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University displaced by hurricane prepares to move to Knoxville

Hurricane Maria destroyed Dominica-based Ross University. Now, students and faculty have found a temporary home at Lincoln Memorial University in Knoxville.
Ross University School of Medicine

After an entire university in the Carribbean weathered Hurricane Maria, only to find their school destroyed, Lincoln Memorial University opened its doors to help.

"Winds that had gusts of over 200 miles an hour, pieces of sheet metal flying through the air," Dr. Mark Kimpton said.

Kimpton has seen a lot in nearly 25 years as a doctor and university professor, but nothing like this.

"This was unlike anything we'd ever experienced," Kimpton said. "It was just out of a movie scene. It was surreal."

Kimpton teaches at Ross University, based on the island of Dominica.

"(It's a) lush green tropical island that's dubbed the nature island because of its natural beauty," Kimpton said.

But Hurricane Maria stripped that away, along with a way for the nearly 1,200 students at Ross to continue their education.

"We had food, water, security issues immediately after the storm," Kimpton said.

They eventually found the supplies they needed, a way to avoid the looters and a place to learn courtesy of Knoxville's Lincoln Memorial University.

"It just feels like a huge blessing," Kimpton said.

He's in Knoxville this week checking out the area and preparing to move his family here and help students make the transition.

LMU has agreed to let the students take classes this semester, giving them some normalcy after finishing their fall semester on a cruise boat in the Caribbean.

"And now the students that are on the floating campus, the ability, the intestinal fortitude, the grit, the determination, that regardless of the obstacles they have faced, and they have faced many, they are plodding through and pressing forward to get to their career goals," Kimpton said.

Kimpton said LMU has offered shelter from the storm.

"They're actively working on site to get things up and prepared for our level of expectation so we can do our class instructions--anatomy lab," Kimpton said.

It's a welcome sight after seeing a storm strip nearly everything away.

Kimpton said the semester starts Jan. 15.

His thoughts are with the friends he made in Dominica, who are still rebuilding.

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