Sunday, August 26, 2012

Richard Schrader - 1969, 1981

Richard Schrader

My literary journey began on Blue Mountain over 1,000 feet high above St. Croix one evening in 1984. It was one year before my retirement as prison warden at the Golden Grove Correctional Facility. Twice a week after work, I’d stop by the Melvin H. Evans Learning Center, College of the Virgin Islands, only a few minutes away, to pursue studies in Public Administration.

One evening after class while in the library, I was approached by Marty Campbell.

“Richard,” he said, “what are you doing when you’re through studying?”
“I’m going home,” I replied.
“We’re having a poetry reading in the Little Theatre, and you’re invited!”
“No, Marty,” I answered, “I’m not into poetry.”
“You may like it!” he persisted.
“Nah,” I said, “I had a rough day at the prison. I’m going home.”

Richard Schrader exploring some ruins at CVI
Ten to fifteen minutes later, I took up my books and left, but this poetry thing was on my mind. When I got to the bottom of the stairwell, I said to myself, “Ah, let me check this thing out, and I turned around and went back up the stairs and into the Little Theatre. Oh, boy! The readers were really into it, belting off poem after poem. “This is sweet,” I thought. “I like it…good stuff.”

As a member of Signal Support Activity, Virgin Islands Army National Guard, I took part in a training exercise on Blue Mountain about a week later. That night the stars were out like never before, and the view of St. Croix with its glittering lights way below was awesome.

When I had had my fill, armed with pen, paper and flashlight, I crawled into my pup tent and wrote two poems: “Stars” and “St. Croix by Night.” It was the first time in my nearly fifty years of life that I had tried my heart and hand at poetry, thanks to the inspiration that came from the students and instructors at the College of the Virgin Islands that evening in February 1984. 

Mr. Schrader is well known among Virgin Islanders and his friends far and near, not only for his many years of community service, but also for his new role of poet, author, historian, lecturer and preserver of oral and recorded histories.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Orville E. Kean

Orville E. Kean
Perhaps the most memorable experience I had while serving as president of UVI was the year I spent working in the Fishbowl. The Fishbowl was the area which houses the African Sculpture Exhibit on the first floor of the Reichhold Center for the Arts.

During the passage of Hurricane Marilyn over St. Thomas in the early morning hours on September 16, 1995, a garbage dumpster located on the northeast corner of the Ralph M. Paiewonsky Library was lifted into the air by one of the tornados spawned by the hurricane. It smashed into the northeast corner of library’s roof, where it tore a huge gaping hole into the roof, then flew over the roof and landed half-buried in the center of the stage of the Reichhold Center. Along the way it tore apart about 15 seats that were located in the covered section of the Center.

The damage caused by the dumpster made it impossible for the offices on the second floor of the library to be occupied when operations resumed after the hurricane. As a result, the offices of the president and of the vice president for University Relations had to be relocated somewhere else. The only space that was readily available was the open space on the first floor of the Reichhold Center that was minimally utilized by the Center’s staff. But the space was not large enough, and it was too open to provide the privacy needed for the operations of the office of the president.

Therefore, a decision was made to remove the African sculptures from their glass-enclosed exhibit room, place them in storage, and use the room as the president’s office. Everything that happened in the president’s office would become clearly visible to everyone working in the open space on the first floor. Hence the name The Fishbowl.
Nevertheless, it provided the acoustic seclusion required for private discussions.

It was not so bad. It was the first and only time I worked in an office with a window during the 12 years I served as president. The same thing was true during the ten years I served as Dean of Instruction and as Executive Vice President. In my last 22 years at the University, The Fishbowl provided my only opportunity to see anything outside my office without opening a door.

Orville Kean in 2003
Working in The Fishbowl was probably my most productive year as president. The construction and reconstruction projects that followed Hurricane Marilyn created the modern face of the University. Progress was made on the construction of the St. Croix Campus’102-bed residence halls and Ancillary Services Facility, and design of the St. Thomas Sports and Fitness Center. In general, all of the infrastructure projects that were completed during the ten-year period following Hurricane Marilyn were included in the UVI Facilities Master Plan that was approved during that year.

The Plan included adequate stand-by power generation facilities for each campus; the burying of the power lines and computer lines; self-sufficiency in the generation and production of safe drinking water on the St. Thomas Campus; the construction of the Music Building on the St. Thomas Campus; the construction of a new cafeteria on the St. Thomas Campus; the redesign and facelift of The Great House on the St. Croix Campus; the construction of ball courts on the St. Croix Campus; and the plan to use the structural framework of the Harvey Student Center to construct a new Administration Center that would house the operations of the University’s administrative services.

President Emeritus Kean is now retired and lives on St. Thomas.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dennis Parker

Dennis Parker
When I reflect back on my thirty plus years at CVI/UVI I find that I am overwhelmed with memories of the wonderful classroom experiences, the challenging plays and most of all the people with whom I interacted. If I wrote on each of these areas in depth I would of necessity fill volumes.

