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This is about an amazing 80-year-old doctoral graduate, Dr. James Barr. James began his dissertation journey ten years ago; and, with the determination and fortitude of a dedicated scholar, he overcame the challenges of a rigorous doctoral degree program in Business Administration at the University of Phoenix. Just as he was ready to celebrate the fruition of a life-long dream, the unexpected happened. He became ill and bedridden. Just when he thought his journey was finally going to be smooth sailing, he was hard hit with the flu which lasted more than two months. That is when I met James and became part of his dissertation team. Preparations for the final copy of a doctoral study along with the oral defense are challenging for everyone; but James, even though quite ill, seemed to take it in stride saying “Hey anything in life that is worth it, takes hard work and a strong persistence to beat the odds. Why should life be different now?”. The ravages of the flu weakened his body; yet, didn’t have the slightest effect on his steadfast will power to keep going. Perhaps it was his twenty-five-years of experience as a Merchant Marine on U.S. cargo ships that was at the helm of his unwavering stamina and determination.
Why would a retired gentleman decide to pursue a doctorate? According to James, he was motivated “to give honor to the thousands of mariners who sacrificed their bodies and spirits in pursuing nationalism and freedom on the Hi-Seas”. With the memory of his fellow mariners in the forefront, James wanted to shed light on the unrealistic and useless demise of 450 plus merchant marine ships that since Congress passed the Merchant Marine Act in 1920 proudly displayed the United States Flag supporting our military personnel, and serving as a predominant transportation source of goods to and from foreign ports. The glory days of our Merchant Marines began to decline over the last four decades as Congress has passed “no support mandates” leading to the decommissioning and demise of the once proud United States Merchant Marine fleet. The remaining 60 plus ships are primarily in a stall mode out on the high seas with an undying hope that they will be recognized again as a viable source of our economy. The Merchant Marine commercial transportation fleet was replaced with current foreign owned ships that dock in United States ports, remain essentially unregulated, and are exempt from paying fees and revenues to the federal government. Why has this occurred and how can it be remediated? These questions haunt Dr. Barr as he seeks to find ways to disseminate his findings and attract the attention of the federal government that once valued and relied on the Merchant Marine fleet as a fundamental vehicle of exports and imports.
Dr. Barr gives credit to his committee chairperson, Dr. David Waldman, and his longtime friend and colleague, Dr. William DeWitt for staying the “course” with him over the last three years of his journey. James has updated his resume and is eager to begin a new career, perhaps as a higher education faculty member! Until then, James continues to explore and enjoy nature as he travels often unchartered highways in his mobile home. # EY