Sunday, October 28, 2012

Judith Grybowski

Judith Grybowski
Through the influence of Dr. Roy Anduze, Commissioner of Health and a member of the Board of Trustees, Ianthe Blyden, RN, and many others in the nursing community, the leaders and policy makers of CVI (College of the Virgin Islands) were committed to the development of a nursing program at the new college. Support and guidance was provided by New York University. Through their efforts they identified two nurse faculty who were “loaned” to the College; they provided the initial curriculum planning, and an Associate of Arts program was approved by the Board of Trustees in 1965. The program was placed in the Division of Math and Science. Students were admitted in the Fall of 1965. Helen Gjessing taught microbiology and continued to do so for 20 years. Students also took general biology until an anatomy and physiology course was available. The classrooms were located on the third floor of the Classroom Administration Building.

On my very first day I accompanied students of nursing to do a clinical day at the Knud Hansen Hospital on St. Thomas and take care of patients. There was no running water. That precious substance was available only in large clean waste cans. I said to myself, “What have you gotten yourself in for?”

Then on our very first clinical day at Queen Louise Home for the Aged upon our arrival we were asked to sit in the waiting area until all was ready. Again, the water system was not working for Hospital Ground, and they also could not do the laundry. After a while the water came on, but the staff had not returned with the new purchases of linen for the residents. I was told, “We have to have things nice for the students.”

When we extended our program to St. Croix, we did not have access yet to the third floor (previously the surgical unit) of Charles Harwood Hospital. So Ms. Armstrong and I selected an available space adjacent to the library, and our water was provided through a garden hose. We had to go outside to turn the water on and off.

Judith Grybowski - 1970 CVI Yearbook

The second year we were relocated to the previous surgical unit on the third floor of Charles Harwood Hospital. The college’s Physical Plant staff enthusiastically helped us renovate the facility, so it would serve as an effective teaching facility with a nursing arts lab and a science lab. Two new faculty (Kathy Sheats and Dr. Foster-Strauss) and K. Corbett, who relocated from St. Thomas, joined Ms. Armstrong. One night we had one of our famous rain storms, and on awakening I turned on the radio to learn that classes were cancelled. I called Dr. Foster-Strauss to learn how she fared during the storm, and she replied with evident stress, “Oh, Judy, I am exhausted. I have been up all night mopping the floors. But I’m ready to go teach clinical at the hospital.” Laughing, I told her that flash flood alerts are out and classes had been cancelled. I then instructed her to listen to our local radio programs as they provided us necessary updates and information. I then called Ms. Sheats. She started our conversation, “Oh, Judy, I am exhausted. I have been up all night mopping the floors. But I’m ready to go teach clinical at the hospital.” Following my repetition of pertinent instructions, I then called Ms. Corbett, thinking, “I know she’s lived on St. Thomas for three years – but I’ll call her just to be sure.” Corbett calmly responded, “Oh, I did a little spot mopping and am sitting on the gallery with my second coffee and Bailey’s.”

The Charles Harwood Hospital roof held during Hugo, but windows were damaged, and everything was wet, and the winds had moved the heavy beds and other furniture all over the place. The whole unit was flooded and a mess. The CVI physical plant assisted us, so we could get back to teaching. However, our students had experiences of a lifetime – experiences few other nursing students could match. They cared for their patients in a “MASH Unit” for nine months in the tent hospital.

Judith Grybowski is a Professor Emerita of Nursing.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Juanita Woods

Juanita Woods

In 1977, I was hired to serve in the position of Counselor/Administrative Aide. It was a new and unique federally funded, Title III position designed to provide, for the first time, counseling services for full- and part-time students as well as provide administrative support to the Director of the St. Croix campus, Dr. Mary Savage, now deceased. I later assumed the positions of Director of Student Life, Dean of Students, and Associate Chancellor. After retirement, I was appointed by the then Governor to UVI’s Board of Trustees on which I served from 2004 to 2010. In 2009, President David Hall asked me to serve on the Inauguration Committee and, more recently, on the Golden Jubilee Operations Committee. Being affiliated with the University for approximately 35 of its 50 years has allowed me to work with so many wonderful students, faculty and staff on both campuses and to implement such a vast array of programs, activities and services that it is very difficult to articulate experiences that stand above all others. But two dates do: September 17 and October 23, 1989. These are historically significant for the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. The first date was when hurricane Hugo devastated the island and it was exactly 23 years ago this week, specifically on October 23, 1989 that classes resumed.

