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A look beyond tragedy:  how to support University of the Virgin Islands students, faculty and staff suffering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Many of us think of the Virgin Islands as a favorite vacation paradise. In addition to the beautiful beaches and lush vegetation, the U.S. Virgin Islands are also home to a hidden gem: the only historically black university located off the mainland. The University of the Virgin Islands, its students, staff and faculty and all residents of the Virgin Islands were battered by two category five hurricanes in the past few weeks. They are just beginning to recover from unimaginable devastation.

We have had the honor to serve as fundraising counsel to the university several times over the last three decades, most recently in 2014. We talked with Ms. Dionne Jackson, the former vice president of advancement at UVI to get an update.

“Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused widespread devastation on the university’s St. Thomas and St. Croix campuses. The staff members’ stories of survival are utterly heartbreaking. Given UVI’s resilience, the institution will return better than ever, but it will need support from family and friends.”

“UVI is an extraordinary institution. For over 50 years, it has prepared its students (from the U.S. mainland and the Caribbean), to compete in the global marketplace. While its students are often recognized nationally for their academic mastery, the institution on a whole is one of the best kept secrets within higher education,” Jackson shared.

According the Dr. David Hall, UVI president, “It is in the face of unimaginable destructions and challenges that we must imagine a future that embraces and exceeds our dreams.”

Classes were cancelled and “normal operations” were interrupted.  Faculty, staff and administrators worked tirelessly and creatively to make it possible for classes to resume October 9th. President Hall welcomed students back with emotion, “Hurricanes Irma and Maria were extremely powerful forces, but your minds and character are more powerful than those forces put together. They were forces of destruction, but you are a force for development, transformation and service, which can change these Virgin Islands and the world. This is why we are so excited to resume classes and continue our journey of helping to develop bright, innovative and caring people.”

We are asking readers of FUNdraising Good Times to help the UVI family recover. The University has created a fund to support students, faculty and staff who have suffered serious losses as a result of hurricanes Irma and Maria. You can make tax deductible donations at: where you can view a video on the hurricane’s impact.  You can also call the university’s development office at 340-693-1040 for additional information. And you can Text 2017IRMA to 71777 to support this effort.

Your support will aid in the recovery by assisting with basic needs required during a state of emergency. Over 2,600 students and staff members were impacted by the storm, and your charitable gift will help to bring normalcy back to the campus community.

Copyright 2017 – Mel Shaw and Pearl Shaw, CFRE

Mel and Pearl Shaw are authors of four books on fundraising available on For help growing your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.