The life of retired Florida Atlantic University Professor Ray McAllister was honored by the South Florida Diving Community recently with a sculpture placed at one of Broward County’s most popular SCUBA Diving sites; The Ancient Mariner artificial reef, which lies in 70 feet of water off Deerfield Beach.
Professor McAllister passed away in September 2012 at the age of 89. He was known as a diving pioneer who began his diving career in California at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1951 and taught his first SCUBA class in 1952. He joined the Florida Atlantic University in 1964 as one of the founding professors and co-founded the university’s ocean engineering department. Over the years he was a respected educator who helped countless others enjoy the sport of diving. Known for writing numerous scientific research papers, books and articles on diving he began fighting to protect the area’s coral reefs over forty years ago.
The memorial, organized by a friend of McAllister’s, Jeff Torode of South Florida Diving Headquarters consists of a “reef art” sculpture created in 2000 by David Whitman Alger. After obtaining permission from Broward County officials, Torode and a group of fellow divers lowered the large, colorful steel sculpture of a coral reef to the deck of the Ancient Mariner where it was permanently secured. Afterwards a short dedication ceremony was held.
For years the sculpture decorated the entrance of Tails Island Grill, a waterfront restaurant in Pompano Beach but the restaurant closed several years ago and was scheduled for demolition. Torode convinced the current owners, Hunter Hospitalities LLC to donate the reef art to Broward County’s artificial reef program to serve as a memorial and to be enjoyed by SCUBA divers.