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RAGSTER IS ROTARIANS' PERSON OF THE YEAR

May 14, 2003 – In the time-honored tradition of Rotary Club of St. Thomas II, this year's recipient of the club's Person of the Year Award didn't have a clue what was coming until minutes before Elliot McIver Davis handed her the Lladro Don Quixote statue — the trophy given to every person of the year.
LaVerne Ragster, fourth president of the University of the Virgin Islands, said she realized she was the person being honored when Davis mentioned about halfway through his speech that the recipient had graduated at the top of her class at Charlotte Amalie High School.
"When they got to the part about the class business," Ragster said, "that's when I started to realize it was me."
The Person of the Year Award is the only honor publicly bestowed in the Virgin Islands that is a surprise.
Every year friends and family have to find ways to trick the recipient into attending the annual meeting.
Ragster was told she was to give a speech about the initiatives being taken at UVI. "I had my speech all prepared," she said, grinning.
"I am all for us doing as many recognitions as possible," she said. "It is community engagement" and gives people something to strive for.
Davis, whose duty to be the bearer of the award was handed down from his father, called Ragster "a kindred spirit of mine, sharing as she does my interests in public service, education and physical fitness." They are kindred in one other aspect — much to his surprise, Davis was last year's person of the year.
Ragster, Davis said, "recently emerged from an international search as the fourth president of the University of the Virgin Islands, thereby joining one of the most elite groups in our nation — that of African-American women leading American universities."
Davis said Ragster's "drive to serve others has resulted in such efforts at the university as the establishment of a research and public service advisory council, and in the development of a policy framework for research and public service."
Outside of the university, Davis said, Ragster's "enthusiasm for helping others has seen her lead the local League of Women Voters and, combined with her lifelong interest in physical fitness, to helping found the St. Thomas Association of Roadrunners."
Ragster, like the other 22 previous recipients of the award established by Rotary of St. Thomas II charter members Macon Berryman and Joseph Davis, embodies the principal of Rotary Clubs everywhere, "service above self," Davis said.
The award is the oldest continuing award given by any Rotary Club in the Caribbean.
Previous winners of Rotary II's Person of the Year Award are:
2002 – Elliot "Mac" Davis
2001 – Shaun A. Pennington
2000 – John P. deJongh Jr.
1999 – Randy Knight
1998 – Nick Pourzal
1997 – Lorraine Berry
1996 – Vinni Mohanani
1995 – Juel T.R. Molloy
1994 – Edward E. Thomas Sr.
1993 – Leona Bryant
1992 – Verne A. Hodge
1991 – Athniel "Addie" Ottley
1990 – Dilsa Capdeville
1989 – Ron de Lugo
1988 – Irvin "Brownie" Brown
1987 – Alexander A. Farrelly
1986 – Dr. Alfred O. Heath
1985 – Calvin Wheatley
1984 – Costas Coulianos
1983 – Dr. Roy L. Schneider
1982 – Albert A. Aubain
1981 – Wilbur "Bill" Lamotta

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