An anonymous donor is making it possible for the Lake Superior Research Institute to launch planning to restore a floating classroom on the Great Lakes.

The University of Wisconsin-Superior Foundation accepted a $1 million donation designated to the Lake Superior Research Institute (LSRI) to bring a new floating classroom and research program to campus.

The gift has initiated a two-year planning phase to re-establish a floating education and research vessel in Superior.

“Innovative and regionally-focused educational programs that meet the needs of our students and community, such as this, is what makes our ‘small but mighty’ university unique,” said Jeanne Thompson, executive director of the UWS Foundation. “We are genuinely grateful for this transformational gift.”

LSRI aims to develop a program that inspires and educates learners of all ages about the importance of Lake Superior resources and heritage through direct experience.

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The L.L. Smith Jr. served as an educational and research facility for the University of Wisconsin-Superior's Lake Superior Research Institute from 1978 to 2012. Now university officials are planning to revive an on-the-water program again because of a $1 million anonymous donation. (Courtesy of UW-Superior)
The L.L. Smith Jr. served as an educational and research facility for the University of Wisconsin-Superior's Lake Superior Research Institute from 1978 to 2012. Now university officials are planning to revive an on-the-water program again because of a $1 million anonymous donation. (Courtesy of UW-Superior)

“The addition of this vessel will not only provide educational opportunities, it will advance scientific research on Lake Superior, such as the work being conducted at our Montreal Pier Ballast Testing Facility that we opened last summer,” said Matt TenEyck, director of LSRI.

LSRI hopes to recreate the programs on the water like those that ran from 1978 to 2012 when the L.L. Smith Jr. operated.

“We believe the LL Smith cruises for students and stakeholders are deeply missed by the community,” said Amy Eliot, LSRI assistant director and program lead. “This funding will allow us to take the first steps in helping fill that gap with a state-of-the-art vessel and programming. We couldn’t be more appreciative of this gift or excited about this opportunity for Superior.”

Chancellor Renee Wachter said this is a “win-win-win-win contribution.”

“We are bringing to life the donors’ passion for all things Lake Superior, bringing back a beloved water research program, providing meaningful undergraduate research opportunities for our students, as well as involving and educating our region,” Wachter said.