More than 50 years ago the Virgin Islands Legislature passed legislation which established the College of the Virgin Islands. Virgin Islands Governor Ralph M. Paiewonsky had made the establishment of the College one of the major pledges in his inaugural address the previous year and in July of 1963, the institution opened its doors on St. Thomas to 45 full-time and 283 part-time students. In 1964, a part-time academic program began on St. Croix and the Caribbean Research Institute was founded.
As the years passed, the College of the Virgin Islands grew. On St. Thomas, residence halls were constructed. The Ralph M. Paiewonsky Library was dedicated in 1969. New academic buildings followed. The College phased in baccalaureate degree programs and, in 1971, the College was accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools on its first attempt.
Two important events occurred in 1972: an Act of Congress designated the College as a Land-Grant institution and full-time academic programs were initiated on the St. Croix campus. A master’s degree program was instituted on both the St. Croix and St. Thomas campuses the following year and in 1975, the Melvin H. Evans Center for Learning was opened on the St. Croix campus.
In 1978, the Reichhold Center for the Arts on the St. Thomas campus presented its first season of performances. The Reichhold Center has since established itself as a “showcase” in the Caribbean because of its natural beauty and the cultural enrichment it has brought to the community.
In 1981, Dr. Arthur A. Richards, formerly CVI Provost and Dean and later Vice President/Provost, was inaugurated as the second President of the College. He succeeded Dr. Lawrence Wanlass, who guided the institution through its 17 initial formative years.
In twenty-two years, the College of the Virgin Islands grew to nearly 3,000 students, 81 faculty, 28 administrators, and 299
In addition to continuing its mission of education, community services and research for the benefit of the community, the staff. There were 800 full-time students – 606 on St. Thomas
and 204 on St. Croix. Part-time and graduate students number 1,249 on the St. Thomas campus and 805 on the St. Croix campus. Twenty-eight degree programs were offered, not including preparation for secondary education certification and transfer programs in medical technology and engineering. Additionally, there were approximately 130 part-time instructors who taught mainly in the Continuing Education program during the evening hours.
College was actively engaged in planning for the establishment of an Eastern Caribbean Center for educational, technical, cultural and scientific interchange at the institution.
By 1984, the institution had conferred 1,885 degrees. Most of the recipients can be found on our local communities as practicing attorneys, teachers, nurses, accountants and administrators in both the public and private sectors. It is likely that many of these contributing members of society would not have attained their aspirations had it not been for the foresight of the executive and legislative branches of the Virgin Islands government in the early 1960’s when they supported and endorsed the new College of the Virgin Islands.