Not to dwell on the initial isolation, damages to UVI facilities, personal loses, and total lack of communication; it is what took place between September 17 and October 23, 1989 that was nothing short of phenomenal. To this day, I marvel at the large number of students who not only came to the office to ascertain the status of the campus and their classes, or to officially withdraw; many came to volunteer with our clean-up efforts. Nowhere was this volunteerism more appreciated than in the library where thousands of books and periodicals, the entire collection, had to be aired and mold removed. Once our business infrastructure was operational, these same student volunteers and many more were hired to work alongside faculty, staff and workers deployed by the Hess Oil Refinery to clean up the campus, take inventory and help conduct damage assessment for insurance purposes. While the UVI family was devoting all of its efforts toward the resumption of classes, community agencies worked with us as well. The Water and Power Authority (WAPA) placed UVI on high priority, Public Safety agreed to honor student passes (a curfew remained in place after classes resumed), Chase Bank facilitated banking services on campus, laundry service was set up for employees, and FEMA approved the campus as a food distribution center. Never had I experienced such community spirit, mutual respect, collective work ethic, camaraderie, and yes, fun, in the attainment of a common goal as I witnessed between September 17 and October 23, 1989!

Juanita Woods photo taken in 1988
Our goal was not only to resume classes on October 23, but to also create an atmosphere conducive to learning and, as much as possible, an atmosphere of “normalcy” for students. The academic calendar was revised and some classes were rescheduled based on student needs. Although the tuition refund period had passed, UVI approved a 50 percent refund to students who officially withdrew; this amounted to only 117 students, a small number under the circumstances. Faculty made adjustments to provide instruction and test-taking for students who were health service providers, those called for National Guard duty, and other emergency service responders. Understanding that the vast majority of students were coming to class from homes and/or work with no telephones, electricity or water, (as were employees), the library, tutorial labs and several offices extended their hours and after special events and  academic forums, a light buffet was often served.  Later, I learned that the reason so many students remained enrolled was due to these amenities and their cognizance of the concerted effort  made by UVI personnel to provide quality service at a time when students were in their direst need.

Little did the University know that some of the same measures described above would be used six years later, in 1995, to mitigate the devastation of hurricane Marilyn to the St. Thomas campus. Special accolades go to President Emeritus, Dr. Orville E. Kean, for his leadership in hurricane recovery on both campuses.

Juanita Woods retired from the Associate Chancellor position in October 2002.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Robert H. Ruskin, Jr. - 1977

Robert H. Ruskin, Jr.
I am a Virgin Islander.... or at least it is my spiritual home; a home I am never likely to see again. It is hard to believe that I have been in Tucson, Ariz., now for almost 19 years.

My affiliation with the University of the Virgin Islands goes back a long ways. Though I was born in Jamaica, New York, my family moved to St. Croix in 1966 when I was still very young, and thus, I was raised in the Virgin Islands. At age 15 I taught myself to play chess, and in 1968, at the age of 16, I won the St. Croix Open Chess title. "Big Bill Harvey" used to refer to me as the "Teenage Chess Wizard."

In 1970 I graduated from St. Joseph High School on St. Croix. At that time, the Vietnam War was raging and I decided to enlist, anticipating funding from the GI Bill to attend college. After completing a three-year, mandatory enlistment, I enrolled at the College of the Virgin Islands (CVI). One of the reasons I chose to enroll at CVI, was that CVI was one of only two schools that offered an undergraduate degree in Marine and Environmental Sciences – we all dreamed of becoming the next Jacques Cousteau. What aspect of Marine Science I would want to study, now that was a different question. That question was answered one day for me, while cleaning up the old laboratory of Dr. Paul R. Burkholder, where I chanced upon a photo-copy of Claude E. ZoBell's 1946, Marine Microbiology: A Monograph on Hydrobacteriology, which was just about to be thrown onto a trash pile. Since no one wanted it, I “rescued it,” bought a three-ring binder, punched and sorted all the pages putting them all back in order, after which I added it to my "professional library." Little did I know that that find would set the stage for my life's work.

