Sunday, February 19, 2012

LaVerne E. Ragster

LaVerne E. Ragster
The marine biology program at the University has a long tradition of firsts and people working together to fulfill the instruction and research aspects of the mission. In 1985, the College of the Virgin Islands enrolled approximately 795 full time students and 17 of them declared marine biology as their major. The Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology was a new degree and we were still developing some of the courses.

As an Associate Professor of Marine Biology, I worked with Diving Instructor and Divemaster, Mark Sabino, to get students in the water and involved in research on marine algae and ecology. Mark moved tanks and other dive equipment from the dive locker in the Classroom Administration Building to the dock in Brewer’s Bay and back in his personal vehicle or faculty and students helped to carry equipment when it was necessary. We decided that the situation was not sustainable and began the search for a solution. None of the academic programs that moved students had a vehicle solely dedicated to their needs, and of course, funding was a major challenge. Mark identified a useable panel van and the idea to raise some of the funds grew among our small group of faculty and students.

Dr. LaVerne Ragster, bottom left, with marine
biology students in 1985.
The big fundraiser project was a sponsored walkathon. We solicited pledges for the approximately 16 mile trip from the St. Thomas campus to Coki Beach and back to campus. On April 21st, we started early and Mark followed us in his car with water and encouragement. Dr. Bill Gorham, wore his cap and smiled all day, and everyone was happy to sit for a little while when we arrived at Coki Beach after eight miles of walking. At the end of the day and many miles of walking, we were exhausted, but very happy to be contributing to the growth of the marine science program.

The hundreds of dollars we were able to raise helped to pay for the white panel van we bought. The van was fitted with benches for students to sit on and racks for tanks and equipment. That white panel van was the workhorse of the marine science area for years. I will always remember that long walk and the great spirit of those who worked so hard to make CVI/UVI the best it could be for all of us.

Happy 50th Anniversary, UVI!

Dr. LaVerne Ragster served as UVI President from 2002 to 2009.
She is currently a Professor of Marine Biology at UVI.

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