Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sharleen A. Fahie - 1986, 1993

Sharleen Fahie

My dream of attending the University of the Virgin Islands came to fulfillment in August of 1981. As a student I was granted a work-study contract with the Office of Public Information. I later heard of an opening in the Registrar and the Accounting Office for an assistant. I will never forget the gentleman that hired me, Mr. Robert Chen. He was very pleasant and spoke with a strong West Indian accent. He spoke well of the University and the opportunities it could provide for me and my family if I were hired for the position. I was hired in the University’s Accounting Office in November of 1985.

I completed my Associates of Arts in Accounting and a Bachelors of Arts degree in Business Administration and moved up the ranks from Assistant to Accounting Supervisor and from Grant Accounting to Operations. I have served in several positions within the Accounting Office. The staff sees me as the go-to guy. The University offered me an opportunity to go to school and work at the same time. It has been over twenty years of giving to and receiving from the University.

My most memorable times at the University were in 1989 and 1995 when we suffered two severe hurricanes that cause extreme damage to the university facilities. Both my home and work place were severely damaged from hurricane Marilyn in September of 1995. Despite the tremendous amount of damage, my payroll assistant, Janice Henley, and I, along with a few other faithful and courageous employees from the Administrative and Finance component, came to work. We worked long hours to make sure the payrolls and emergency checks were processed to assist the many university employees who were displaced because of the hurricane. Many of the buildings were damaged. We were able to work on our computers only by generator power some days. Yet, despite the degradable conditions, we managed to have checks done. Some evenings we worked so late, we were offered a room to stay on campus because during this time there was an island-wide curfew in effect. However, my assistant and I would maneuver the dark damaged roads to our homes every night. Some people would say it was a sad time, but I believe there is a time for everything; a time to laugh, a time to cry, a time to work and a time to play. Things in life happen for our learning.
Sharleen Fahie in office in 1992

I believe in working hard, and giving back a little of what was given to me. Giving back to my community is positive and rewarding in many ways. My job is more than that ‘a job.’ It is a career and a profession which through UVI has allowed me to do so much for the students, faculty and staff. I believe in the University’s mission and vision “… dedicated to student success, committed to excellence, and pledged to enhancing the social and economic transformation of the U.S. Virgin Islands.” 

Ms. Sharleen A. Fahie is the Accounts Payable and Payroll Supervisor at UVI.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Malcolm C. Kirwan - 1967

Malcom C. Kirwin

When I reflect on my 40-year affiliation with the University of the Virgin Islands, first as a student, and later as a senior administrator serving four Presidents, I think of the defining characteristic of the University that has allowed it to turn its adversities and challenges into opportunities to forge many of the achievements that have undergirded its growth and development.

Beginning with the first President, Dr. Lawrence Wanlass, he responded to the challenge of attracting students from the Eastern Caribbean with an Eastern Caribbean Scholarship Program that lured students like myself and Dr. Frank Mills to CVI in 1965. Those of us who had faith in the College have been repaid a thousand fold and can truthfully claim that our lives were changed not just for the better, but for the best.

When the College was beginning to outgrow the old World War II Navy facilities that were utilized for the start-up of the institution, Dr. Wanlass engineered a master plan that allowed the institution to make the leap forward by building the Upper Campus as the academic heart of the University with the Library building as the center piece.

When the Enron Corporation challenged the University in 1986 to make a case for a gift of over 300 acres of land that it held on St. Croix and which it was contemplating donating to a mainland institution, then President Dr. Arthur Richards, Dr. Orville Kean and Mr. Malcolm Kirwan rose to this challenge and secured the gift. The proceeds from the sale of the Enron Lands created the seed money for the establishment and funding of the UVI Foundation.

Few will remember that the University went from rationing water to the St. Thomas campus in the 1990’s to the development of a system of wells and a reverse osmosis plant that made it self-sufficient in its water supply. It used the opportunity of replacing the old water distribution system put in place by the Navy in the 1940’s to build out a fiber-optic network that would serve the information technology needs of the institution well into the future.

Malcom Kirwin in Admininstration and Finance Office.
How many can recall that the old Field House was demolished by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and further laid bare by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995? From wreckage of this devastation, there emerged what we now know today as the Sports and Fitness Center that is the source of great admiration and pride to the institution.

Like a Phoenix, UVI has risen out of the ashes of adversity thrust upon it throughout the years to become the institution that is poised to continue to create lasting higher educational opportunities for the people of the Virgin Islands well into the future. Happy 50th Anniversary UVI!