In 1977 I graduated from CVI and immediately found work with the Virgin Islands Department of Environmental Quality as an Environmental Microbiologist analyzing drinking water samples as mandated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

In 1980 I went on to do my M.Sc. in Environmental Science and Microbiology. In 1986 my path would once again intersect with now Dr. Henry H. Smith's, who was also the Director of the Virgin Islands Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI). Dr. Smith was looking for a Laboratory Director who had a strong background in both Environmental and Drinking Water Microbiology. I was a perfect fit for the job. I worked for WRRI for almost eight years and truly loved my work, which entailed working long hours, to include Saturdays and Sundays. I was a true laboratory junkie.

Robert H. Ruskin, Jr.-CVI 1976 Yearbook

However, when I was not working in the lab, I could be found working with Drs. Dennis Parker and Rosary Harper in the Little Theater, which was another passion of mine. In 1993 I was persuaded that I should go on and do a Ph.D. Through many of the professional connections I had made during those eight years at WRRI, I would end up going to the University of Arizona to major in Watershed Management, minoring in Microbiology and Immunology. My Ph.D. dissertation was titled, Bacterial Indicator Organisms in Various Classes of Cisterns in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Two months before I graduated I was diagnosed with a slow progressive form of Parkinson's Disease.

Today, twice a week, I can once again be found playing chess and terrorizing some poor soul. While I no longer play competitively, I am teaching an 83 year old "student" some of the finer aspects of the game. Once every month or two I escort a former colleague to the theater, a movie, or help her develop ideas for a class in Public Health that she has been asked to teach next year. Still I think back with fond memories of the almost 30 years I spent in the Virgin Islands which, regardless of how many years I live in Arizona, will always be home to me. 

Robert Ruskin now lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Nanyamka Farrelly – 1999, 2006

Nanyamka Farrelly
As a high schooler I had no intention of staying in the Virgin Islands beyond twelfth grade. By tenth grade I would sit and stare at the glossy, colored brochures from colleges and universities across the nation that had already begun arriving in my mailbox. I imagined myself on their campuses, sitting in their classrooms and receiving their instruction. When I was in 11th grade, I got a packet that changed the course of my life – it was from the University of the Virgin Islands.

Enclosed in the packet was a letter that said I had successfully completed the admissions exam and that I was being offered an early-admissions scholarship. “What!” I thought to myself. I was only 16 at the time. I was surely too young to enter college. And of course if I entered college after my junior year in high school, I would miss what is supposed to be the most defining year of the whole experience – senior year. But what I also knew was that my parents didn’t have a whole lot of money and that a four-year scholarship was one well worth considering. But how could a 16-year-old be expected to do college-level work? My father reasoned that UVI would not offer me the opportunity if administrators did not feel I was ready for the challenge. He reasoned that college was no different from high school – I would be taught a lesson, tested on a lesson and expected to provide proof of learning the lesson. My mother, for the first time, allowed me to make the decision on my own.

Putting my fears aside, I accepted the offer – and changed the trajectory of my life. I grew up at UVI – learning as much as I could, joining clubs and organizations, and challenging the status quo. I was transformed by professors like Drs. Charles W. Turnbull and Gene Emanuel. I learned tenacity from President Orville Kean, who, without apology, re-opened UVI just a few weeks after Hurricane Marilyn had flattened most of the territory. My journalism professor, Noel Gordon, once made me cry – his expectations were so high; and as someone who never wanted to fail I had to rise up to meet them each time. But it was professors like Gordon who made it possible for me to become a full-time beat reporter at the Virgin Islands Daily News fresh out of college.

Nanyamka Farrelly with her East Hall 101 suite mates
1998-1999. From left are Farrelly, Raynise
Smith, now the
Executive Director for Curriculum
and Instruction for Atlanta
Public Schools, Tracey
Codrington, now a Clinical 
Nurse Specialist at a
Florida hospital, and Toya Seales, 
now a V.I.
Superior Court Deputy Marshall. 

 By the time I graduated with a BA in Humanities with a concentration in Journalism, I no longer wanted to leave the territory. Something happened during my four years at UVI that made me want to serve my territory.

So here I am still in the territory – and unexpectedly – working at UVI. My overall goal remains the same as it did when I earned my first degree – to use my talents to serve the territory. I didn’t just earn my degrees from UVI – I live its mission. I am UVI.

Nanyamka Farrelly is the Interim Public Relations Director at UVI.