Sunday, September 30, 2012

Anita Gordon Plaskett – 1974, 1978

Anita Gordon Plaskett

The then College of the Virgin Islands was an integral part of my life for thirty-two years! The friendships, knowledge and unforgettable times have been and continue to be immeasurable to my ongoing professional and personal evolvement. What I remember and treasure most are the earlier days on the St. Croix Campus beginning in the summer of 1970. Classes were held in the Great House on the hill and a small library was made available on the ground floor. There was a long counter in the main entrance and Ms. Ethel Harris prepared delicious sandwiches and pastries to accommodate the majority of the students who came directly to class from fulltime jobs. Across from the Great House was a small lab where biology classes were held. This was our college campus. I will never forget Dr. Highfield’s intense Spanish and history classes that kept you asking questions and making connections with personal, local and international events. Dr. Forbes’ extensive experience and expertise in the sciences exposed his students to concepts far beyond those discussed in our textbook. His approach was multisensory, thus the learning was more sustainable and as a result, many of his students continued careers in the sciences.

Anita Gordon Plaskett at CVI graduation 1978
My early years at the now University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) underscored the premise that the size, location and contents of an institution do not define its effectiveness… it is the dedication, knowledge, high expectations set by and for the teacher and learner, and emphasis on the relevance of learning beyond the classroom walls that determine its graduates’ valuable contributions to their communities and the world. My relationship with UVI began in that Great House and those experiences propelled an ongoing affiliation through teaching at my alma mater and being an active member of the Alumni Association for twenty-two and twenty-eight years, respectively. The legacy was passed on to my son, Osman Gordon (’93), who was a member of the first class to graduate with a degree in Business Administration/Computer Information Systems. He is now a network engineer with Homeland Security.

Though I have relocated to the mainland to be a doting grandmother, UVI will always be near and dear to me. It has truly transformed my life as it has done for all who have been blessed to pass through its portals.

Dr. Plaskett recently retired from the Newport News Public School System as an assistant principal. She was also a teacher, assistant principal, principal, insular superintendent and educational consultant with the Virgin Islands Department of Education.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Marchelle D. Clarke Brown (Debbie Brown) - 1982

Marchelle D. Clarke Brown

Born on St. Eustatius, in the Dutch Caribbean, I traveled to Curacao for my secondary education. After completing that segment, I enrolled in our dear alma mater, the College of the Virgin Islands, in August 1978 and graduated with a BA in elementary education in 1982. As part of the CVI family, I took part in many aspects of college activities ranging from student government and playing on the Bucs volleyball team, as well as serving as resident assistant for the South C dorms.

Reflecting now, I realized that the general knowledge and experiences I learned from my time at UVI prepared me for the many tasks which I am able to carry out on my little island.

Upon my return home, I commenced teaching at the Golden Rock Elementary School, later becoming the assistant head teacher, and then head teacher of the same school for the last 12 years. For the past 30 years I served as president of our only official daycare for children and also served in various capacities as a member of the St. Eustatius Lioness and Toastmasters Clubs.

Other community service involvement include president of the St. Eustatius Basketball Association, member of St. Eustatius Youth Council, softball and volleyball player for several years, president of a national funding agency, president of Cleaning Machine (a cleaning and beautification group), chair for a road-naming committee, member of a political party, secretary for the secondary school-board, and as an aids committee member.

In 1983 I founded Brown’s Car Rental NV with my mother, Leonie Brown, and in 2001 established, with my husband, Gordon Clarke, TRICO Supplies NV, a concrete and building materials company. We consistently work towards improving the quality of services provided to our customers and the building of our community in general.

Marcelle Brown - CVI 1982 Yearbook
Special to me is my spiritual life as I endeavor to grow in Grace with God. So, I have in the past served in several capacities in the Methodist Church and continue to do so with the children and youth of our church. I also visit the sick and shut-ins in our community, bringing them a word from God, which is a great blessing for me.

