Shipbuilder Luther Blount donates $300,000 toward construction of URI Aquaculture Research Lab

KINGSTON, R.I. — December 13, 2001 — For 50 years Warren shipbuilder Luther Blount has built tugboats, barges, fishing boats, ferries, small cruise ships and a variety of other marine vessels. Now he’s helping the University of Rhode Island build a state-of-the-art Aquaculture Research Laboratory on its Narragansett Bay Campus.

Last week, Blount wrote a check for $300,000 from his Narragansett Bay Resource Foundation to launch construction of a facility that will enhance the capability of URI researchers to maintain their leadership in the study of shellfish and finfish aquaculture and marine biotechnology. He also agreed to help raise additional funds for the building.

“Many of our Bay’s resources, such as oysters, soft clams, scallops and eelgrass, are at best low in population and in some areas almost absent from the Bay,” Blount said. “We have steadily used or taken or just watched without endeavoring to foster renewal, leaving it up to the vagaries of nature in a changing environment. This gift is a step toward promoting the reversing of this situation.

“The new aquaculture laboratory can help foster and give direction to the propagation and technology necessary. It is the sincere hope of this foundation that the lab will accomplish solutions to this need.”

Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and designed by Visions III Architects of Providence, the Aquaculture Research Laboratory will feature a high-tech water processing system to circulate freshwater and saltwater through the laboratory for the culture of finfish, shellfish, phytoplankton and zooplankton. It will also include a marine pathology laboratory to foster research on pathogens affecting wild and captive shellfish and finfish.

“This facility is critical to our efforts at URI, the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, and the Rhode Island Agricultural Experiment Station to provide cutting-edge research support to the states growing aquaculture industry,” said Jeffrey Seemann, dean of the College of the Environment and Life Sciences. “As we are increasingly able to bring state-of-the-art scientific tools, including modern facilities and biotechnology, to bear on sectors of the Rhode Island economy with significant growth potential, we hope to play an important role in stimulating economic growth and development within the state and region.”

Research at the facility will provide a basis for the continued development of the aquaculture industry in Rhode Island and will enhance the opportunity for collaboration and recruitment of biotechnology companies to the state. It will also support development of service industries providing equipment and other supplies to the aquaculture industry.

“Luther is a true champion for the aquaculture industry in Rhode Island and is committed to supporting URI’s research efforts. His philanthropic leadership will certainly inspire others to support the University and protect the state’s natural resources. We appreciate his generosity and look forward to working with him for many years to come,” said URI Senior Development Officer Katherine Horoschak.

Blount has long been dedicated to the conservation of marine resources in Narragansett Bay and an advocate of aquaculture. His foundation, formerly called the Renew the Resources of the Bay Foundation, was established to foster development of shellfish stocks and other marine resources in the Bay and to protect the shoreline. Blount had planned to create a shellfish hatchery in the Jennies Creek Oyster Pond on property he owns on Prudence Island. When that project ran into difficulties, he turned to URI to make his dream a reality.
“This donation is the best way to see my project through,” he said. “I can’t do it myself, but I know you can.”

Groundbreaking on the aquaculture facility will begin in the spring.

“And I’ll be right there with a shovel,” said Blount.

For Information: Katherine Horoschak 874-4460, Todd McLeish 874-7892