On Wednesday morning, Brock Callen, the longtime executive director of Sail Martha’s Vineyard, announced his plans to retire from his position. Callen has been the wind behind the program’s sails since he became involved with the organization in 1995 as a volunteer, before serving as executive director since 2009.
“It’s the right time for both the organization and me,” Callen said of his retirement. “I’ve come to work every day with my priority as using the sea as a medium to have a positive impact on the lives of kids.”
Being on the water has always been a way of life for Callen, who has competed in sailboat races, worked on research vessels, and gone on excursions around New England and the Mediterranean. “The sea has taken me all over the world,” he said.
Sail MV is a nonprofit organization that is “dedicated to protecting and perpetuating our Island’s maritime heritage, culture, skills, and the sea that surrounds us,” according to the mission statement on its website. The organization is committed to mentorship — the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s varsity sailing team, maritime services, captain’s courses, and sustainability.
Callen’s son, Brock Callen Jr., also works with the organization, and has worked with his father for a long time. “I’m proud of what he’s accomplished within the sport of sailing. It’s fun at this stage, because I learn from him, he doesn’t learn from me anymore. He’s sort of become my mentor in a way,” Callen said of his son.
Callen’s model of success for Sail MV is a stool built on three legs — youth sailing outreach, teaching classes at MVRHS, and promoting environmental responsibilities about the degradation of our oceans.
Environmentalism is not only an important part of the organization, but of Callen’s life. “The sea is being attacked by humankind,” Callen said citing plastic, overfishing, and bycatch. “We need more aggressive proponents of solutions and practices.”
Thinking of a long-term plan, Callen isn’t sure what will come next. He expects to be involved in something to do with environmental responsibility. In the short term, his focus is on a smooth transition to the next director of the organization, and staying on the water.
“Brock has been an exceptional executive director and leader of Sail Martha’s Vineyard, and we will miss him very much,” Peggy Schwier, president of the board of directors, wrote in an email from the organization. “For years Brock has worked tirelessly, far more than full-time, to ensure Sail MV’s success and stability. We are truly sad to see him go, but understand that he is ready to move on and perhaps slow down, though anyone who knows Brock knows it’s hard to imagine him really slowing down. We are happy for him, and happy also that he has assured us he will stay involved with the organization he has done so much to build.”
Callen said he feels comfortable the organization will continue to grow, and that it is well positioned for continued success, adding he will continue to be a resource for the organization.
Looking back on his time with the organization, Callen highlighted several of his favorite moments during his tenure, but forming relationships with his students and being a positive impact in their lives has been one of his most enriching. “It’s spectacular to see what they’ve accomplished in life, many of them with the sea as part of their formula,” he said.