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SUPERIOR, Wis. – Somebody really wants to get students on the water.

An anonymous donor gave $1 million to the University of Wisconsin-Superior this month to relaunch a floating classroom as part of the Lake Superior Research Institute (LSRI).

"Our dream is a purpose-built, mission-driven vessel to serve as a hands-on floating classroom and laboratory," said Matt TenEyck, director of the institute. "We just happen to have this amazing opportunity come before us."

It will take several years of planning before a boat, whether newly built or retrofitted, touches the water.

For more than 30 years, the university took students out on the L.L. Smith Jr., but it became too expensive to maintain and was sold in 2012.

"We believe the L.L. 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."

The vessel would aid ballast water research that kicked off this summer at the institute's Montreal Pier facility in Superior.

The University of Minnesota Duluth owns a research vessel, the Blue Heron, and the EPA plies the Great Lakes on the Lake Guardian. TenEyck said the new vessel would complement and not compete with those platforms — and look beyond just scientific purposes.

"There's no reason you can't take an art class out on the ship on Lake Superior and let that be the source of inspiration," he said. "There's no better way to be inspired or educated."

No details about the identity of the donor were disclosed, though Chancellor Renée Wachter said the grant is "bringing to life the donors' passion for all things Lake Superior."

Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496