even all the years-- In fact, he was-- he helped me out while I was doing both work, both jobs. He came back in and helped be Assistant Chair for that and helped do some of the Chair work during those times. Because I was running back and forth between the department and Wrightsville Beach. And it was a real lot of work. So he was a real positive impact in contributing a lot to the ultimate success that the University's had. Although, he may never know it, because, you know, he helped by helping me keep me pushing these kinds of things. Of course, Charles Cahill with his-- he started a lot of the stuff that I ended up spending 20 years working on. It's hard to believe. He started it all by putting me there. For whatever reason, he decided to ask me to do it. I don't exactly know, other than all this expo and other things that I'm involved in. And hopefully, _________ I could get along with everybody pretty well and tried to make people work-- tried to help people work collectively for the common good. And so, you know, he was a very positive figure. One of the, also very positive ones, was, and still is, Paul Hosier, who's now the provost. And I can-- one story regarding him. When I came here in '73, I was looking around, trying to figure out what I could do. Because there was no _____________ growing around here other than the commercial. What I could. And he said, "Well, do you want to go with me? I'm going over to Masonboro Island one Saturday." I said, "How are we going to get over there?" And he said, "Well, we've got one boat in the department, and we'll check it out, and we'll go out to the-- we'll go out through the inlet. And we'll anchor the boat and we'll swim ashore and walk around there and come back." I said, "Okay." I figured he knew what he was doing there. I'd never been out in a boat, but maybe once or twice in my life. So hadn't even been out on the ocean, at all. So I get in the boat with him on a Saturday. We go tooling through the inlet. I didn't think anything about it. We get out to the island, as far as the island. He had a student who was out there doing some research, and we saw him walking. So we pulled up close there. And he said, "I think it's too rough. I don't believe we're going to be able to anchor the boat and go to shore." And so we came back and went back through the inlet there. I didn't really think much of it until later. I said, "Have you ever done that before?" He said, "No, I'd never done it before." And as I have had experience now on boats, going through the inlet, that was one miraculous trip. Because I've been through the inlet when the waves would have crashed over the boat. That little old Johnboat-- I mean, little old Boston Whaler, 15-foot Boston Whaler. And I discovered how dangerous it is to anchor a boat and try to swim ashore and get back to your boat on the tide. And I tease him about it once in a while. You know, we could've got out and both got killed, for not really appreciating it.

Riggins: Not really knowing. Yeah.

James Merritt: And not really appreciating--

Riggins: He just had a hunch, though, that it wasn't right?

James Merritt: We just had a good day. And he just didn't push it. Right.

Riggins: Right. Yeah.

James Merritt: He didn't push it. We could have really gotten in trouble.

Riggins: Show some prudence, I guess.

James Merritt: So that was an interesting story there.

Riggins: Um-hum, that really was.

James Merritt: Yeah, you know, what you do when you're young and don't have enough knowledge. Then, you one day learn that, you know, I guess, I'm really lucky that I was watched over somehow.

Riggins: Yeah, at that point. Well, I've heard a lot about a lot of interesting people. I know Ralph Brower was an interesting person. He was a great friend of the library, too. And you came in after him and, kind of, changed your directive to change things and the way it works. And that must have been some changes. But yeah, he's really been a friend to the library. But unfortunately, I came just a few months after he passed away, so I never met him.

James Merritt: Yeah, he was a real interesting guy. And he was a friend of the University, but he also really wanted to do stuff his way. He really didn't like to-- his way was the best way for the University. He had a hard time collaborating with others. But, you know, he made a real positive impact by being at the right place at the right time and participating enough to put this resource in the reach of this marine science program. So we had all these pieces, just ended up getting them all put together. And I think, you know, the potential for the University is significantly great to continue in marine science. And I think, with Dr. Baden's direction now, and the additional expertise and vision he's brought is really opening it up even more. Which is what I had hoped. Because I knew I had a limitation. I wasn't a marine scientist. I knew I had a limitation. But I knew I could push administratively and try to get the facilities and the structures in place that would support that kind of growth in the future.

Riggins: And that you did. Any other thoughts or anything I may have forgot to ask?

James Merritt: No. I think, you pretty well wiped me out here.

Riggins: I know. I kept busy taking notes. But I thank you very much for coming by. And I'll be glad to give you a copy of this (inaudible)--

James Merritt: Okay. Okay.

Riggins: Thank you.

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