A chance encounter more than 50 years ago has led to an opportunity for young students today to further their education. The story of the Noble Samuel scholarship, soon to be offered through the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, began when a couple came to St. John for a stay at the Caneel Bay Resort in 1968.
“We’d been married about six years, but it was like a second honeymoon,” said the wife, who wants her donation to remain anonymous. “Noble Samuel was a Virgin Islands National Park ranger who came and spoke to people at Caneel at that time. He was so much in love with the park, and that came through immediately.”
The couple returned to Caneel Bay three more times in the 1970s, then stayed at vacation homes in Cruz Bay during trips to the island in the 1980s. They purchased a home of their own in Coral Bay in 2004, the same year Noble Samuel died at the age of 78. Though the couple hadn’t maintained a connection with Samuel, it was he who came to mind this summer as the wife reviewed a trust that her brother had set up for her with their mother’s inheritance.
“I thought to myself, ‘I really don’t need that money in my trust so much; maybe I should consider doing something with it to leave a legacy,’” she said. “It popped into my head to do something in St. John, and I thought about a scholarship in Noble’s name, because he had impressed us so much in the beginning and made us fall in love with St. John.”
The resulting gift is an annual scholarship of $2,500 a semester, or $5,000 annually, awarded to a college student selected based on their application and an essay submission.
A review committee consisting of the donors, Friends Executive Director Tonia Lovejoy, Samuel’s widow Barbara Samuel, the wife of Samuel’s adopted son Julien Harley, and Friends board members, will make the selection.
A component of the scholarship includes a paid summer internship with the Friends, which Lovejoy said she hopes to tailor to the scholarship winner’s interests or area of academic study. “With tears in her eyes, the donor said she believed the Friends is the best organization to carry this gift,” said Lovejoy. “I said, ‘Noble must’ve been a dear friend of yours,’ and they both teared up and said, ‘No, he was just a remarkable man. He’s the reason why we fell in love with St. John.’ It was just the most heartwarming experience, and it makes me cry now because it truly answers the question of what it means to leave a legacy.”
Samuel’s widow Barbara Samuel, a New York native who now lives on St. Croix, said the scholarship is a blessing.
Barbara came to St. John in 1970 to teach special ed, and the couple met during walks she took in the Virgin Islands National Park with her students.
“For a long time, he was a mentor to me, then the whole love thing came in and we were happily married for 28 years,” said Barbara.
She described her late husband as a humble man who never sought accolades, and who was deeply tied to his home island of St. John.
Noble was one of 10 children who grew up in a one-room home in Pastory. He never completed high school; instead, he earned his GED as an adult. In addition to his career with the National Park Service, which culminated with the position of superintendent at the Christiansted National Historic Site, Noble was elected as Senator at Large in 1972, a position he held until 1976.
He was appointed St. John administrator by Gov. Juan F. Luis in 1983, a position he held until 1987. “He was a people person,” Barbara said of her late husband. “He wasn’t a politician by nature, and the bureaucracy was frustrating to him, but he worked around it where he could and he was a good senator, and a good administrator. He enjoyed coming back to the Park Service after he left the Senate.”
Though Noble wasn’t showy about his accomplishments, he would be happy to know that a scholarship named in his honor will help St. John students further their education, said Barbara. “I think this is the perfect way to make a tribute to him and it’s something he would have accepted,” she said.
“It’s an incentive for improving, and he would have been very proud because he always felt as if he could improve, and should look to improve. The scholarship is a perfect avenue to continue Noble’s ideas for the island and his thoughts for young people there.”
The application period for the Noble Samuel scholarship opens Oct. 1, and will close Oct. 31. Applications will be available via scholarship committee members or online at www.friendsvinp.org.