Sunday, July 29, 2012

Alvincent Hutson - 1976

Alvincent Hutson
Correspondence from the University of the Virgin Islands (College of the Virgin Islands for me) always seems to be that special vehicle that takes me back in time. My ride on that special journey, no matter how often it takes place, is never an unpleasant one. My experience at CVI was such an encompassing and fulfilling one that it is very difficult to pick any one experience and elevate it over another. The adult that I am today was shaped by the confluence of my experiences.

I invite my reader to share with me life at certain stops on the way. How can I forget when the 1976 senior class decided that we wanted our senior pictures in the yearbook to be in color, and the student council budget could not cover the extra $3,000 expense. That need triggered a first at CVI: a dinner-dance honoring the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Ralph M. Paiewonsky. I was responsible for this undertaking, which accomplished its goal of raising the necessary funds, and resulted in the class of 1976 being the first class to have photos in color in the yearbook.

Another unforgettable and embarrassing moment taught me a valuable lifelong lesson: I am not a drinker. It was carnival, and the student council had a real interest in the running of the CVI carnival booth. As a duly elected representative of the student council, I decided to go to the carnival village to keep an eye on things. To get into the carnival spirit, I began drinking crème de menthe and cream. It was a sweet, mild drink, and I was comfortable with it. Unfortunately, I did not leave a good thing alone. A female student saw me drinking crème de menthe and asked: “Hutson, why are you drinking that ladies’ drink? Let me get you a real drink.” She brought me vodka and orange juice. After drinking the vodka and orange juice, I decided that it was in my best interest to start heading back to the college campus. On my way to the bus stop, I sat on a bench in Emancipation Garden and promptly fell asleep. A few days later, another female student met me in front of the cafeteria and asked: “Didn’t I see you sleeping on a bench in the Emancipation Garden the other night?”
Alvincent Hutson - CVI 1976 Yearbook
After graduating from CVI, I went to Michigan, my first time away from the small islands of the Caribbean. I got a job with Michigan Bell as a management trainee, and started work alongside graduates from large, well-known schools. For quite some time, I kept asking myself: “How do I measure up academically?” After working with colleagues from some of these schools, however, I realized that at no time was I unprepared academically for any of my assigned tasks. I was able to reflect and whisper inwardly: “Yes CVI, you have done a great job. I can compete.”

Finally, I reflect on a professor that I will never forget, Dr. Barac, who once said to me: “If you are to understand God, then you must be a god yourself.”

Congratulations on your 50th anniversary CVI.

Alvincent Hutson is now Senior Vice President of Veritas Financial Partners, a financial services company, in Boca Raton, Florida.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Quilin B. Mars - 2008

Quilin Mars
Over the last 16 years at UVI, I have had many inspiring, rewarding and wonderful experiences, both as an employee and student.

I will never forget the beginning of my UVI journey, in September 1995, when I reported for work on the St. Croix campus dressed in all white – my only appropriate working outfit at the time – and then unexpectedly tasked with packing up the office in preparation for Hurricane Marilyn. Needless to say, my white attire was not so white by the end of that particular day. After Hurricane Marilyn passed St. Croix, the next few days were spent on campus recovery – drying up flooded rooms, removing fallen trees and power lines, and clearing campus roads – all while striving to return the campus as best as we all could to “normal” so as to maintain UVI’s commitment to students. Remarkably, UVI’s employees turned up in large numbers and did everything possible to ensure the re-start of classes, even postponing the clean-up of their own homes to a later time. This initial experience was indeed trying for all, but it gave me the opportunity to realize early on that I was in the company of a special group of people within a special institution.

I soon began working in The Caribbean Writer’s office which was the beginning of an entirely new education for me. Not only was I learning book design and all aspects of producing an annual literary magazine, but I was also building relationships with individuals literally all over the world. From the Kittitian writer calling from Japan while serving in the U.S. Marines to the Trinidadian poet calling from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, many enthusiastic individuals reached out and expressed what The Caribbean Writer truly meant to them. I discovered that for some The Caribbean Writer provided much joy and identity and offered a connection to home – our culture, our heritage and our traditions, while for others, it provided a means of reflecting or speaking to an audience which understood and acknowledged their creative work.

Through my position, I was also afforded working relationships with Caribbean literary legends whose work I had studied while in school in Trinidad. To my unimaginable luck, I had the privilege of meeting a few of these legends – Kamau Brathwaite, George Lamming and Caryl Phillips – in October 1996 at The Caribbean Writer’s 10th Anniversary Literary Conference. Who would have thought that I would one day refer to these individuals as “friends”?

