May 23, 2004- More than 200 degrees were conferred on the "diverse, determined" class of 2004 at the University of the Virgin Islands on Saturday in the first of two graduation ceremonies held by UVI on its campuses this weekend.
At the UVI Sports and Fitness Center family, friends and well wishers gathered for the 40th commencement exercises of the university, founded as the College of the Virgin Islands in 1962.
UVI President LaVerne Ragster presided over the conferring of 32 masters, 28 bachelors of science, 99 bachelor of arts, one associate of science and 34 associates of arts degrees on members of the UVI Class of 2004.
Time and again, the class was referred to by speakers as being "determined and diverse." In her remarks, Ragster hailed the efforts of the graduating class, as she acknowledged that many held full-time jobs, raised families and participated in sports while seeking academic advancement. Ranan Mustafa secured the highest grade point average and was recognized for his academic excellence. Speakers included: Acting Gov. Vargrave Richards, Senate President David Jones and Chairman of the UVI Board of Trustees Auguste Rimpel.
Keynote speaker Len Ishmael referred to this weekend's commencements as "a momentous occasion in the evolution of your lives." Ishmael, the first female Director General of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, told the graduates they have an important role to play in helping to develop the role of smaller Caribbean states.
Class speaker Wilma Espinosa urged her fellow graduates to pursue a furthering of their education. "The path that lies ahead has many uncertainties…don't let the environment affect your decisions." Espinosa urged her fellow graduates to take an important step. "We all talk about a better Virgin Islands but let the difference begin with you."
Richards urged the class to "dream big and to observe life from every angle." He added that the UVI Class of 2004 is fortunate to be graduating from "one of the most dynamic colleges in the United States."
At the Sunday commencement on St. Croix, UVI, for the first time, conferred an Applied Science in Process Technology to seven graduates. Those securing the degree have been offered jobs at the Hovensa refinery on St. Croix. The degree program was carried out in a partnership between Hovensa and UVI. The degrees were among the 105 conferred during the two-hour ceremony. In addition, UVI conferred 14 masters of arts degree in education, 10 masters in business administration, six masters in public administration, five bachelors in science, 68 bachelors of arts, five associates in science and 30 associate of arts degrees. VI Delegate to Congress Donna Christiansen joined other local government leaders at Sunday's commencement.
The St. Croix class speaker was Jonell J. Johnson,. The student with the highest grade point average was Michelle Hemlepp.
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