Nov. 28, 2003 – The executive director of the Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation will visit the University of the Virgin Islands in the coming week to see what the foundation's generosity has done for nursing and science programs at UVI.
The foundation was created by Claude A. "Bennie" Benjamin, a Crucian who made his mark as a successful popular songwriter in the mid-20th century.
David Beale, the foundation's executive director, and his wife, Tina, will visit the UVI St. Thomas campus on Monday and the St. Croix campus on Tuesday.
UVI's bachelor of science nursing program on St. Thomas recently received $20,730 from the foundation to purchase computers and $6,225 to support the fourth Bennie and Martha Benjamin Nurse Lecture Series. The associate degree nursing program on St. Croix has received $4,734 to fund its Expanding Educational Technology in Nursing program.
Other foundation support provides scholarships for Virgin Islanders to pursue medical careers. Recent awards totaling $20,000 went to UVI graduates Fyama Wenner and Loi y Mustafa, who are pursuing medical degrees at Boston University and Howard University, respectively.
The foundation also has funded equipment for computer laboratories, equipment and supplies for the St. Croix Student Health Center, and furniture to enable physically challenged students to access the computerized card catalogs in the campus library on St. Croix. On St. Thomas, the foundation's philanthropy has established the Benjamin/Watlington Health Center and restored medical texts for the campus library.
"The Benjamin Foundation is a shining example of the kind of philanthropy that helps the university fulfills its vital mission in the territory," a UVI release stated.
Claude A. "Bennie" Benjamin was born on St. Croix on Nov. 4, 1907. He went to New York to study music and later collaborated there on the words and music of a number of hit songs, including "When the Lights Go On Again (All over the World)" with Eddie Seiler and Sol Marcus and "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" with Seiler, Marcus and Eddie Durham.
Returning to St. Croix after World War II, he embarked in 1946 on a 10-year collaboration with George David Weiss that produced 20 hit songs including "Rumors are Flying" and "The Wheel of Fortune."
A number of Benjamin's songs were about St. Croix and St. Thomas. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984. Prior to his death in New York City on May 2, 1989, he established the memorial foundation named for his wife of 30 years, Martha Flores Benjamin, and himself to help the territory's health-care delivery system.
In 1993, a legislative act established the Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation Scholarship Program to assist Virgin Islands students pursuing health-care careers. The first Benjamin scholarship was awarded in 1993. The scholarships encourage students pursuing medical studies to return to the territory to practice. For more background on Benjamin and his music, see the Songwriters Hall of Fame Web site. To learn more about his philanthropy, visit the foundation site.
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