Waterbury Values

By Dr, Louis D’Abramo

   Thank you for this wonderful honor of induction. Thanks to the Selection Committee and to the Silas Bronson Library. This honor brings on different feelings, excitement, joy, humility, why me. I particularly thank those who have taken time today to be here and to share this special day with me.

   Many years ago, I gave up the life of a Waterburian, hearing many calls, adventure, challenge, and excitement. However, much of what I experienced in Waterbury has had a profound effect upon my life. I grew up in Waterbury at a time of change and transition, those times of transition marked by the eventual closure of the smoke stack manufacturing plants that were part of the lives of so many Waterburians and that were the foundation of the vitality of Waterbury for so long, the opening of the intersection of routes 84 and 8, east-west meeting north-south, the race uprisings of the summer of 1968. It was a time of profound change, a time to question authority,.the world was changing rapidly, the world that had seemed so large, and things that seem so unattainable were now becoming close and attainable. Commercial air travel became affordable to many. Higher education was no longer for the elite. I no longer felt that my destiny had to be in Waterbury. I left Waterbury open eyed; seeking change, looking for adventure, trying to experience what I thought was the unattainable just a few years previous.

   Although I left Waterbury physically, my roots are sustained, having guided me each day throughout my life. The opportunities and the experiences during my first 20+ years living in Waterbury have had a marked affect upon my life. There are so many thoughts about whom and what shaped my early years in Waterburyjust a few here today. My mother and father who guided me but who never thwarted my desire to seek new ideas, to try to go beyond, to try to find where I might fit. I learned about trust and respect from them. Their love was a love that allowed me to grow, a love that did not thwart me from growing with my ideas and my dreams. I learned that hard work and perseverance would pay dividendsI learned that from an 89 year old coach of the Sacred Heart High School cross country and track teams who had faith in me and my athletic abilities, who found a special talent and nurtured the talents of all those who wanted to compete. I learned that there were many common threads of emotion and feelings among people as I worked in Somers Brass and the Waterbury Buckle Company during the summers as a college student.

   The people saw the future in me and embraced me, sometimes finding it difficult to accept the ideas of a new generation, the music that excited me, and my anti-Vietnam war sentiments. I saw in them a work-ethic, a steadfast dedication to their job. I developed respect for people of different races and cultures as a member of the Boys Clubs of America both at its Cottage Place and East Main Street locations. Different cultures and races were embraced. We played together and we grew together, taught by the role model of Mario Generali, a fellow inductee. What a special feeling to be in his company as an inductee today!

   I have been blessed in having the opportunity to travel to 21 countries on six continents meeting people who have the same interests that I do, finding out that they share the same feelings, seek the same goals, want the same things for their children that I want for mine, feel the same emotions. I apply my education in marine biology and ecology to the farming of fish. My scientific playground is amid shrimp, catfish, crayfish, sea urchins, and oysters. Some of you may be unaware that over 35 % of all the seafood consumed in the world is now farmed. As the world population increases and seafood consumption correspondingly increases, I look for ways to fill a void that cannot be filled by the harvesting from our natural oceanic fisheries. My research is devoted to developing management practices that will fill that void through farming while acting environmentally responsible so that our resources are not destroyed and remain available for future generations. These activities compel me to travel to all parts of the world to share my ideas with the ideas of others, to seek solutions that develop and sustain resources whereby both companies and individuals who grow fish for a living, and those who simply grow fish to feed themselves are benefited.

   I am an ambassador of Waterbury, Connecticut, not formally but through the people of Waterbury who so influenced me. My life in Waterbury did indeed prepare me to relish the opportunities placed before me and use my talents to the best of my ability. The world has indeed gotten smaller and smaller since my early years in Waterbury when everything seemed so far away and people from other countries seemed so strange, so unapproachable, so different. But we now see how activities in one part of the world have repercussions throughout the world. The distinct borders of the countries of the world persist but we are one community, living in a single environment, the planet Earth, and future survival compels us to respect and learn to live and interact to embrace and preserve that community. I try to do just that as I contribute to the science of fish farming.

   My occupation has afforded me the opportunity to interact, to embrace, and to preserve. I can say that my experience has been enhanced by my adolescent and young adult years living in Waterbury and learning from the people who lived here and still live here. I recently received a letter from one of my former students in the Republic of China. He is a professor there in Keelung, at the National Taiwan Ocean University. Yes, Waterbury your influence upon me has stretched to people in the Far East on the other side of the world. He is writing to me and he is also talking to you.

   As you said, things changed drastically. My father has passed away for more than 1 year, and my mother is very sick now because of a chronic lymphatic carcinoma at stage 4. I have refused Sheen’s offer for a speech abroad a few days ago since I felt I have to stay in Taiwan in case of any moment when my mother needs me. Though so far we are not able to do anything for you, we are always trying our best. And what here I want to tell my dear professor is we are together all the time and please always keep yourself happy for your health. Friends are one of the most important resources in our lives. Even though they cannot do anything to help, at least they’ll let you feel their concerns and warm your heart.

   “Life goes on” was one of the most positive sayings I had learned during my stay in MSU. Through my lectures sometimes I wrote these words and asking students to translate in Chinese. In fact there’s no equivalent saying in Chinese which can neatly fit that saying. But the strong will to survive for future has well expressed the American way of thinking and hardworking style. Me and Sheen have today’s positions, the most important factor was you as our major professor. If not you, my writing ability could not improve so much even though I hated you the time when you corrected my dissertation.

   I have learned from Yii Shing and so many others, and he has learned from me, about not only the science and the art of growing fish but also about kinship and our feelings. If I can be judged to have made a difference, then the people of Waterbury have made a difference. We are indeed so connected, a connection that is filled with the excitement of the connection of Routes 8 and 84 back in the mid 1960s. And today, because of my past and present connections to the people of Waterbury, I connect to a person like Yii Shing Huang and he connects to me as a scientist, as a conservationist, as a fellow man who sometimes hurts and other times is joyous, who respects nature and loves his family. I hope that you feel connected to him because my connection to him and to others like him around the world is through my connection to the people of Waterbury. Thank you people of Waterbury for this honor and for helping to lead me to this honor.