Mr. Malcolm C. Kirwan, now retired, is UVI’s former Vice President of Administration and Finance.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Constance Gumbs 1987, 1991

Constance Gumbs
It seems like only yesterday, but it is over 30 years since I was hired as secretary to the Bureau of Public Administration at the College of the Virgin Islands (now University of the Virgin Islands).

Under the direction of Dr. Peter Pflaum and Dr. Charles Murphy, the Bureau was responsible for conducting leadership training to public and private sector employees territory-wide. The Bureau of Public Administration became the vital link between the Government of the Virgin Islands, the College of the Virgin Islands and the community. This was evidenced by the many leadership seminars and workshops conducted for the public and private sector employees and for the community as well. Every two years, after senatorial elections, the Bureau conducted pre-legislative conferences tailored specifically to meet the needs of the newly elected and incumbent senators.

After Dr. Pflaum and Dr. Murphy left, Dr. Paul Leary was named the director of the Bureau. With his coming, the Bureau assumed additional responsibilities, including working with the hotel industry where the thrust was to help Virgin Islanders develop an interest in and acquire the skills necessary to work in the hotel industry. The Bureau also researched and documented its findings on status options for the U.S. Virgin Islands and other relevant issues. Much research and information on the status options were submitted to the U.S. Virgin Islands Legislature. This was quite a task as evidenced by the publication Major Political Documents 1671-1991 completed by Dr. Paul M. Leary in 1992. The political status option of the U.S. Virgin Islands is still undetermined.

As I look back now, I see the Bureau of Public Administration as an important outreach arm of the College. In conjunction with other departments, the Bureau addressed critical issues that affected peoples’ way of life and helped them to better understand the political processes and how they affected the day to day concerns of the people.

Constance Gumbs photo taken in 1983.
As the College developed and more persons sought employment, there was growing discontent among the regular staff employees who were not afforded the same treatment as far as the tuition waiver was concerned. In order to address some of the issues on the campus, the Administrative Council and the Conference Group were formed. These gave faculty, administrative staff and regular staff employees a medium through which to discuss the issues affecting them.

From a student’s point of view, the College of the Virgin Islands, through its professors and programs, sought to encourage and to challenge students to broaden their horizons, to look at the broader picture, to understand new concepts and to utilize them as they prepared themselves for the world of work and for other endeavors. 

Ms. Constance Gumbs is now retired and actively volunteers her service to her church.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ali McClean - 1993

Ali McClean

Once in a lifetime, a moment arrives that can change the course of a person’s life. Exactly such a crucial event happened to me during my studies at the University of the Virgin Islands. I entered the St. Thomas campus in 1989 as a starry-eyed biology freshman with an aim to pursue a career in medicine, but fickle fate had other designs for me. My first year was truly inspiring and filled with many enjoyable discussions in biology and chemistry with Dr. James Battey and Dr. Peter Desrosiers respectively. In my sophomore year, I had the opportunity to work in the lab of Dr. Meledath Govindan in the area of marine natural products along with Mr. Kevin Brown and Dr. Teresa Turner. The experience was truly transformative. That initial research project separating and analyzing compounds using chromatographic techniques was my quintessential lab experience and remains one of my favorite procedures to this day. 

After the first taste of scientific research my future path was clear. No longer was I destined for white halls and hospital floors but headed instead toward black lab benches and field sample collections. More memorable events unfolded as additional research projects in biochemistry continued with Dr. Battey and Mr. Brown. Meanwhile, coursework from Dr. Stuart Ketcham and Dr. Robert Wyatt steered my interests toward molecular biology.

It was a fantastic time filled with engaging professors in lectures, in addition to the lab work. My classmates were equally engaging inside and outside of the classroom. One particular student and good friend proved unusually competitive in our shared chemistry and mathematics classes where despite my efforts she bested me, often with the top scores in the class. Fortunately for my ego, we parted most common coursework soon after. It was a lesson in humility learned at UVI that has served me well beyond my undergraduate years.

Ali McClean as a UVI student in 1993
I went on to work briefly for USDA-APHIS in St. Thomas with Mr. Dennis Jones after receiving my B.S. in Biology in 1993 and then back to UVI at the Water Resources Research Institute under the tutelage of Dr. Henry Smith where I shared many thought-provoking discussions (that continue to this day) before finally journeying on to graduate school at the University of California, Davis.

Today, I am a research scientist for USDA still dabbling in molecular biology albeit under the umbrella of plant pathology. Although far removed from my days at UVI as an undergraduate, I still treasure those moments. Other critical junctures have arisen over time but precious few have been as pertinent or as defining as those at UVI several years ago. Most importantly, that rival student from chemistry class that proved so formidable? I married her. Thank you UVI! 

Dr. Ali McClean is a Research Scientist for the USDA and is married to Juliette Maduro (1993).