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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 15, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesUVI Inaugurates Hall as its Fifth President

UVI Inaugurates Hall as its Fifth President

Dr. David Hall expresses his vision for the future of UVI to family, friends, UVI faculty, staff and students who attended his inauguration at UVI's Reichhold Center for the Arts on the University's St. Thomas campus. (Photo courtesy of UVI Public Affairs)Stepping up to the podium Saturday night dressed in the blue University of the Virgin Islands academic regalia, David Hall told the packed crowd before him that he "deeply believed" his presence in the territory was not a "mere coincidence" but rather a move that symbolized the spiritual fulfillment of one of his long-time dreams.

Hall waited for the applause that thundered through the amphitheater at the Reichhold Center for the Arts to die down before he began to explain further.

"When I was a young boy growing up in Savannah, Georgia, I spent hours imagining my future and yearning for something greater than what I was experiencing," he said. "And I realized that I had two dreams."

The first, he said, was for God to send him the love of his life, and the second was to one day lead a "special" institution that would make a "tremendous difference with people and throughout the world."

Both those dreams became a reality within the same year, with the birth of Hall’s wife Marilyn Braithwaite-Hall on March 12, 1962, and the founding of the University of the Virgin Islands a few days later, on March 16, 1962.

"So you see," Hall said, as the applause rang out once more, "there was something spiritually profound happening in my life in March of 1962."

Throughout the evening, it became evident that everyone who came out to see Hall officially installed as the university’s fifth president felt the same way, with speakers lining up to say they truly believed Hall was the kind of leader who could transform UVI, turning it from a "good" institution into a "great" one.

In less than year, Hall – who replaced outgoing president LaVerne Ragster on Aug. 1, 2009 – appeared to have secured the affections of the university’s faculty, board of trustees and students, whose praise was folded into several heartfelt speeches.

"Over the past seven months, he’s listened to us, he’s set a vision for us and he’s fulfilled his commitments," said professor Aletha Baumann, UVI’s faculty chair. "We’re on our way."

The support pledged by Baumann was echoed in the words of student government association leaders from both district campuses, who commended Hall on keeping up with his monthly student meetings and taking an active role in driving UVI’s male population to succeed through his "Brothers With a Cause" program.

"I’ve known Dr. Hall to personally contact a student to follow up on a problem brought to his attention," said Jaedee Caines, president of the university’s student government association on St. Thomas. "And don’t let his height fool you – Dr. Hall is one of the most approachable people here at UVI."

A few of the speakers Saturday, those who have known Hall for years, didn’t seem at all surprised by how many lives Hall has been able to touch in so short a time. Instead, they showed their deep and powerful love for their friend through a medley of songs, poems and speeches composed especially for the occasion.

"You are a used book on loan to students the world over," said Haki R. Madhubuti, an English professor at Chicago State University, as he read for a poem he composed for Hall entitled, "Emergence: Brotherman Becomes a University President."

His words painted the picture of a great civic and spiritual "sage," a man of character, stature and integrity – someone who Madhubuti, who became choked with emotion as he recited the last few lines, described as a "man of his word."

A slightly different picture emerged from a musical composition created by Hall’s former colleague Leonard Brown, an associate professor of African American studies and music at Northeastern University, where Hall was dean of the law school before he was appointed provost and senior vice-president of academic affairs.

The jazz-like composition was meant to show Hall’s commitment to family, his great intellect, his strong, visionary leadership and his humility, Brown said. And as the music began to play – Brown took up the soprano saxophone while the Eddie Russell Quelbe Jazz Band out of St. Croix carried the rest of the tune – Brown kept looking over and smiling at Hall, who tapped his feet, clapped his hand and moved his head as the audience sat in awe.

The two embraced as the amphitheater filled with noise, quieting the sounds of the storm that raged outside.

That energy carried through the investiture, when Hall donned UVI’s blue and white cap and gown, the shimmering gold presidential medallion and stepped up to the podium to speak.

In his first few words, Hall described the night as "magical." He said there was someone in the audience from every stage in his life, from his sister to his pastor, and he dedicated his speech to his parents, who he wished were alive "to see this moment."

He talked about his love for the university, which he said is more than the palm trees, beaches and blue waters that surrounds it. He said UVI is meant for something special, and that his presidency would be themed "the quest for greatness," in an effort to inspire everyone one – students and government officials alike – to rally behind the university as it heads into the future.

The foundation has already been laid by UVI’s past presidents, and now, it’s time to build on the university’s "areas of excellence" and add new programs that the local marketplace and global economy desperately needs, he said. With the help of the local hospitality industry, UVI could have a school of resort and hospitality management, and the university’s renowned work in aquaponics could transform food production in the territory, Hall said.

UVI's fifth president, Dr. David Hall, left, with UVI Board of Trustees Chair Alexander A. Moorhead, who installed Hall in ceremonies Saturday. (Photo courtesy of UVI Public Affairs)With its quality research centers, student work should be supplemented by aggressive research projects, and the university should be helping to facilitate discussion on major community issues, such as energy, he added.

"Greatness contains high expectations," Hall said. "We do not accept mediocrity. We have to set high standards. We are in the business of inspiring ordinary people to become extraordinary citizens."

The school must radiate greatness, he said, so when people come there, they know it’s something special.

"We must be bold enough to claim that this university will become a destination of choice within the region and the world," Hall said. “We will no longer be the best kept secret. The world will know we’re here because of the quality of our facilities and the quality of our people."

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