Divers Institute of Technology Celebrates 50 years serving the commercial diving industry.

Divers Institute of Technology Celebrates 50 years serving the commercial diving industry.

Divers Institute of Technology in Seattle is pleased to celebrate 50 years serving the commercial diving industry. DIT celebrated this accomplishment with staff, students, alumni, industry employers and executive team with a weekend full of activities including a tour around Lake Union and Lake Washington on the MV Response, seafood boil and formal celebration at the Seattle Aquarium. 

Since its inception, DIT has trained thousands of professional divers for elite commercial diving companies worldwide. DIT’s comprehensive seven-month program trains divers in initial skills and certification requirements for both U.S. and international commercial diving.  

Historical Mark V dive gear compared to the Kirby Morgan hat and current equipment commercial divers use. 

DIT’s educational philosophy is to provide exceptional quality classroom instruction in all aspects of diver training; executed by an experienced, competent and dedicated faculty; and designed to ensure those seeking a solid foundation in the skills and knowledge required for the commercial diving are prepared for the field.

The school was founded in 1968 by John Manlove after a 20-year U.S. Navy diving career that  included training personnel for advanced qualifications. John was joined by co-founder Leiter Hockett, who was later succeeded by Navy veteran Dyer ‘Jack’ Bisplinghoff as co-owner and President. Navy veteran Charles ‘Chuck’ Litzo joined the early leadership team and helped students acquire financial aid to attend DIT.

DIT was first accredited in 1973 (NATTS), maintaining continuous accreditation in good standing ever since, including a transfer to ACCSC in the 1990s.

DIT’s campus in Ballard and current campus on Lake Union.

When the original location’s floating barge sank into the ship canal connecting Lake Union and Puget Sound, DIT relocated to 11th Avenue in Ballard. Five portable trailers served as classrooms and administrative offices. Dive stations were four floating barges and the deep dive vessel—65’ ft. M/V Response. 

Manlove retired in 1986, turning over the school to retired Navy Diver John Ritter who then led DIT for 13 years. The school changed hands in 1999 when Jamestown Marine Services (JMS), led by retired Navy Commander Bruce Banks and retired Navy Engineering Duty Officer CAPT Jack Ringelberg, purchased DIT. John Manlove rejoined the school in the early 2000’s and trained divers until the day he passed away in 2006.

JMS was well-poised to assume school leadership and expand into the international diving community.  The two principles provided extensive expertise in marine engineering, diving instruction and underwater operations. Commander Banks was a Navy Special Operations Officer who held command of two salvage vessels, served as the Executive Officer of the Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU) and as Commanding Officer of the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center (NDSTC). Captain Ringelberg specialized in Naval Architecture and was Commanding Officer at NEDU. In 2000, they appointed retired Navy Commander and former saturation diver John Paul Johnston as DIT’s Executive Director.

DIT graduate, Ben McNeil class 104-69 shaking hands with DIT’s Owner, Bruce Banks at the 50th celebration

DIT expanded into the international standards arena in 1999, collaborating with the Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia.  Navy Master Diver Richard “Ragman” Radecki, Banks, and others continued writing, developing and implementing new commercial diver training standards under the auspices of the Canadian Standards Association.   

John Paul Johnston assumed the position as Executive Director of the Divers Institute of Technology upon his retirement from the U.S. Navy where he served as an enlisted Saturation Diver and Diving Officer. In 2003, under Bruce Banks, Ragman Radecki and John Paul’s leadership, DIT became the first U.S. Diver Training Establishment accredited by Diver Certification Board of Canada (DCBC).  ADCI Executive Director Phil Newsum was the first DCBC certified diver in the U.S. In 2011 DIT moved to its current Seattle campus at 1341 N. Northlake Way, now housing four floating barges as dive training stations, a designated welding and metals shop with two underwater welding tanks, and the M/V Response.

DIT’s Executive Director, John Paul Johnston, Owner, Bruce Banks and ADCI’s Executive Director, Phil Newsum at DIT’s 50 year celebration

DIT is staffed by an experienced instructor team: many are graduates who returned to teach after diving careers offshore, inland and internationally; approximately 50% are veterans. Average tenure among current instructors is seven years; several have taught more than ten years.  Many of these instructors return to the industry to ensure that DIT’s curriculum is on par with current industry standards and technology. 

DIT prides itself on the quality of graduates entering the diving industry upon graduation. Significant numbers of DIT graduates have gone on to highly successful professional commercial, recreational, and regulatory diving careers, including industry leaders of several notable commercial diving companies.

Divers Institute of Technology has proudly supplied skilled divers to the marine industry for half a century and plans to follow that same path into the future with growth in new areas of marine technologies. 

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