Quilin B. Mars at The Caribbean Writer’s 10th
Anniversary Literary Conference Reception (Oct. 1996)
But I was also educated in more traditional ways at UVI. Becoming a student shortly after my employment began gave me the opportunity to complete my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration which was an achievement I never thought was realistic when I migrated to St. Croix. After all, being a newlywed and having children had shifted my priorities a bit. At first, I was extremely intimidated to return to a classroom but because of the many non-traditional students not only from the Virgin Islands but also from various Caribbean islands, I easily connected with my classmates and professors. I stand very proud today – a UVI alumna.

I will treasure these memories and will take them with me on my life’s journey. Without a doubt I am honored to be associated with an institution that has been and will continue to make a difference to the people of the Virgin Islands and beyond. I salute UVI on its 50th Golden Jubilee milestone.

Quilin B. Mars is currently the Managing Editor of “The Caribbean Writer” – UVI’s literary journal.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Aimery Caron

Aimery Caron
My mother died in August 1967 while I was teaching chemistry at the University of Massachusetts. This tragedy caused my father to ask me to come help him manage the family’s gift shop, C. & M. CARON on Main Street. However, after serving as general manager at the gift shop for a period of six months, we met some irreconcilable differences that convinced me that I was better suited to academia. Thus, it was that in January 1969, I applied for a teaching position at CVI, which was then a two-year college. President Lawrence Wanlass offered me the position of administrative assistant and the rank of associate professor of chemistry with no teaching assignment for the rest of the year. This was a crucial time when CVI was planning to become a four-year college in the following fall. Therefore, my main assignment was to recruit new faculty members whose numbers were to be increased by 35 or 50 % by the following semester.

The 1970s were very exciting years. In particular, I recall that while writing the history of the Virgin Islands Dr. Isaac Dookhan awakened my interest in the subject. After many discussions, we both came to wonder why the Columbus encounter with Island-Caribs at Salt River on 14 November 1493, and the St. John Revolt started at Fortsberg on 23 November 1733 were shrouded in myths and not commemorated. We therefore proposed to the Administrative Council in spring 1975 that the CVI academic calendar name the Friday after Thanksgiving Day (Thursday), Fortsberg/Discovery day. The proposal was approved and ever since the UVI catalog has carried that mention.

Aimery Caron photo taken in 1969
This led me, while on a sabbatical leave in 1976–1977, to search the French National Archives for factual information concerning the St. John revolt. My research bore fruits, the real facts came to light, and, in 1981, in collaboration with Dr. Arnold Highfield, we published through the Bureau of Libraries The French Intervention in the St. John Slave Revolt of 1733-34.

Other exciting events in the 1970s included the award by NSF of the first biomedical research project to isolate natural products of medical interest, including the ciguatera toxin, from the local terrestrial flora and the marine fauna and flora. Also of great interest, in fall 1977, was the establishment of the Office of Community Services which offered non-credit educational activities, such as seminars, conferences, workshops, training courses, etc. until 1994, when it was abolished. 

Dr. Caron worked at UVI from 1969 until 2001 when he retired. He is now Professor Emeritus of Chemistry.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dr. Lawrence Lewis – 1973

Lawrence Lewis
Dr. David Hall, the fifth President of UVI in fifty years is endeavouring to take the institution from good to great. My opinion is that he should go from great to greater – at least in the area of instruction. I know this about UVI - when I graduated with a BA in Biology and went to graduate school at Cornell University I found no gap between the quality of instruction offered at Cornell and the one I received at UVI. There were people who made this possible.

The year was 1969. Fall semester 1969, and UVI was CVI. I was a freshman, and for someone who never dreamed of going to University until the reality of CVI presented itself – it was a big step – a life changing step for me. My declared major was Biology.

I came to CVI from the BVI where I was a Biology teacher. But I never knew Biology until I met Dr. William MacLean III and Dr. Robert Pavlis. Dr. MacLean was still in his twenties, a recent Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, a palaeontologist who kept snakes as pets, and “cocky”. The general biology text was huge and the daily reading assignments were voluminous. The weekly four-point quizzes accounted for 50% of the grade. Fail them and you failed the course. MacLean showed no mercy. The answers had to be concisely precise. By the third week of the semester, most of us wished he were dead. But his insistence on high standards resulted in the eventual graduation of a group of people who learned that a good grade was a thing of pride and the result of hard work.

Dr. MacLean loved CVI/UVI and worked for its growth and development. Today, the Marine Science Center is named in his honor. It was MacLean who introduced the use of the “PC” to students as a tool for solving theoretical and practical problems. So attractive was the tool that Charles Rawlings, a business major, probably spent more time in the Biology lab than he spent in his department!

