CAPE COD, Mass. (AP) – The Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the nation’s oldest coed maritime college, plans to rename its training ship The Kennedy in tribute to the whole of the Kennedy clan, a senior official said Sunday.

The idea stemmed from Rep. William Delahunt’s proposal to honor the service of Sen. Edward Kennedy, who was diagnosed in May with a malignant brain tumor, the academy’s president, U.S. Marine’s Rear Admiral Richard Gurnon, said.

Focus, however, quickly shifted to tribute to the ailing senator’s whole family – including late President John F. Kennedy, former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and eldest sibling Joseph Kennedy, who was killed in WWII on a secret bombing mission, Gurnon said.

Renaming the academy’s training ship – the T.S. Enterprise – will also be a fitting honor to patriarch Joseph Kennedy, who was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the nation’s first Maritime Administrator, Gurnon said.

The academy’s training ship is on loan from the federal government and will remain with the institution for the next 10 to 15 years, Gurnon said.

“He was part of the initial regulation and encouragement to grow the American merchant fleet,” Gurnon said. “We know that because all of our students are required to memorize a saying that he has, which goes: ‘You can have a first-class merchant marine with first-class men, even if they sail second-class ships, but second-class men can’t be trusted on the finest ships afloat.”‘

“What he was saying was it was important to invest in the education and in the training of merchant mariners, of the officers who go to sea,” Gurnon said. “So, for all those good reasons, the academy was overjoyed at the opportunity to honor the Kennedy family by naming the training ship after the Kennedys.”

The family patriarch was a leading figure of the Democratic Party. He also served as the inaugural Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom.

The T.S. Enterprise takes about 500 students to sea every winter, where they hone their ship-handling and operations skills.

Delahunt has written a letter to the academy with a formal proposal that the ship be renamed The Kennedy, Gurnon said.

The academy’s board of trustees is expected to meet Sept. 4 to vote on the proposal.

If approved, the plan will then be presented to Gov. Deval Patrick, who is then expected to formally propose to Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton that the ship be renamed. The ship’s formal renaming could take place in the fall.

“We have 1,200 young men and women in training, going through college. This will be a daily, constant reminder of both the public service that the Kennedys are famous for and also their love of the sea,” Gurnon said.

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