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LET’S CELEBRATE the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, the federal statute that created Land Grant institutions of higher learning. Justin Smith Morrill, U.S. Representative, Vermont, introduced the bill as a counterpoint to higher education being seen as predominately for the elite. It funded a system of “industrial colleges,” with land allocation based on each state’s number of senators and representatives. These institutions specialized in engineering and agriculture as well as military tactics. The Morrill Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862.
Today, there are more than 100 Land Grant colleges and universities in the U.S. and its possessions. Some are well known indeed, the University of California, Berkeley; Ohio State; MIT. Others are perhaps not as well known, but there’s one that’s dear to me: the University of the Virgin Islands.
UVI is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Founded in 1962 as the College of the Virgin Islands with campuses on both St. Thomas and St. Croix, it was originally a two-year school. And in 1969, I joined the faculty as an associate professor of mathematics.
The college’s first baccalaureate degrees were awarded in 1970. The U.S. Congress made it a Land Grant institution in 1972. University status came in 1986 as a reflection of its growth and diversification of curricula. Today, UVI has a combined enrollment of some 2500 full-time, part-time and graduate students.
The University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. In fact, I was there in 1971 when CVI gained its first Middle States recognition. It was quite a big deal, with an evaluation team assessing all aspects of the college’s operation.
Commented the team in its report, “The faculty and staff of CVI go about their work with the zeal of a Midwestern religious school.”
I remember we were all particularly pleased by this. ds