News Releases

The UWI extends condolences on the passing of Dame Edris Mercier Bird PhD, DCN

For Release Upon Receipt - July 23, 2020


The University of the West Indies (The UWI) joins the nation of Antigua and Barbuda in mourning the passing of Dame Edris Bird.

Dame Edris, an educator par excellence, was the Resident Tutor for The UWI Open Campus in Antigua and Barbuda, then known as the Department of Extra-Mural Studies and later, The School of Continuing Studies. She was a stalwart leader in education and a symbol of selfless humanity. She served at the University from 1965 to 1990.

Dame Edris is among the first graduates of the University College of the West Indies, forerunner of The University of the West Indies. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Mona Campus in Jamaica in the late 1940’s, returning a decade later to pursue and complete a Bachelor of Education degree in 1956. She subsequently read for her Master’s degree in Education from the University of London in 1970 and for an EdD in Education from the University of Toronto in 1974. Following her studies, she returned to Antigua and Barbuda in 1979 and continued her journey in education. Before working at The UWI, she taught English for several years at the Antigua Grammar School.

Dame Edris used her position as Resident Tutor to encourage anyone she encountered to better themselves by continuing their studies—including stay-at-home-wives. She was truly invested in building the Caribbean region through the edification and enlightenment of its people.

Dame Edris was instrumental in introducing civil service employees to local courses offered at The UWI, which enabled them to matriculate at universities or colleges or to simply improve themselves and qualify for better positions at their places of work. Her daughter Dr. Jillia Bird described her as a fighter for education for all. “She was a pioneer and she had a fighting spirit. She fought for adversity,” Dr. Bird said. “Her spirit was indomitable; she always put others before herself.”

Dame Edris led the way for Early Childhood Education in Antigua and Barbuda by working with her colleagues at The UWI to introduce the course at a professional level. These efforts later saw the establishment of training sessions at the Sir Luther Wynter Preschool.

“She had a great, pioneering spirit and she loved to see fellow Antiguans and Barbudans improve themselves academically,” said Dr. Ermina Osoba, who assumed the position of Resident Tutor after Dame Edris’ departure.

Through Dame Edris’ years at The UWI School of Continuing Studies, she collaborated and developed a close working relationship with the late Professor the Honourable Ralston “Rex” Nettleford, OM; a former Vice-Chancellor of The UWI and shared his love of the arts.  Consequently, the Harambee Open Air Theatre, one of the longest running and most successful theatre groups in the country, found a home at what is now The UWI Open Campus Antigua and still fondly called the ‘University Centre’.  “I remember our Summer dance and drama programmes. She invited tutors such as Rex Nettleford. We never had an opportunity like that before,” her daughter Dr. Jillia Bird recalled.

As an educator, Dame Edris has left behind a legacy of professional excellence and public service, seen especially through the contributions of her children, past students and extended family. She collaborated with her husband Mr. Oscar Bird on a book titled, A Call to Service which was published in 2002.

She was conferred Dame Commander, The Most Distinguished Order of the Nation, DCN, in 2019, for distinguished contributions in the field of education and community service. Her affinity and loyalty to The UWI saw her eagerly attending events organised by the institution for many years. She attended open lectures and graciously contributed to The UWI Alumni Association.

Dame Edris died at age 91 on July 19, 2020. She is survived by her twin daughters, Dr. Jillia Bird and Dr. Jacqueline Bird and her son Mr. Clement Bird.

The Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice Chancellors, staff, students and alumni of The University of the West Indies extend heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Dame Edris. The University community will be forever indebted to her for the sterling service and loyalty that she dedicated to our regional institution. May her soul rest in eternal peace.




Note to the Editor

Photo caption

Dame Edris Mercier Bird


About The UWI

For over 70 years The University of the West Indies (The UWI) has provided service and leadership to the Caribbean region and wider world. The UWI has evolved from a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948 to an internationally respected, regional university with near 50,000 students and five campuses: Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Cave Hill in Barbados, Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda and an Open Campus. As part of its robust globalization agenda, The UWI has established partnering centres with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe including the State University of New York (SUNY)-UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development; the Canada-Caribbean Institute with Brock University; the Strategic Alliance for Hemispheric Development with Universidad de los Andes (UNIANDES); The UWI-China Institute of Information Technology, the University of Lagos (UNILAG)-UWI Institute of African and Diaspora Studies; the Institute for Global African Affairs with the University of Johannesburg (UJ); The UWI-University of Havana Centre for Sustainable Development; The UWI-Coventry Institute for Industry-Academic Partnership with the University of Coventry and the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research with the University of Glasgow.

The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science & Technology, Social Sciences and Sport. 

As the region’s premier research academy, The UWI’s foremost objective is driving the growth and development of the regional economy. The world’s most reputable ranking agency, Times Higher Education, has ranked The UWI among the top 600 universities in the world for 2019 and 2020, and the 40 best universities in Latin America and the Caribbean for 2018, 2019 and 2020. The UWI has been the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists.  For more, visit

(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)