Classes were always challenging and interesting. Students from the States and various Caribbean Islands brought ideas based upon many different cultures. I often thought I learned as much from them as they did from me. Many, many went on to successful careers including: Melvin Claxton, a Pulitzer Prize winner in journalism; Richard Skerritt, a Rhodes Scholar, who is currently Minister of Tourism in St. Kitts; the Honorable Jessica Gallvin, a judge on the Virgin Islands bench; Sandra Goomansingh, anchorwoman of TV 2 news; and Jessica Henderson, a religious playwright. These are but a few of CVI/UVI’s successful graduates.

There were many, many administrators, fellow faculty and staff who I call friends. However, there was no one more special than the First Lady of CVI/UVI Theater, Dr. Rosary Harper. Rosary and I agreed from the beginning that as long as we worked together all of our productions would be collaborations. There were no Harper plays or Parker plays. Eventually, the Little Theatre plays became known as the Harper-Parker Productions. We were a team and as the years flew by we became lifelong friends to this day.
Dennis Parker outside the "temporary" humanities
building on the St. Thomas campus circa 1977 or 1978.

We had many volunteers who helped to make our productions: Doug Salisbury, former Reichhold Centre technical director, handled the stage lighting; Josee' Deckert, became our artist in residence, creating wonderful poster/t-shirt designs and often helped paint sets; Mary Alexander, executive assistant to the Humanities Division, designed tickets and sold them. Mervin Taylor of the bookstore also oversaw ticket sales. Monique Purguy was a great help with costuming working in tandem with Rosary.

Community actors Hans Eisler, Wanda Dipnarine, Pat Hector, Sheldon Turnbull and Seymour Davis were among the many who took on roles with our student actors. Faculty thespians included Dr. Vladimir Barac, Dr. Patricia Harkins-Pierre, Dr. Simon Jones-Hendrickson and Dr. Douglas Iannuci also graced the stage. The university theater family became complete with the participation of staff members Robert Ruskin and Choupette Braure.

Talented local playwrights David Edgecombe, Rudy Wallace and Lorraine Joseph showed their confidence in us by allowing us to mount their production premieres. From the professional world CVI theater premiered the Derek Walcott-Galt McDermott musical, “Marie La Veau” on the stage of the Little Theater. Many local musicians contributed their talents as well and I served as producer. I even had an opportunity to be an actor!

Yes, oh the memories! It has always been about the people who have made CVI/UVI a special home. I feel honored to be a member of the UVI family.

Dr. Dennis Parker is now retired. He and his wife, Diana, are celebrating the forty-fifth anniversary of their marriage this week.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Vincent O. Cooper - 1972

Vincent Cooper
One of the many positive experiences I remember at CVI during the early 1970s was playing soccer on the CVI team, coached by Mr. Eugene Werts. The team consisted of a mix of outstanding players from various Caribbean islands, Guyana, and North America. Team members included Desmond Skeete, George Kenny, Dennis Clarke, Nellon Bowry, Howard Gumbs, Bernard Jones, Lawrence Huntley, and several others.

At that time, the CVI team, which was arguably stronger than the other teams on St. Thomas, did not compete officially in the local varsity soccer league. However, Coach Werts organized friendly matches against such Puerto Rico teams as the University of Puerto Rico, Inter-American University, and Catholic University. CVI team won most of these matches, which were usually played at CVI. The CVI soccer team also traveled to other islands to play friendly matches. One of the two trips that I recall from the early 1970s is a trip to St. Kitts, where we played two matches. One match was against Island Side, and the other against Santos. The CVI team tied with Island Side, but lost to Santos, the strongest team on St. Kitts at that time.

The second trip that I recall was made to the Windward Islands. Coach Werts made arrangements for the CVI team to play friendly matches in St. Lucia, Grenada, and Trinidad. We played against the St. Lucia Island B team and won. We also defeated the team from Presentation College in Grenada. The Trinidad match was canceled.

Vincent Cooper -
CVI Yearbook 1970
From time to time, I still smile when I remember a particularly funny incident that involved the CVI soccer team, LIAT Airways, and a restaurant at the airport in Antigua. The CVI Soccer team was traveling on LIAT from St. Thomas to St. Lucia and Grenada, with one stop in Antigua. After we arrived in Antigua, we learned that our connecting flight to St. Lucia was more than two hours late. Our coach contacted LIAT officials to explain that we could not stay overnight in Antigua because we needed to arrive in St. Lucia that same afternoon in order to meet our obligations. Our coach also pointed out that he was travelling with 15 soccer players who had not eaten since morning. In response, the LIAT supervisor made arrangements for the team to have lunch at the airport restaurant, a decision he no doubt later regretted. In less than 20 minutes, all the shelves in the restaurant were empty, the refrigerator was empty, and the kitchen was empty. The entire supply of sandwiches and drinks had been speedily devoured by the soccer team. Consequently, the airport restaurant, the only one available at that time, had to close for the rest of the day.

Dr. Cooper is now a Professor of English and Linguistics at UVI.