Sunday, August 19, 2012

Orville E. Kean

Orville E. Kean
Perhaps the most memorable experience I had while serving as president of UVI was the year I spent working in the Fishbowl. The Fishbowl was the area which houses the African Sculpture Exhibit on the first floor of the Reichhold Center for the Arts.

During the passage of Hurricane Marilyn over St. Thomas in the early morning hours on September 16, 1995, a garbage dumpster located on the northeast corner of the Ralph M. Paiewonsky Library was lifted into the air by one of the tornados spawned by the hurricane. It smashed into the northeast corner of library’s roof, where it tore a huge gaping hole into the roof, then flew over the roof and landed half-buried in the center of the stage of the Reichhold Center. Along the way it tore apart about 15 seats that were located in the covered section of the Center.

The damage caused by the dumpster made it impossible for the offices on the second floor of the library to be occupied when operations resumed after the hurricane. As a result, the offices of the president and of the vice president for University Relations had to be relocated somewhere else. The only space that was readily available was the open space on the first floor of the Reichhold Center that was minimally utilized by the Center’s staff. But the space was not large enough, and it was too open to provide the privacy needed for the operations of the office of the president.

Therefore, a decision was made to remove the African sculptures from their glass-enclosed exhibit room, place them in storage, and use the room as the president’s office. Everything that happened in the president’s office would become clearly visible to everyone working in the open space on the first floor. Hence the name The Fishbowl.
Nevertheless, it provided the acoustic seclusion required for private discussions.

It was not so bad. It was the first and only time I worked in an office with a window during the 12 years I served as president. The same thing was true during the ten years I served as Dean of Instruction and as Executive Vice President. In my last 22 years at the University, The Fishbowl provided my only opportunity to see anything outside my office without opening a door.

Orville Kean in 2003
Working in The Fishbowl was probably my most productive year as president. The construction and reconstruction projects that followed Hurricane Marilyn created the modern face of the University. Progress was made on the construction of the St. Croix Campus’102-bed residence halls and Ancillary Services Facility, and design of the St. Thomas Sports and Fitness Center. In general, all of the infrastructure projects that were completed during the ten-year period following Hurricane Marilyn were included in the UVI Facilities Master Plan that was approved during that year.

The Plan included adequate stand-by power generation facilities for each campus; the burying of the power lines and computer lines; self-sufficiency in the generation and production of safe drinking water on the St. Thomas Campus; the construction of the Music Building on the St. Thomas Campus; the construction of a new cafeteria on the St. Thomas Campus; the redesign and facelift of The Great House on the St. Croix Campus; the construction of ball courts on the St. Croix Campus; and the plan to use the structural framework of the Harvey Student Center to construct a new Administration Center that would house the operations of the University’s administrative services.

President Emeritus Kean is now retired and lives on St. Thomas.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please share your UVI story here.