Life for me at CVI was always exciting as I took part in most activities. After all, my entire time was spent on campus. I recall acting in the Lion and the Jewel as Sidi, and being a contestant in the Ms. CVI competition. As a past member of the Bucs volleyball team, I consider myself as most fortunate to have been trained by Coach Blake who embedded respect, endurance, commitment and a full drive to achieve in all of us. When I look back I see a strong foundation, built on solid rocks that can withstand anything. Three cheers to our alma mater!

Debbie Clarke is Head Teacher at the Golden Rock Elementary School on St. Eustatius.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Velma Tyson – 1980, 1983

Velma Tyson
This account of the positive impact that UVI has had on my life and on the lives of its students is shared as an encouragement to others to appreciate and take advantage of the great benefits of this outstanding institution of higher learning.

“Mother of three young children, wife, full-time employee with a yearning to return to the classroom, this time as a mathematics teacher,” briefly describes Velma Tyson in the mid 70’s. The major obstacle to this quest was the required bachelor’s degree in mathematics, but my personal commitments made this seem like “mission impossible.” After careful reflection, I embraced the blessing of CVI and in 1976 enrolled as a full-time student, embarking on a journey that forever changed my life. The convenience of the St. Croix campus and strong family support allowed me to complete the first two years while holding a full-time job.

The last two years were spent on the St. Thomas campus in a friendly and intellectually stimulating environment in which a group of seven mathematics majors worked as a collaborative team, often challenging ourselves in problem solving sessions. During this time I also served as the resident assistant (RA) for Harvey Dorm, which was strategically placed above the cafeteria. This was best appreciated on weekends when we managed to slip in for breakfast seconds before the door was locked while many of our friends from the other dorms missed this opportunity. Harvey was the oldest dorm for girls and was the only one on that particular location on campus so we missed a great deal of fun but there were many benefits. I remember the pride and joy among the residents when Harvey placed first in academics and sports. Two of the dorm mates who stand out in my memory were Ingrid Richardson, our volleyball star and Peggy Hughes, who was always very lady-like, pleasant and soft-spoken.

I also became a member of the President’s Club, a distinction of academic excellence. Club members were presented with navy blue custom-tailored blazers with CVI’s logo in gold thread on the pocket and the student’s name embroidered in gold on the inside lining with an additional permanently stamped tag. My blazer, dated February 16, 1979 is a treasure and is still in excellent condition. The most treasured highlight of my early CVI experiences relates to the annual trips which were taken during spring break. The person who stands out most is Guy Hewlett, now M.D., very intelligent and humble and equally humorous person. He often had the group laughing non-stop, and he said the funniest things at times when we were expected to be on our best behavior.

Velma Tyson photo taken in 1979
In May 1980, following graduation, I moved back to St. Croix. My mission was accomplished as I then experienced the joy of teaching mathematics at the secondary level. Once again, I took advantage of the benefits of CVI and in 1983 graduated with a Masters in School Management and Supervision (Education).

My employment as a mathematics instructor at UVI began in 1990, having travelled to Washington DC in 1989 to receive an award for excellence in mathematics teaching at the secondary level. My strong CVI preparation allowed me to successfully complete a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education at the University of Iowa (1992-1995), taking along my fourth child at the age of seven. In 2001 Chancellor Jennifer Jackson nominated me for a Millennium Award for excellence in mathematics teaching at U.S. universities and colleges and UVI was hence among the few proud universities to have faculty receive this award.

As a proud alumna, I serve as chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Beyond God and family, I have no greater pride and joy than to experience the continued success of the students educated at UVI. As an Emerging Caribbean Scholars coordinator I am continually thrilled as year after year I witness our scholars step on stage to accept awards when competing with students from over 700 universities. UVI is so small, yet so powerful.
In this jubilee year there is much to celebrate and the excellence will no doubt continue into the future.

