Oyster farming: Is it in your future? Most students at the College would probably say no – the liberal arts degree offers a broad range of opportunities, but you can only take it so far. And while Chris Sherman ’07 probably would have been in this camp if you asked him a few years ago, today he works for a small company called Island Creek Oysters. In fact, Sherman thinks the College prepared him particularly well for his current job. An English major and maritime studies concentrator, Sherman credits his college education not only for his ability to “read Chaucer in Middle English while bobbing around in a sailboat,” but also for his graduation with “marketable skills” and his knowledge about people.
“So much of what I learned at Williams was outside the classroom. There’s the obvious stuff: marking borders and catching birds in Hopkins Forest, running around upstate New York with Sheafe [Satterthwaite, lecturer in art] and bobbing around the Caribbean on a sailboat with Williams-Mystic all taught me wonderful things that have been bizarrely applicable to my life thus far,” Sherman said. “There’s also the un-obvious, which are perhaps even more important: how to choose great friends, how to care wholeheartedly about the abstract concept known as the ‘greater good’ how to halt traffic on a busy state highway by merely stepping into the crosswalk and of course how to stop and think.”
Despite living in Agard House sophomore year, a hike from almost everything on campus, and studying abroad all of junior year, Sherman was fairly involved in campus life. “I played varsity lacrosse, worked in Hopkins Forest, hung around the [Center for Environmental Studies] and wrote the occasional Record article. I was also a Sheafe Satterthwaite acolyte,” Sherman said.
After graduation, Sherman contemplated his next life decision. That brought him to New Hampshire, where he enrolled in the Tuck Business Bridge Program, an intensive business school crash course. “From what I could tell, [it was] a program for recovering liberal arts students who were English majors and the like and have yet to discover there are actually ways to find paid work bobbing around in a boat reading Chaucer aloud,” he said. Also in the program with Sherman was a childhood friend, whose uncle was a yacht designer. Sherman had experience with both sailing and constructing boats and accepted the opportunity to combine his knowledge of the maritime industry and of business practices, moving to Whangarei, New Zealand. Sherman later returned and worked for the same company in their design office in Newport, R.I.
Realizing that he would need to log more hours on the ocean if he were to make it in the industry, he relocated once more. “I went up to Maine and with a good reference from my old noteworthy boss, hopped on a schooner/ketch as a deckhand … and proceeded to make my living (or close to it) sailing professionally for the next couple of years,” he said. Living in Maine with his now-fiancé, Sherman cultivated his love for food and the sea. However, he realized at some point he would need a “land job,” especially with marriage looming in the future. He got in contact with a couple other childhood acquaintances that were working for a company called Island Creek Oysters in his native town of Duxbury, Mass. “They were starting to have some great success running an oyster farm and wholesale company called Island Creek Oysters. I got a job working full-time on the farm, growing and harvesting oysters – my boat and mechanical skills, passion for sustainable food and limited French really helped – and given my background and education I made the switch into the office.” Island Creek Oysters, along with being a sustainable oyster farm, is also in charge of “a restaurant, an e-commerce website, a festival, a charitable foundation and a bunch of chickens that have had a rough winter and are this close to quite literally flying the coop.”
After pursuing work that has taken him to Maine, the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Canadian maritimes, Sherman never expected to end up back in his hometown. “I now live where I grew up! Couldn’t have called that one in a million years,” he said.
Sherman’s story is proof that you never really know what skills you will need in life or where life will take you. In the end, the world is your oyster.