Wave Makers: Marsha & Bob Egan

2016 A Grand Tribute

Philanthropy and entrepreneurial endeavors are synonymous with the Egan family - and the proof is always in the name.

Robert "Bob" Egan was born and raised on Nantucket. He was a Siasconset kid who graduated from Nantucket High School, and then Boston University. Bob turned his hobby of making quarterboards into a side business during his college years, and then into a booming company, Egan Sign, based in Pennsylvania. His wife, Marsha, is vibrant and accomplished. A graduate of Duke University, Marsha is CEO of the professional coaching firm, The Egan Group, and was named one of Pennsylvania's 50 Best Women in Business, 2006. As supporters and leaders of Egan Maritime Institute, Marsha and Bob invest their time, talents, and financial backing into the organization, and have championed Egan Maritime since first getting involved nearly two decades ago.

On Monday, April 22 Olivia Jackson sat down with Bob to discuss all things Nantucket and Egan Maritime. More specifically, what motivates him to be an integral part of the organization, and what he believes his Uncle Bud would think of it all.

Marsha Egan With Nat Philbrick At 2018 Soo Luncheon

Nathaniel D. Philbrick, first Executive Director of Egan Maritime, pictured with Marsha at the July 2018 Sea of Opportunities Benefit Luncheon.

Describe your relationship with Nantucket.

I was born at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, back when it was on Westchester Street, in 1952. I grew up in Siasconset and attended school there at the one room school house for grades one through three. After that, I went to school at Academy Hill , which is now a retirement home on Winter Street in downtown Nantucket. After graduating from Nantucket High School, I went to college in Boston. I then moved to Pennsylvania, where I lived and worked, establishing my career and starting my own business.

We moved back to the island full time ten years ago. We always vacationed here with our kids, but we were always just visitors. In 2000, after my uncle, Bud Egan, died, I got involved with Egan Maritime. This ultimately caused me and Marsha to come back more regularly as I had to attend the monthly meetings for the organization. I was also a private pilot so I would fly a single engine plane to and from the island. We visited once a month for the next eight years. In 2008, we bought a cottage on the island. Realizing that we could work remotely from here, we moved to Nantucket full time a year later, in 2009. We sold our house in PA and have immersed ourselves in the island community ever since. We are both involved in numerous non-profits, Marsha served on the board at the Dreamland as well as the Community Foundation for Nantucket. I helped fundraise for the Nantucket Cottage Hospital and I worked with various mental health organizations on the island.

Bob Egan With Jean Grimmer

Bob with former Executive Director of Egan Maritime, Jean Grimmer.

When you meet people who have never heard of Egan Maritime, what do you tell them to spark their interest?

My uncle founded Egan Maritime Institute. He wanted to tell the Nantucket maritime stories that were not being told. The Nantucket Historical Association tells a lot of great history, but Bud felt that there were parts of the island's maritime heritage not being covered. He had the desire to tell and share these overlooked narratives. And twenty years later, we have two main areas of focus. First, the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum, which preserves and propagates the stories of heroism and self sacrifice of the island's lifesavers. And second, Sea of Opportunities, our maritime education program. We established a curriculum in the schools that exposes island youth to the sciences, trades, and careers available to them in the maritime world, which also gives these kids something tangible they can connect with.

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Jean Grimmer, former Executive Director of Egan Maritime, Bob, and Wendy Schmidt at the reopening of the Museum in July 2008.

What about Egan Maritime are you proudest of?

There are three things that come to mind. The first - after Bud passed, we had to establish and provide a structure for the organization. We created a world-class board. Building a successful organization requires discipline, which initially came from our board. They helped recruit our staff, and provided the leadership necessary to build an organization that adds real value to Nantucket.

The second is the merger with the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum in 2008 and the three million dollar capital campaign associated with that acquisition. We expanded the facility, created new exhibit space, and curated new exhibitions that tell the stories efficiently and effectively.

The third is the establishment of Sea of Opportunities. When I was a kid on Nantucket, there was nothing like this in the school system. We didn't have access to a maritime education, and we weren't exposed to the maritime trades. The whole body of maritime careers was not emphasized in the curriculum in Nantucket schools. The board began having strategic planning sessions; they took a very disciplined approach to developing the program and curriculum now offered through Sea of Opportunities. The program began gaining traction in the schools and now, island youth not only connect with their seafaring Nantucket roots, but are also taught and exposed to the array of possibilities available to them in the maritime world.

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Bob and Marsha at the opening of the Museum in May, 2014.

In what ways do you think Egan Maritime can continue to change, inspire or improve Nantucket for the better?

I think that the stories we tell, especially at the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum, impact people of all ages. The Museum shares the stories of heroism and selflessness, and the docents do a great job explaining these invaluable pieces of our history. Visitors are given real world, hands-on examples of people helping other people. It's an American story of volunteers helping people in need and thinking of others. We need to continue to tell those stories. They impact people in a tangible way. And people are then encouraged to exhibit these behaviors in their own lives.

We also need to continue to expose young people to the many different aspects of the maritime world in our Sea of Opportunities [SOO] program. Not everyone has the same interests or learns the same way, but through SOO, these kids have the opportunity to see for themselves what they like. This program is changing lives and giving kids a purpose. It's so important for all people, but particularly young people, to have a purpose. These kids deserve to be passionate about something that truly interests them. And those students that have maritime exposure through SOO are inspired to continue to pursue it beyond Nantucket, and that is truly special.

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Bob with his son, Alex, at the opening of the Museum in May, 2018.

How do you think Bud Egan would react to the Egan Maritime of today?

I think Bud would be shocked. He would be shocked at how far Egan Maritime has come and the evolution of the organization. I don't think he ever envisioned having a Museum or a maritime studies program in the Nantucket school system. I think he would be pleased with those additions as well as proud of how we continue to tell the stories of Nantucket's seafaring heritage and history. We are helping island youth participate in Nantucket's past, present and future. I think my uncle would be surprised, but immensely proud.

Bob At 2018 Soo Luncheon

Bob with distinguished trustee, Donald "Don" Shackelford, at the 2018 Sea of Opportunities Benefit Luncheon.

Wave Makers

Wave Makers are Egan Maritime's Change Makers. They advocate for our mission and support our programs. Of most importance, they spread awareness and go above and beyond in their leadership. To learn more about the many ways you may support Egan Maritime and make big waves with your philanthropy click here.