Dr. Velma Tyson is a Professor of Mathematics at UVI.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Jerome L. McElroy

Jerome L. McElroy
Kudos to the faculty, staff and students of CVI/UVI for their successful efforts to maintain the academic quality of this maturing institution. I spent my early career there during the 1970s and owe a great debt of gratitude. The experience was formative for me both professionally and personally. In the first case, I cut my pedagogical teeth teaching economics at the then CVI. Because the textbooks were North American, to engage the students I had to learn how to apply theory to island reality. Using local examples has become a touchstone of my classes ever since. Another memorable aspect of those early years was student interest in the Cuban Marxist model that led to many heated but friendly discussions in the classroom and sometimes over dinner.

My work at the Caribbean Research Institute (CRI) also made an indelible imprint on my scholarly life. With competent colleagues like Norwell Harrigan and Beverly Bandler, I began to model the contours of the island economy in general and tourist development in particular. Over the years my name has become associated with the Small Island Tourist Economy or so-called SITE model, demonstrating the enduring influence of CRI on my scholarly career.

In the second case, the CVI experience living in St. Thomas was personally rewarding in three important ways. First and foremost, it was there that we adopted our daughter, Jacqueline, born on St. Croix. Second, our campus apartment overlooking Brewer’s Bay provided my wife Birdie with lovely land and seascapes to paint. As a result of the impact of that beautiful environment on her work, her first ever-art show at L’Escargot sold out in one evening. Third, the same tropical scenery prompted me to begin writing poetry. Thus far I have published three chapbooks with another in press. Clearly CVI and St. Thomas share a very deep place in the mind and heart of my family.

Jerome McElroy - 1976 CVI Yearbook
What I remember most of course is the students – eager, appreciative, courteous. One of the humorous highpoints was when I took a group of honor students on a school-funded weekend trip to St. Maarten. The first evening half gambled and won. The second all gambled and lost, proving again there is no such thing as a free lunch.

At CVI I was also privileged to work with excellent colleagues in the Social Science Department. They included Marilyn Krigger, Eric Blake, Paul Leary, John Cross, Frank Mills and Klaus de Albuquerque. I owe these pioneers a great deal for their encouragement. Klaus, in fact, became my long-standing research collaborator until his death in 1999.

I have nothing but fond memories of CVI/UVI. Congratulations again, and Godspeed forward for the next fifty.

Dr. McElroy was at CVI from 1972 to 1980 and taught economics and conducted research at the Caribbean Research Institute (now UVI’s Eastern Caribbean Center).

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Albert Bryan - 2004

Albert Bryan
I’ve always wanted to be huge part of whatever happened in the Virgin Islands, and I knew that I would have to have the tools and personal growth that would ensure that I would be ready for the challenge. An MBA was one of the tools I thought I would need to give me the credibility. My honest motivation at the time was to get the “sheepskin,” put it in my arsenal and move on. What I found at UVI was a most welcome and pleasant surprise.

I know that the new trend is to get your MBA online and move on. It’s flexible and convenient to the working professional, but the rewards of the classroom and the instructors were invaluable. One of the most surprising benefits was the networking. It is the perfect medium to meet Virgin Islanders that are positive, progressive and want to invest in themselves with a solid education. The videoconference classes allow for you to connect with and gain the perspective from St. Thomians as well as St. Johnians. These are connections that I use every day as the same people dominate both the public and private sectors of our Territory.

Albert Bryan and UVI Director of Annual 
Giving and Alumni Affairs Linda I. Smith.

The other discovery was the wealth of untapped talent that passes through the University every day. As the Labor commissioner, I am well aware of the struggles of employers and job seekers to make the right “connect.” People say it’s not what you know, but who you know and networking is an integral part of becoming successful. If I don’t know you have the talent, I can’t tap into it. The graduate programs allowed us to see talents that extended beyond job descriptions and resume’ of the people we interacted with.

The relationships I forged coupled with the instruction and graduate experience I gained are the cornerstone of the personal growth I have attained during and after my graduation from UVI. If you plan to stay in the Virgin Islands and want to expand your educational portfolio, UVI is a must. Real problems of our Territory become the focus of your case studies, and real people who will eventually help solve them become lifelong colleagues, business associates and friends. 

Albert Bryan is now commissioner of labor in the U. S. Virgin Islands.