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Saving the S.S. United States

Recently we have been blogging about the effort to conserve and reconstruct the historic steamship United States. The ship, which was built right here in Newport News, has a special connection to this community. One Christopher Newport University student is taking this connection to heart. Sophomore Andrew Jelonek, a history major and avid fan of ocean liners, has taken it upon himself to spearhead a fundraising campaign for the SS United States right here on CNU’s campus.

In an article in CNU’s own Captain’s Log newspaper last week, Andrew described his interest in the steamship United States. “In middle school I first got into ocean liners from the Titanic, and I just expanded and started learning about the other cruise ships,” said Andrew.

The SS United States Conservancy, as mentioned in previous posts, is currently in the midst of a massive fundraising campaign to get the resources necessary to keep the ship out of the scrapyard. Andrew states that the Conservancy’s goal is to raise $1 million by August of this year, and his goal is to try his hardest to contribute to that effort here at CNU.

Andrew has plans to set up a Krispy Kreme doughnut stand in CNU’s David Student Union, along with a donations jar, the proceeds from which will be donated directly to the SS United States Conservancy. Andrew also plans to have a campus film screening of the documentary Lady in Waiting to raise awareness and educate students about the SS United States.

But just how is this historic ship connected to Christopher Newport University? Many CNU students walk past artifacts from the United States daily without even knowing. The ship’s bell is currently on display in the Paul and Rosemary Trible Library, and one of the ship’s massive propellers stands opposite the gallant statue of Captain Christopher Newport at the university’s entrance. Sarah Forbes donated the bell to CNU, and a large quantity of other United States artifacts to The Mariners’ Museum. CNU students will recognize Forbes’ name, as she donated graciously to aid in the construction of one of CNU’s newest buildings, Mary Brock Forbes Hall.

For his part, Andrew says that he would be unhappy with himself if the ship goes to the scrapyard without his trying his very hardest to save it. “I do not like it when history is destroyed,” he told The Captain’s Log, “…This is my way of saying that I did my best and did my best to save (it).”

As a fellow history major, and member of the CNU community, I find Andrew’s passion and efforts to save a landmark piece of American history very admirable. I for one will be sure to visit his stand in the DSU not just for a tasty treat, but to aid in the preservation of an American treasure.

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