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St. John Family Donates Land to UVI

STJ_Land_Donation_Samuels: (from right) Gloria Samuel and Marva Samuel Applewhite, who donated land in St. John to UVI, pose with heirs of their father James Alphonso “Harry” Samuel, who owned Estate Zootenvaal.
A major land donation bequeathed to the University of the Virgin Islands was announced on Sept. 11.  UVI President David Hall announced the donation of four acres of property on the island of St. John to the University. The property is located in Estate Zootenvaal in Coral Bay. The gift was made by Marva Samuel Applewhite and Gloria Samuel, daughters of James Alphonso “Harry” Samuel, who owned Estate Zootenvaal. The appraised value of the four acres is $740,000.

The four acres donated this year, adjoins two acres the sisters donated to UVI in 2002. The total six acres are valued at more than $1.2 million.

“Education has been the number one priority for our family,” Applewhite said at Wednesday’s reception at UVI’s Academic Center on St. John. Applewhite and her sister are both retired teachers.  “We decided to give back to the people of the Virgin Islands, the Caribbean and the world,” Applewhite continued.

In thanking Applewhite and Samuel for their gift, Dr. Hall noted that ordinary people can make extraordinary contributions. “There are common people who are not millionaires or billionaires, people who love and care about education and just give from their hearts,” said Dr. Hall. Samuel and Applewhite are those types of people, he said. “This gift feels like my mother is giving to this University,” said Dr. Hall. “I’m just so thankful and honored that you were able to invest in this University,” he added, commending the vision and ingenuity of their father James Samuel – a mason who helped to build the original pier in Cruz Bay and the Benjamin Franklin School (now Guy Benjamin Elementary School).

Both Dr. Hall and UVI Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dionne Jackson remarked on the sisters’ humility. “They did not make this gift because they wanted public recognition or boast about their family’s largess,” Jackson said. “They wanted to be a part of UVI’s next 50 years of service to the Virgin Islands and St. John communities.” 

“I see a dream of a campus of the University of the Virgin Islands on St. John,” Samuel Hall, the attorney of Applewhite and Samuel, said at the reception. Dr. Hall said while a UVI campus on St. John may be possible in the distant future, initial plans are to build a cultural center on the property. The cultural center will preserve the rich history of St. John, he said.

About 30 people attended the intimate reception, many of whom are heirs of James Samuel.