Congratulations to Rhode Island Sea Grant Director Dennis Nixon, who was honored this weekend by Roger Williams University School of Law with the degree of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa.

“I am proud to announce that the law school is conferring an honorary degree on Dennis Nixon for his remarkable career as a teacher, researcher, and protector of one of our most precious resources,” said Michael Yelnosky, Dean and Professor of Law at RWU School of Law.

Nixon has served as Director of the Rhode Island Sea Grant Program since 2013, leading a multimillion-dollar research and education program devoted to using scientific knowledge to improve the management of Rhode Island’s coastal waters. He is also a member of the advisory board of the Marine Affairs Institute at RWU Law.

“I’m proud to accept this award on behalf of all those who have made this collaboration a meaningful experience,” said Nixon, referring to the joint degree program between RWU and the University of Rhode Island Marine Affairs Department, as well as the connection between Rhode Island Sea Grant’s legal program and the RWU Marine Affairs Institute.  “The combination has really made a difference in resolving conflicts over multiple marine and coastal issues.”

Nixon notes that he is particularly proud of his thousands of former students now working in marine industries, government, law and science.


A faculty member at URI for five decades, Nixon teaches in the area of marine and coastal law. He served for four years as Associate Dean for Research and Administration at the Graduate School of Oceanography (where he was responsible for the administration of the 200-plus-acre campus, pier, and the 185-foot research vessel Endeavor) and for the preceding eight years as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the College of the Environment and Life Sciences.

A marine lawyer by training, Nixon is a member of the Maritime Law Association of the United States and the Rhode Island bar. He is Secretary and General Counsel for the Point Club, a fishing vessel insurance cooperative he helped found over 30 years ago; and co-founder of the International Marina Institute, which provides educational programs and certification for professionals in the marine industry around the world.

Under a grant from the National Science Foundation, Nixon acts as legal advisor and risk manager for the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System, and has provided advice to the entire U.S. academic research vessel fleet since 1986.

Nixon has lectured on marine law topics in 27 states and 26 countries on six continents. He publishes widely, and is author of the seminal casebook, Marine and Coastal Law (1994), now entering its third edition. Nixon holds certificates in International Institutions from the University of Geneva, and Ocean Law from Harvard Law School. He is an avid sailor, and races weekly on Narragansett Bay. He holds a Coast Guard master’s license, and a PADI open-water diver certification.

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