On Tuesday, Dec. 18, the first president of the University of the Virgin Islands, Dr. Lawrence Wanlass, died in California. He is survived by his wife, Anita, and their four children. For nearly two decades – from 1962 to 1980 – Dr. Wanlass worked to establish the then College of the Virgin Islands (CVI) and to create a world-class curriculum for its students.
UVI President Dr. David Hall, on the behalf of the entire University family – the Board of Trustees, foundation boards, faculty, staff, students and alumni – extends his sincerest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Dr. Wanlass.
“Dr. Wanlass was a true visionary whose tireless work laid the groundwork for the first rank educational institution that the University of the Virgin Islands has become,” said UVI Board of Trustees Chairman Henry Smock. “I know that he followed the development of the University over the years and was very proud of all of its many accomplishments.”
Under Dr. Wanlass’ leadership, the institution was designated with land-grant status and a large endowment was bestowed on the College through federal legislation. During his tenure, Hubert Sugden donated his St. Croix home, which would become UVI’s Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix and the institution received an endowment for the establishment of the Reichhold Center for the Arts.
“President Wanlass was such an important anchor for this University,” said President Hall. “During my time as president he would consistently send me notes of encouragement and generosity. He was always proud of what this special institution was able to accomplish. Though I never was able to meet him, I still feel his loss and pray for his family during this difficult time.”
Dr. Wanlass was instrumental in the establishment of CVI’s initially offering two-year transfer programs in humanities, social sciences, physical science and mathematics, business administration, engineering and teacher education, as well as occupational programs in business management, accounting, executive secretarial studies, hotel and resort operation and management, electrical technology and construction technology. Later he was instrumental in the establishment of four-year academic programs and in the accreditation of the College for five years by the Middle States Association.
Malcom Kirwan, a CVI alumnus who worked closely with Dr. Wanlass, remembers him well. “I have always been deeply grateful for the opportunity he extended to me to serve the College of the Virgin Islands during his presidency, for teaching me the meaning of compassionate leadership, and for showing me, by his fine example, what it meant to be a leader who serves with sincerity, integrity and honor,” Kirwan said. “In many ways, perhaps without knowing it, he was the father to me I never had.”
“Dr. Wanlass was a true visionary whose tireless work laid the groundwork for the first-rank educational institution that the University of the Virgin Islands has become,” said Kirwan, former UVI vice president of Administration and Finance and chief financial officer. “I know that he followed the development of the University over the years and was very proud of all of its many accomplishments.”
In 1980, upon Dr. Wanlass’ retirement, in honor of his accomplishments, leadership and impact that he had on the development of the College, was conferred the status of President Emeritus. For more information on Dr. Wanlass visit www.uvi.edu or see this direct link: President Emeritus Dr. Lawrence Wanlass.