OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Thanks to a $70,000 donation from Jimmy Buffett and his sisters, Lucy and Laurie, school children on the coast will have a new way to learn about the bays and bayous of South Mississippi.
The Buffetts were at USM's Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs Monday morning to help present a new research vessel made possible by that donation. Landshark Lager, of course, took the place of champagne for the christening ceremony.
USM graduate Jimmy Buffett talked about his reasons for the generous donation.
"The Gulf of Mexico is so important to everybody's lives, whether they realize it or not," Buffett said. "So it's a simple way to start with young kids, and from that on up to people that want to understand how important the Gulf of Mexico is and how it should be treated and managed."
He hopes this kind of educational program will grow.
"I always like to work locally and then hopefully, in these days and times with technology, it becomes a very global awareness thing that can come out of a local situation."
The children's research vessel is named the Miss Peetsy B, after Jimmy, Laurie, and Lucy's late mother. That made for some very emotional moments at Monday's news conference.
"I think we're all here because our mother valued education so much," Lucy recalled. "I get all teary. And she would be so tickled and it was important to her. It's sort of a building block in all of our lives for our children too."
Sister Laurie felt the same way.
"The fact that there will be children on this boat experiencing something new and will pass on their knowledge, especially about the planet, because it's all about the environment," Laurie said.
USM President Dr. Martha Saunders agrees.
"The more school children we can put on the water to learn about the ocean, the better." Dr. Saunders said. "The ocean is the next great frontier."
As for those school children, what do they think of the boat? The screams of "awesome" said it all.
The Miss Peetsy B will be put into service immediately. By the way, Jimmy Buffett even donated a bit more money to the coast during his visit, eating lunch at a restaurant in downtown Ocean Springs.