This post was written by S’18 alumna Audra DeLaney. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her.
In the late 1970s, Ann Prince was a student at Bates College. The dean of her college was good friends with a man named Ben Labaree, a history professor at Williams College. Ben, as it happened, was in the process of starting the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program. Ann saw posters up on campus, talked to the dean at Bates, and decided to apply.
After receiving admission to the program, Ann never looked back.
Her semester began soon after the infamous Blizzard of ’78. Ann recalls staring out the windows of her train car, with snow piled high beside the tracks, on her way to begin the spring semester.
Then entering the second semester of her sophomore year, she wondered how Williams-Mystic was going to affect her educational experience and her life. Williams-Mystic went on to deeply influence her college experience. And the connections she formed there remain strong to this day.
Ann was studying art and biology at Bates, and wanted to work in the environmental field. Williams-Mystic was a perfect match for her — not just academically but also based on her childhood growing up near the water.
“I grew up in Maryland and my parents had a little yacht that we would sail on the Chesapeake,” Ann said. “My father was the skipper and my mother was first mate on The Katydid.
“I loved being at Mystic so much. I loved marine ecology and my favorite class was maritime literature. I read all of Moby-Dick and other Melville books. I even read other books because it was fun,” Ann said. “I took boat building as a maritime skill and grew very fond of the environment in the beautiful coastal town. I would wake up at 6 a.m. to go on an hour-long run along the waterfront and then have breakfast before going to our 8 a.m. class.”
During Ann’s semester, Ben Labaree and his wife Linda were wonderful supporters of all the Williams-Mystic students.
“Ben took on teaching the maritime history and marine policy course. He was awesome. When you are a kid you do not realize that the sacrifices people make. He brought his two young boys and his wife and moved from Williamstown to Mystic. What a nice man and so good to all of us,” Ann said.
Ann said Linda cared about each and every student even after they completed the project. For 30 years, after she completed her MST in environmental studies, Ann was a writer and editor for the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Linda and Ben continued to support her endeavors.
“When I worked at Audubon for all those years and wrote articles for Sanctuary magazine, Linda would sometimes write me a note or give me a call to say that she liked it,” Ann said. “It really meant a lot.”
After finishing her career with Massachusetts Audubon, Ann began to teach reading and literacy to young children in Brockton, Massachusetts. She continues to work as a freelance editor.
Ann has also begun exploring a new genre of writing: song lyrics. She had not touched an instrument in many years when she began picking up the guitar again, as well as playing some piano. Then, she decided to try her hand at songwriting.
“One of my new songs is called ‘Over the Ocean,’” Ann said. “From the surface, you might not know it is a commentary on the politics of the time.”
Some of the music Ann creates is connected to her experience as a Williams-Mystic student. Her class has kept in touch over the years.
“I feel like it was yesterday that I studied at Willams-Mystic. Time goes by so fast,” Ann reflected. “So profound was the influence of that semester that I will never regret choosing Mystic instead of going for a year abroad. It was the absolute best thing I could have done.”
Click play below to listen to Ann’s song titled “Over the Ocean,” which was inspired in part by her time at Williams-Mystic.