Home News Local news Former UVI President Arthur A. Richards Dies

Former UVI President Arthur A. Richards Dies


Sept. 2, 2005 – Former University of the Virgin Islands President Arthur A. Richards died Friday at Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital. His daughter, Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards, said her father was 80 and had suffered for some time from hypertension and diabetes.
Richards served as the university president from 1980 to 1990. He was only the second person to hold that post.
A Frederiksted junior high school is named in his honor.
Richards is also survived by sons Arthur Anthony and Duane, who reside in St. Thomas and Texas, respectively.
Pamela Richards said news that Duane had just been promoted to a major in the U.S. Army was one of the last things she told her father.
She said her father put a strong emphasis on education, but was a wonderful family man. She said he and her mother, the late Myrna Richards, even took their three children on their second honeymoon to Italy.
"I miss him already," Pamela Richards said.
In a 1986 interview with this reporter, the St. Croix-born Richards outlined an educational career that began in 1949 as a teacher at Frederiksted Junior High School. He served as a teacher and principal at Christiansted High School and principal at Frederiksted Elementary School. He went on to become the Education Commissioner before moving on to what was then called the College of the Virgin Islands. He started as provost and dean, rising to the post of vice-president before being named to head the institution.
Richards received a bachelor's degree from Howard University and a master's degree from Hampton Institute. He also studied with the International Institute on Comparative Education in Italy and the Netherlands in 1967.
"That has turned out to be very good for me in the job, what with students coming from other places," he said in the 1986 interview.
He received his doctorate in educational administration and supervision from New York University in 1965 in a program aimed at upgrading the territory's educational system.
"They identified certain people to be sent to NYU for further study," he said during the 1986 interview at his office above the Ralph M. Paiewonsky Library.
Orville Kean succeeded Richards as the head of the university. Kean, now retired, said in a press release issued by the university that Richards was largely responsible for the metamorphosis of education in the Virgin Islands.
"His progress and the progress of the system of education in the Virgin Islands were intimately linked," Kean said.
Kean called Richards' passing the end of an era.
"He was a friend, colleague, a mentor and a fellow Virgin Islander. He held a unique place in Virgin Islands history," Kean said.
LaVerne E. Ragster, UVI's current president, said that Richards understood meeting standards but also understood the community he lived in.
"Dr. Richards brought all of the experience he had with education in the territory, a sense of humor and a constant commitment to treating people with dignity," Ragster said.
Auguste E. Rimpel Jr., who serves as chairman of the university's board, said in a press release that under Richards' leadership, the university grew from college status to a university. It also gained the designation as a Historically Black College and University. Additionally, land grant programs expanded during Richards' tenure.
Pamela Richards said that her father was very interested in the Cooperative Extension Service, an aspect of his life that carried over to his backyard garden.
"He was a gentleman farmer in his spare time," she said.
She said her father was generous to the school's students, giving them money when they had none and bringing them home to dinner.
Pamela Richards said she remembers that students were often at the dinner table when such greats as Andrew Young and Shirley Chisholm came to dine.
Condolences from the territory's leaders began to roll in late Friday.
"Many of our community leaders were students of Dr. Richards and were molded by his high standards," Delegate Donna M. Christensen said.
Gov. Charles Turnbull, who served as assistant education commissioner under Richards' tenure, called him a 20th-century pioneer.
"His vision and commitment to learning are part of his legacy to future leaders," he said.
Senate President Lorraine Berry called Richards a down-to-earth individual who was soft spoken and easy to get along with.
"In many cases, President Richards placed the importance of educating the youth above himself as was evidenced by his many years of dedicated service to our territory," Berry said.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg said that many great things were achieved during Richards' tenure as university president.
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