Sunday, February 26, 2012

Marthious Clavier – 2002, 2008

Marthious Clavier
While attending the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), I had many memorable and meaningful experiences. The memories that I will share with you occurred during my sophomore year of college. I was a member of the Math Boosters club, and as a group we decided to do an outreach to the Evelyn M. Williams Elementary School on St. Croix. Our goal was to assist the school in preparing some of its students for the National Association of Education Progress (NAEP) and Terra Nova standardized tests. My fellow club members and I traveled to the school twice a week for approximately two months and met with the selected students during their lunch hours in the library.

As we prepared the students for the math portion of the standardized test, we also built relationships with each of them. We went to the school with the intention of teaching math, but from time to time we found ourselves having discussions about life. There were moral and ethical questions posed to us by the students. I remember one particular student asked me, “If you see someone drop a five dollar bill while they are walking, is it wrong to pick it up and keep it?” The student asked that question based on the saying, ‘Finders keepers, losers weepers.’

At that point, the other club members and I took a short break to explain to the group, not just the student who asked the question, why the saying would not apply to that case. It took them a little while to understand that if there was no way to return a found item to the owner, it may be okay to keep it. However, if there was a way to return an item to its rightful owner, it was their duty to make every attempt to return it. It really sank home to them when they were asked to be in the shoes of the person who lost the money. How would they feel?

Clavier in 1999 receiving volunteer certificate from Dr. Lionel Sewpershad
 the then principal of the Evelyn M. Williams Elementary School
I mark this experience as one of my most memorable because we were able to teach lifelong lessons that I hope that those students still utilize today. The fact that I had attended the Evelyn Williams School made the outreach even more special for me. Being in the classrooms and walking the hallways brought back many memories of being a child and attending school there. Everything looked the same, and it was truly rewarding to give back to next generation. I saw so much of me in the young people I tutored those many years ago. Giving back to the community had a whole new meaning to me after that experience, and as a result, I have continued through the years to participate in many other volunteer experiences. I thank UVI for not only what I learned in the classroom, but for all the wonderful learning opportunities I was afforded outside the classroom.

Mr. Clavier is presently an Extension Instructor and Extension
 Agent at UVI’s Cooperative Extension Service

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.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Utha O. Williams - 1982

Utha O. Williams
To have a close affiliation with UVI is on its own a very special feeling. But to know that the affiliation helped in some way to build the institution into what we have today indeed has even greater meaning. Two special connections come to mind that occurred during the years I served as the Title III Program Coordinator.

First, under the leadership of the late President Dr. Arthur A. Richards, UVI was engaged in a curriculum improvement plan, a part of which was focused, in response to students’ needs and demands, on developing a comprehensive Music Education Program. With full support of the Board of Trustees which approved establishment of a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education degree, the administration, in collaboration with the Music Education faculty of the late 1970’s, wrote and submitted a strong application to the U.S. Department of Education, Division of Advanced Institutional Development (AIDP) the umbrella agency for the Title III Program. The funding received enabled UVI to renovate the north end of the old Field House (an old airplane hangar built by the U.S. Navy in the 1930’s) to create a two story structure to accommodate faculty studio/offices, classrooms, a choir room, a band room, and practice rooms. Although the grant was funded, there were portions that required stronger justifications to ensure full funding for everything requested.

UVI fought hard to defend the portions of the application that had come under heavy scrutiny by program and financial officers of the U.S. Department of Education. We organized a team and prepared for the negotiations. We traveled to Washington, D.C., to fight for and justify the request for Yamaha pianos, band instruments and all the resources needed to complete renovation of the Field House. After several days of intense meetings and relentless justifications, to the delight of the UVI family our grant was fully funded. Renovation began to create the two story structure and prepare for arrival of the pianos and band instruments for our Music Education Program. We operated out of that modest facility until dedication of our new Music Education Center on February 11, 1999.

That facility represents the second special connection. It came about due to another collaborative effort under the leadership of then President Dr. Orville Kean, the Title III Program, Music Education faculty, and UVI Facilities professionals. The Music Education Center on the St. Thomas Campus stands as a testament to our ingenuity and tenacity to help UVI through two important phases of curriculum and infrastructure development leaving an enduring legacy of what can be accomplished out of devotion for this institution.

Utha O. Williams is currently a professor of Business
at the University of the Virgin Islands.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Arah C. Lockhart - 1978

Arah Lockhart
Prior to my enrollment as a ‘CVI’ student in August of 1974, I had already visited the Virgin Islands on several occasions to spend time with my father who resided on St. Thomas. During those periods, we spoke many times about his dream (which was gradually becoming my nightmare), of his children, not only relocating from Antigua to St. Thomas but of our opportunity to attend the “prestigious” College of the Virgin Islands. He would always reflect on the many people from the “islands” who went to and graduated from CVI, and were doing well here in this community and abroad. He wanted nothing less for ‘his’ children! Therefore, exactly five days after completing High School in Antigua, I was on the plane heading to St. Thomas.

As with most new experiences, on registration day, I was scared yet confident that I would survive. That was, until I learned that the only gym (physical education) class open was SWIMMING! This was the worst news I had heard in a long time. Notwithstanding that I was born on and frequented many of Antigua’s 365 beaches – I could not swim, and was prepared to quit college rather than take swimming as a class!

Arah Lockhart - 1976 Yearbook
With encouragement from my PE teacher Mr. Eugene Werts, I not only registered but survived and enjoyed the experience. I also earned a “B” grade! This was only the beginning of many other lasting and memorable experiences at CVI. My orientation to “dorm life” as a resident of Harvey Student Center… Hey ‘PURGERS’!... coupled with the classroom, campus and associated stories for each experience would require another fifty pages of documentation.

I am extremely proud that through my involvement in all facets of campus/college life, I have contributed to the CVI history and UVI legacy. Most memorable among these include: representing the Student Council at the Chase Auditorium dedication, reviving the CVI Carnival Troupe and our 1st Prize winning entry/trophy; the BUCS Volleyball Team practice tortures and victories… (Thank you, Blaiko!). This pride in my alma mater extended to New York where I attended Pace University, and where several other alumni decided to establish the Alumni Association New York Chapter. The déjà vu moments were surreal!

Sincere thanks and kudos to CVI (UVI) and special greetings to the graduation class of 1978 – WE ARE TRULY “UVI”!

Arah C. Lockhart is an assistant commissioner
at the VI Department of Labor.