Dr. Robert Pavlis was truly a genius. He also came to CVI in 1969. Within the first year, his impact was so profound that Neville Paul and Egbert Hood, chemistry majors, were singing his praises to me so when I took Organic Chemistry with him in 1971, my expectations were high. Dr. Pavlis was the type of person who made us all feel comfortable in his presence. He had that ability to explain things in scientific jargon, getting the listener to understand the dynamic – even if one did not profoundly understand the intricacies of the reaction of which he was speaking. Dr. Pavlis was a chemistry professor who enjoyed the Virgin Islands – its waters (under waters) and its terrain. He taught many of us to SCUBA, to sail, to operate a motor boat. His home was a place where we could go to laugh, chat and learn. He was a mentor to so many of us – and we did not have to be science majors to “hang out with Pavlis.”

At CVI graduation in 1973
It was felt that the administrators did not like him because he was not elitist enough. But we thanked God for him – our big brother. Pavlis was a professor – par excellence. He gave Organic Chemistry exams with no time limit. His objectives – if the answer was not spontaneous, you had enough time to deduce it by using first principles. His teaching was vivid. Truly ambidextrous, he enabled us to understand the existence of L & S isomers of organic substances when subjected to polarized light by constructing an organic molecule with both of his hands moving simultaneously in opposite directions. It was not unusual to see him perched on the teacher’s desk, his two legs drawn under his butt and smiling happily as he brought us the lesson. Truly, I never understood biology until I took biochemistry with Pavlis! He socialized well and went with us one year to enjoy the Christmas festivities – just like one of the boys – in St. Kitts. The memories are warm and vivid.

So, whenever I am asked what made CVI exciting and challenging even before I think of Deans Watlington and Tuitt, I think of Dr. MacLean and Dr. Pavlis. Dr. McLean has passed on. Somewhere in the midwest, Dr. Pavlis is smiling.

Dr. Lawrence Lewis served as Commissioner of Agriculture in the U. S. Virgin Islands after working extensively in Africa. He is currently a teacher at the Central High School in St. Croix.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Kishma N. Allen – 2009

Kishma Allen
In 1996, I graduated as an honor student from the BVI High School and was very eager to attend college, but there were no funds to do so. Not knowing about financial aid, I spent many years trying to figure out how to pay for my education. As time passed, the chances became slimmer as other responsibilities, such as parenting took priority. In 2003, I was very frustrated and dissatisfied with my life and was determined to further my education. Later that year, I signed up at UVI with all the money I had ($800) and my then four year old son.

I started attending part-time and used every penny that I had to make it happen. However, part-time enrollment was taking too long for me to obtain my degree, so I decided to attend full-time while working full-time. This was not easy. As a matter of fact, I often thought about either quitting school or quitting my job, but I didn’t.

During my time at UVI, I came across some remarkable professors. To this day, I am extremely grateful for Professors, C. Wyatt, V. Thomas, R. Caldwell, A. Donald, S. Simmons, Dr. Parris and Dr. Esdaille. These professors saw my potential and pushed me from being an ordinary student to an extraordinary student.

I remember the days when I thought that Mr. Wyatt and Mr. Thomas were picking on me. Yet, I finished at the top of their classes. I remember crying as Dr. Parris’ red ink covered my paper so much that I couldn’t see any of my blue ink. I remember emailing, instant messaging and calling Dr. Esdaille and Mr. Caldwell early mornings, late nights and on weekends, just to make sure I did my best. They were always there for me. Thanks to Ms. Simmons, I’ve been to Paris and Atlanta. I attended several National Leadership Conferences and received scholarships and national recognition from Deloitte, the National Association of Black Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Ms. Donald eased my mental load by playing tag with my son in between classes. As small as this may seem, it meant a lot to me.

Taken during the UVI Accounting Association's 2008 trip 
to Paris. Kishma is the second person from the left in
the front row. Next to her is Professor Sharon Simmonds.
In 2009, I graduated magma cum laude with my BA in Accounting. Today, I hold a prestigious job and I am an entrepreneur. I participate in the annual Carnival Food Fair with my noticeably different tarts and dumb breads. I am also a published author. I published the motivational book It’s Your Vision: Can You Make It Happen? My book has been used in several workshops and mentoring programs across the United States. The back cover of my book features a review received from Dr. David Hall, the current President of UVI, while the inside features comments and reviews of many outstanding locals who have dedicated themselves to the betterment of our community. I am also a motivational speaker who believes in giving back to the community - the same community that helped to shape my destiny. 

Ms. Kishma Allen is a published author and well-known baker and is currently employed at International Capital and Management in St. Thomas as a Service Excellence Analyst.