UVI Turns 50!
As a former Professor at the College of the Virgin Islands (CVI) for twenty years, I was more than ready to celebrate the 50-Year Golden Jubilee on January 27!
Visitors and residents who "discovered" St. Croix in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, watched St. Croix grow from 2,000 to 62,000 people. I came to St. Croix in 1960 and watched this growth from 1962 to 1986 when the VI Legislature voted to open a 2-year Community College in the Territory. This was the beginning of CVI on St. Croix and St. Thomas with campus development proving to be quite a challenge.
Both campuses opened in 1964 but the St. Croix "campus" consisted of classrooms scattered around the island. The two-story Golden Grove Greathouse, on the grounds of the current University of the Virgin Islands (U.V.I.) campus, was purchased in 1969 and was where the first 25 students were taught the opening semester. Registration increased to 1000 in the next ten years. All classes were held in the evenings since most students held full-time jobs. I remember attending the first graduation at the campus in 1965 with guest speaker, First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson!
By 1970, I was a full-time member of the faculty teaching shorthand, typing, and helping recruit new students. In the 1980s, I began teaching computer classes instead of typing--my first class having 12 students and 3 computers! In the mid-70s, a library was built with classrooms and administrative offices and named the Melvin Evans Learning Center in 1976. The Golden Grove Greathouse served the campus for at least 24 years until it became the University of the Virgin Islands in 1986. It is still used for the administrative offices and the President's and Provost's offices.
It was exciting working with the first President of CVI, Lawrence C. Wanlass (1963-1981) who laid the groundwork and, with his staff, established and selected administrative and teaching personnel to guide the growth on both islands. The College was funded by the VI Legislature and it was his task to have salaries and maintenance costs approved by them on a regular basis.
I remember many men and women who also pioneered this growth: Aimery Caron, Administrative Officer and Professor, Arthur A. Richards, Provost and Dean, Vitalia Wallace, Associate Dean, Harry Gerecke, Business Manager, Burt Dunmire, Dean of Continuing Education, William Thomas, Dean of Students, Edward Towle, Caribbean Research Institute, Bryce Perkins, St. Croix Director, Ernest Wagner, Librarian, Mario Watlington, Registrar, and James Ready, Public Information Officer.
I retired in 1986, the same year the college was renamed the University of the Virgin Islands, but was proud to have played an integral role in those early years. When I met the new president of the University of the Virgin Islands David Hall, in 2009, it inspired me to write my new book, "Memories of the Founding and Early Years of the College of the Virgin Islands on St. Croix (1960-1986) and I gave him the first copy!