The University of the Virgin Islands received its largest real estate gift with the donation of 65 acres in Estate Sorgenfri on St. Thomas. The property at Sorgenfri No. 1 Southside Quarter includes a rolling hillside, two fresh-water guts and a quarter-mile of beachfront on Hendricks Bay. Leal Van Beverhoudt, the representative of the family who made the gift, said with vision and planning UVI has unlimited potential with the property.
PHOTO: Leal Van Beverhoudt speaks for family members at a UVI reception announcing the donation of 65 acres of property on St. Thomas to the University.
“We realize that this gift will put the University on a footing to make them world renowned,” Van Beverhoudt said at a reception in honor of the family on Oct. 7 on UVI’s St. Thomas Campus. He said that everyone will eventually benefit from UVI’s stewardship of the property.
“The people of the Virgin Islands should understand that this gift is theirs. We are only the conduits to do what has been done,” Van Beverhoudt said. He encouraged others to follow their example. “We must encourage every Virgin Islander to contribute to this University, no matter how small it (the contribution) is, because that’s the only way our future generations will prosper.”
UVI President Dr. David Hall thanked Van Beverhoudt and his family for the generous gift. “I want you to know how grateful we are for this gift to the University,” President Hall said. Putting the gift into perspective, Dr. Hall noted that 65 acres is half the size of the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix, one-sixth the size of the St. Thomas Campus, and larger than the campuses of many mainland universities.
“We need to understand that this is not just a small gift of land, but a significant gift, a transformative gift for UVI and the family,” Dr. Hall said. He said that the University is committed in using it in a way that will make the family proud and contribute to the development of the Virgin Islands.
One of the messages that the gift sends, Dr. Hall said, is that UVI is truly on the pathway to greatness. “When someone makes a donation of this magnitude, it says that there is something going on at this University that makes people feel and see the momentum and progress. And for that we are very, very grateful,” Dr. Hall said. “You are now enshrined within our hearts forever,” he told the family. “We will be wonderful caretakers of this gift.”
Mitchell Neaves, UVI’s interim vice president for Institutional Advancement, said he was moved not only by the family’s generosity but more by their authenticity. “They truly care about the territory and they care about the Virgin Islands,” Neaves said.
While the University has not yet identified long-term plans for the property, UVI is already using the area to conduct research. UVI students are researching sea fans in Hendricks Bay and catadromous species in the fresh-water guts.
“To study Hendricks Bay is a great opportunity,” said Dr. Paul Jobsis, director of UVI’s Masters in Marine and Environmental Sciences (MMES) Program. The property allows expanded research in the MMES program and the Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, Dr. Jobsis said.
Van Beverhoudt said the process of deeding the land to UVI was some 30 years in the making; however the idea began 49 years ago. Van Beverhoudt is a descendant of Rankin Orr who owned the property. Orr passed down the property to his son Rankin Orr Millin. In 1965 Bertha C. Boschulte, a descendant of Rankin Orr Millin, convinced the heirs to give a portion of the property to the newly-formed College of the Virgin Islands. It wasn’t until 1987 that the family began the process of subdividing the property. Along with Van Beverhoudt and Boschulte, the other family members who led the charge were Richard Ferguson, Charles Ferguson, Luz Van Beverhoudt, Aethra Van Beverhoudt-Matthias and Anita Millin Holder. The subdivision and legal process was completed in 2014.
Leal Van Beverhoudt expressed gratitude to his family, the courts and pointedly to Susan Moorhead, the lead attorney over the process for more than 20 years. UVI will evaluate the property in the near future to determine the property value.
Leal Van Beverhoudt, center, explains the history of Hendricks Bay to UVI administrators and his family members during a tour of the property his family members donated to UVI.