(L to R) Sisters Gloria Samuel and Marva Applewhite Samuel, seated, who donated land on St. John to UVI, pose with UVI President David Hall and Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dionne Jackson.
A major land donation bequeathed to the University of the Virgin Islands was announced on Wednesday, September 11.
University of the Virgin Islands President David Hall announced the donation of four acres of property on St. John to the university. The property is located in Estate Zootenvaal in Coral Bay.
The gift was made by Marva Samuel Applewhite and Gloria Samuel, daughters of James Alphonso “Harry” Samuel, who owned Estate Zootenvaal. The appraised value of the four acres is $740,000.
The four acres donated this year, adjoins two acres the sisters donated to UVI in 2002. The total six acres are valued at more than $1.2 million.
“Education has been the number one priority for our family,” Applewhite said at the September 11 reception at UVI’s Academic Center on St. John. Applewhite and her sister are both retired teachers. “We decided to give back to the people of the Virgin Islands, the Caribbean and the world,” Applewhite continued.
In thanking Applewhite and Samuel for their gift, Hall noted that ordinary people can make extraordinary contributions.
“There are common people who are not millionaires or billionaires, people who love and care about education and just give from their hearts,” said Hall.
Samuel and Applewhite are those types of people, Hall explained.
“This gift feels like my mother is giving to this University,” said Hall. “I’m just so thankful and honored that you were able to invest in this University.”
Hall commended the vision and ingenuity of their father James Samuel, a mason who helped to build the original pier in Cruz Bay and the Benjamin Franklin School (now Guy Benjamin Elementary School).
Both Dr. Hall and UVI Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dionne Jackson remarked on the sisters’ humility.
“They did not make this gift because they wanted public recognition or to boast about their family’s largess,” Jackson said. “They wanted to be a part of UVI’s next 50 years of service to the Virgin Islands and St. John communities.”
“I see a dream of a campus of the University of the Virgin Islands on St. John,” Samuel Hall, the attorney of Applewhite and Samuel, said at the reception.
While a UVI campus on St. John may be possible in the distant future, initial plans are to build a cultural center on the property.
The cultural center will preserve the rich history of St. John, Hall added.
About 30 people attended the intimate reception on September 11, many of whom are heirs of James Samuel.