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Friends & Neighbors: Niantic native earns commendation

Lt. Benjamin D. Smith, a Niantic native, was presented the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal as an end-of-tour award by Capt. Steven W. Antcliff, commanding officer, Naval Submarine School at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, on May 19.

Smith is ending his time in uniform after seven years of naval service. Smith’s most recent duty assignment was serving as the Prospective Nuclear Engineering Officer for the Naval Submarine School. Smith was in charge of ensuring that officer students received quality instruction in their preparation for department head screening. He also provided submarine officers with training to become engineers aboard a nuclear-powered submarine.

Smith ensured that over 150 office students passed the engineer examination. Thirteen of Smith’s students were recognized directly by the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program for academic excellence.


Dant Hirsch named Ocean House Collection president

Dant Hirsch has been named president and managing director of Ocean House Collection, a company that operates the Ocean House in Watch Hill and the Weekapaug Inn in Stonington, among other properties.

Ocean House Collection was founded by Charles and Deborah Royce in 2010 with the redevelopment of Ocean House, one of only 14 properties in the world to attain a Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel designation.

"Dant has the leadership track record, the creativity and the vision to successfully lead this extraordinary collection of properties and our associates," said the Royces in a release. "His understanding of the luxury hotel industry enables him to provide a strategic direction for our capable team members, create exceptional and innovative experiences for our guests, serve our local community, and help position the organization for the future."

Hirsch previously was general manager of Six Senses Hotels Resorts and Spas in New York. He also served as general manager at The Dominick in New York and Faena Miami Beach.

Hirsch officially began at Ocean House Collection on June 16. He and his wife Ana Maria and son Hayden will reside in the Westerly area.

Friends & Neighbors is a regular feature. To submit, email


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