A SHORT HISTORY
During the 1960’s, the British Development Division (UK) offered overseas territories the opportunity to create technical colleges. The BVI declined this offer in favour of changing its selective high schools to a system that would accommodate all students. This high school would include a Department of Technical Studies (now Technical Division) that continues today.
In the early 1980s, however, the then Chief Minister, Hamilton Lavity Stoutt, proposed a community college and established a Community College Project Office within his office to give greater meaning to the slogan, “Our Tomorrow Begins Today”, that he felt best described his vision for the tertiary institution. The first professional lecture on the subject was given at a packed Rotary Club meeting at Treasure Isle Hotel by Dr. Janet D. Smith. Herself a British Virgin Islander who was then at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Smith had had experience in community college administration, particularly in planning for such institutions. She had volunteered along with the school’s President, Dr. Nolen M. Ellison, to lend their expertise to the effort during those early years. As part of that early planning, a Focus Committee was identified. The hearing committee, chaired by the late Dr. Norwell Harrigan who had also offered to assist, was organised to hold discussions to obtain feedback from the public concerning the viability of tertiary education for the British Virgin Islands. These discussions provided the ‘green light’ for the appointment, in January 1989, of Mrs. Eileene Parsons, to head the College Office located at The Omar Hodge Building in Road Town.
The inaugural meeting of the first Board of Governors for the College took place on March 10, 1989. At that meeting, an Executive Committee was appointed to manage the daily operations of the institution. That same year saw the appointment of Dr. Theodore Provo as President and rental of classroom space in Road Town. The H. Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLSCC) was officially established in 1990 as the British Virgin Islands Community College under the College Act of that year.
It was not long before a Programme Committee made up of four Task forces that had also been recommended by Drs. Smith and Ellison was appointed by the Chief Minister. The Task Forces were chaired by Mrs. Jennie Wheatley, Mr. Bennet Smith, Mr. Carvin Malone and Mr. Joseph Archibald. The Programme Committee was chaired by the Hon. H. Lavity Stoutt himself. The purpose of the four Task Forces was to help define the initial curricula areas that would be offered by the College. Recommendations from the Committee were approved and resulted in the initial curricula that was offered. Classes were offered on Virgin Gorda at Bregado Flax Educational Centre. Soon, Dr. Steve Wallace, formerly of the College of the Virgin Islands that was by then well established in St. Thomas, joined Mrs. Parsons in getting the day-to-day operations of the College underway. Mrs. Parsons was later to become the Registrar/Bursar of the College.
Dr. Charles Wheatley succeeded Dr. Theodore Provo as President on February 1, 1991 and served until July 2005. On August 15, 1993, the College moved from its original location to its current campus at Paraquita Bay. It was renamed in honour of its Founding Chairman, Chief Minister, Hon. H. Lavity Stoutt in 1993. The Virgin Gorda Centre commenced operation in 1996. Dr. Michael E. O’Neal was appointed third President on August 1, 2005 and served until December 31, 2008. Dr. Karl Dawson was appointed as the fourth President on August 1, 2009 and served until July 2016. Dr. Janet D. Smith was appointed fifth President on August 1, 2016 and served until July 2018. The acting President, Mrs. Judith Vanterpool, MSc, MBA was appointed Acting President on August 1, 2018.
The College is now in its third decade and firmly established in the community and in the region as well. Whereas it began its operations in 1990 with 135 students, steady increases resulted in a peak of over 1200 students in Fall, 2008. Today, enrolment stands at slightly more than 700 students. While enrolments have declined, the College’s growth is reflected in the continuing development of instructional programmes – whether in the form of degree programmes, certificate offerings or short courses – all aimed at responding to community, employment or economic development needs. Collaboration with the New England Culinary Institute in 2000 continued until the College began its own culinary programme in 2012. Recognising that the financial services sector of the economy is a particularly dynamic one, HLSCC launched the Financial Services Institute in 2002. In November 2004, and in collaboration with the U.K.-based Chartered Management Institute, Certificates, Diplomas and Executive Diplomas in Management became available. In 2017, the College was accepted to represent the territory by expanding its offerings in the marine management and related fields as part of a regional collaborative initiative to support the growing tourism industry throughout the region.
With input from the community, the College reviewed and revised its mission in 2012. Service to the community has continued to be a priority. The College’s Virgin Islands Studies Programme, established in 1997 to serve as a source of information and analysis on the Virgin Islands, was reorganised in 2013 as the Virgin Islands Studies Institute. In keeping with its commitment to enhancing appreciation of the cultural arts, since 1996 the College has mounted a vibrant Performing Arts programme, including special Virgin Islands Showcase concerts. Some 2668 students have graduated from the College over the past 25 years. An even greater number has completed other educational goals. The institution continues to grow with the BVI community, and strives to realise the vision of its Founder for generations to come.