Greg ’99 and Heather Moore Johnston ’97

Sustainable Pub Fare

By Warren Miller ’90MBA and Alice Smetheram Bass ’88

Heather Moore Johnston and Greg Johnston

Little Harbour is about as close to paradise as it gets: a small circle of crystal-blue water surrounded by palm trees and white sand on the southeastern shore of Abaco Island in the Bahamas. When Canadian sculptor Randolph Johnston first sailed into the narrow mouth of the sheltered cove, with his wife and three sons on board, he knew Little Harbour was the refuge from the modern world he had been seeking.

The year was 1947, and Johnston wanted to leave what he called “the megamachine” of the post-war industrial world. He settled in Little Harbour and there built a bronze foundry, where he used the lost wax process to sculpt commissioned works and his own visions. His youngest son, Pete, became a sculptor as well and expanded the family colony to include an art gallery, beach guesthouses, and Pete’s Pub—a bar and restaurant that became an icon to the global sailing community as the “last stop” in the islands before the open sea. The tradition continued with Pete’s sons, Greg and Tyler, who also were raised in the family pursuits, from bronze casting to bartending.

And then—as it might be told in a seafarer’s tale—Greg Johnston ’99 landed at Rollins College, and a lasting link between the enchanted cove and the College was formed.

At Rollins, Greg met Heather Moore ’97, a Key West native who had set her sights on Washington and a career in international relations until visiting Greg’s home in Little Harbour. “The first time I saw the place, I knew that was where I wanted to live,” she said. The two married and moved to Little Harbour to run Pete’s Pub.

The rustic island lifestyle appeals to the couple, as does supporting local charities and community programs. When by chance they connected with Ted Boylan, a Rollins parent and member of the President’s Leadership Council who owns a vacation home near Little Harbour, the three hit on the idea of sponsoring Rollins students for service-learning projects on the Island.

The seed was planted and the Rollins network kicked into high gear. Before long, Rollins Associate Professor of Political Science Mike Gunter and Director of Community Engagement Micki Meyer made a site visit to the island, and last winter, Gunter partnered with the Johnstons and Boylan to host the first group of Rollins students in Little Harbour. The group spent seven days working with Friends of the Environment on a project to remove invasive species from the island’s waterfront and create a community park with all-native plants. They also participated in a town hall meeting with residents of Abaco to discuss challenges of eco-tourism, development, and civic engagement. According to Gunter, “This experience allowed our students to gain a more thorough understanding of the politics surrounding environmental issues, from invasive species to tourism, to new urbanism development, to gathering support for a national park protected area—not only in the Bahamas, but also the United States.”

Thanks to the Johnston connection, Abaco will welcome the next wave of Rollins students in December 2009. Students enrolled in the Rollins College Conference (RCC) course Conquering the Digital Divide will participate in service-learning projects with public and private schools on the islands, helping to bridge the gaps in technology, access, and education.

“Students come back from experiences like this with a greater hunger for understanding what they are studying here on campus,” Gunter said. “They are more informed, of course, but also more curious and more driven.”