News Releases

UWI honours sixteen of the Regionís beacons

For Release Upon Receipt - May 19, 2009

St. Augustine

In its ongoing campaign to shine light on those who tirelessly contribute to the growth of the region, The University of the West Indies (UWI) will confer honorary degrees on sixteen such worthy individuals during graduation ceremonies on all the UWI campuses later this year.

At the Mona Campus, The Honourable John Issa will receive a Doctor of Laws degree. This consultant and entrepreneur is one of the most influential figures in the Jamaican tourism industry. A former Senator in the Jamaican Parliament, he has served as Executive Chairman to Superclubs International Ltd (which represents the Breezes chain of hotels) and its subsidiaries and as a director of Grace Kennedy Ltd. He has been credited with introducing the concept of all-inclusive hotels in Jamaica, thereby revolutionising his island’s tourist industry. Issa has received more than 18 national and industry awards, including the Order of Jamaica (1998), Tourism Medal of Excellence (2001), Trail Blazer Award (2005) and the Lifetime Achievement Award in Travel and Tourism (2007).

The degree DLitt honoris causa will be awarded to Mr. John Maxwell, veteran journalist and environmental activist. Involved in media since the 1950s, he was also a lecturer at CARIMAC UWI as well as at UTECH, Jamaica. During his six-decade career, he has published over 1,500 columns and has been interviewed regularly by local and international media houses as an expert in his field. He has been an icon in public education, especially in areas such as decolonisation, democratic governance and related topics. Maxwell is a passionate and unstinting advocate for the protection of beaches and other environmental causes in Jamaica and throughout the region as well as for the political liberation of Haiti.

Another recipient of the Doctor of Laws degree will be the Honourable Oliver F. Clarke, Chairman and Managing Director of the Gleaner Company. He is often credited with turning one of the oldest newspaper publishers in the region into a very successful media enterprise. He has not only revitalised Jamaican news media, but he is the co-founder of the Caribbean Media Corporation which is now the region’s leading multimedia communication service. He is also Chairman of the West Indian section of the Commonwealth Press Union and President of the Inter- American Press Association. He is the recipient of Jamaica’s prestigious national honour, the Order of Jamaica.

For her achievements as a publisher and cultural historian, the Honorary DLitt will be conferred on Dr. Anne Walmsley. Born in Derby, England, she fell in love with Caribbean culture and has since devoted herself to producing and disseminating works of West Indian Literature and Visual Arts. After relocating to Jamaica where she became intimate with the Caribbean she returned to the UK determined to make use of her experiences. Though unsuccessful at first, she eventually became the first Caribbean publisher for Longmans and was instrumental in having several Caribbean classics republished. She also worked as a freelance consultant editor and writer on African and Caribbean Literature and Education. She is well known for her documentation of the history of The Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM). Her deeply rooted interest in Caribbean culture and her efforts to ensure its preservation through her extensive documentation in over 39 publications has certainly merited the UWI’s recognition.Professor Colin A Palmer will also receive a DLitt at the Mona Campus graduation ceremony. A prolific scholar and historian, he has produced over 60 publications with several papers still to be published. Professor Palmer’s range of scholarly interests is exceptionally wide, thus he can serve as an expert in several areas including history and black culture. Aside from his academic endeavours he has served the region in several community initiatives through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Currently a Dodge Professor at Princeton University, USA, he nevertheless remains committed and loyal to his alma mater, UWI Mona.

At the Cave Hill Campus, Sir Frederick Ballantyne GCMG (Knight Grand Cross), Governor General of St Vincent and the Grenadines, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Sciences degree. Sir Frederick has been in this office since September 2nd, 2002, and was knighted in November. He replaced Monica Dacon who had been interim Governor General after the death of Sir Charles Antrobus. He has had a long and distinguished career as a Medical Doctor, Educator and Administrator. He has also been a successful entrepreneur in St Vincent and the Grenadines with several business enterprises, including real estate, marina operations, pharmaceuticals and the hospitality industry.

Mr. Paul Bernard Altman is also expected to be honoured with an LLD at the Cave Hill Campus. This entrepreneur has prospered as a leader in tourism development and heritage conservation in the Caribbean for over 30 years. He currently serves as the Managing Director of Altman Real Estate, the Caribbean’s leading real estate agency. An avid support of The UWI, he has devoted his time and resources in the role of Chairman of the Barbados Board of Trustees for the Endowment Fund and has served as a member of the Campus Council. He was inducted into the Chancellor’s Circle in 2008. For his evident dedication to his work, he was awarded the Centennial Honour (2000) and the Gold Crown of Merit in 2007 by the Government of Barbados.Mr. Altman also serves his community as a Justice of the Peace.

Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford will also receive and LLD at the Cave Hill Campus. This scholar wears several hats including statesman, author, educator, diplomat and politician. Having served as the fourth Prime Minister of Barbados, he has over 32 years of unbroken and devoted service to Parliament, and holds the record of the longest serving Minister of Education in Barbados. He served the University as President of the Guild (1958) while a student at The UWI and was a member of numerous University councils. An advocate of tertiary education, he also held posts as a part-time lecturer and distinguished fellow, and established The Barbados Community College and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic. Sir Lloyd is also known for his commitment to Caribbean integration, as he was heavily involved in both the formation of the Caribbean Examinations Council and the Heads of Government Meeting which made the decision to institute the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM).

Professor Zelma Edgell is expected to receive a DLitt at the Cave Hill Campus. A native of Belize, this accomplished novelist began her career as a reporter for the Jamaica Gleaner. Having completed a Masters in Liberal Studies, she currently serves as an Associate Professor at Kent State University, Ohio, USA. She has struggled to advance the position of women in society, serving as the Director of both the Women’s Bureau in the Government of Belize, and the Department of Women’s Affairs.

At the St. Augustine Campus Graduation Ceremonies, Mr. Yesu Persaud is to receive an LLD for his entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavours,. From humble beginnings in Guyana, this businessman transformed Demerara Distillers Ltd into one of the most modern, technologically advanced distilleries in the Caribbean. Additionally, he has distinguished himself as founder and chairman of Demerara Bank Ltd, one of the first West Indian banks wholly owned and managed by Guyanese. Aside from his business portfolio, Mr. Persaud is known for his philanthropic spirit. He founded one of the largest micro credit facilities in the Commonwealth Caribbean. He has also established several trusts and foundations which raise funds for various groups in need. He has also been an instrumental figure in the cultural arena, as chairman of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), Guyana.

The UWI will honour petroleum industry pioneer, Mr. Robert B. Riley with an LLD. As Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BP Trinidad and Tobago, he has been at the helm of a company which contributes 25% of the Trinidad and Tobago Government’s tax revenue. Additionally, he is credited with pioneering offshore petroleum platforms in Trinidad and Tobago. Under his leadership, bpTT has doubled its output from 200 to 400 million barrels of oil equivalent daily. For his contribution to the economic development of Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Riley was awarded the National Chaconia Gold Medal.

Theatre artist and poet Mr. Christopher Laird will receive the honorary D Litt. Mr. Laird has devoted his life to developing the media, communication and film industries in Trinidad and Tobago. He was heavily responsible for the establishment of Banyan, which grew into the first independent television programme production house in the southern Caribbean. He has committed himself to productions which feature local content and themes. His significant contribution to the audiovisual history of Trinidad and Tobago is evident and merits this award.

Environmental Activist Angela Cropper will receive a DLitt from the University. Ms. Cropper will receive the award for her outstanding service to Trinidad and Tobago, the region and the world in relation to issues of the Environment and Sustainable Development. She has recently been appointed Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, a post which will allow her an even larger platform to disseminate her message of environmental conservation. She is the founder of the Cropper Foundation, a non-governmental organisation committed to sustainable development.

The noted biographer, Prof Arnold Rampersad, will receive the DLitt. Professor Rampersad is a Professor of English and the Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University. Among his many works of biography and criticism was the two-volume “Life of Langston Hughes” for which the first volume was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. His work on W. E. B. Du Bois is also highly acclaimed. From 1991 to 1996, he held a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. His work has been credited with restoring the art of biography as a form of literary criticism.

At the Open Campus Graduation Ceremonies, an LLD will be awarded to Mrs. Peggy Antrobus. This dedicated social worker is well respected for her contributions to society as well as her support of the feminist ideology. She has been well recognised worldwide having received numerous international awards, including the Distinguished Service Award for the enhancement of women’s role in Caribbean societies (1990) and the UNIFEM Anniversary Award for extraordinary commitment to the world’s women (1995). Mrs. Antrobus was also responsible for initiating the Women and Development Unit at the UWI School of Continuing Studies and the Commonwealth Save the Children Fund. Her commitment to social work is evident from her membership on more than 25 advisory boards. Mrs. Antrobus has also distinguished herself as an academic through her numerous academic publications.

The man who gave St. Lucia its greatest symbol of independence, The Honourable Dunstan St. Omer will receive a D Litt. St. Omer was the artist responsible for designing the National Flag of St. Lucia in 1967. He is also the father of the artistic genre known as ‘Prismism,’ which evolved out of his experimentation with the cubist style. St. Omer also served as editor of the leading newspaper, The Voice of St Lucia, from 1959 to 1962. His name is synonymous with art in St Lucia, where he is a cultural hero. He is the recipient of the national award, the St. Lucia Cross, and a papal medal from the Roman Catholic Church for his outstanding church murals. The UK Telegraph described him as the “Michelangelo of the Caribbean,” as they showered praises on his work in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Castries. His Prometheus Mural is on an external wall of the UWI’s Open Campus Centre. St. Omer remains revered in St. Lucia for all he has done for national identity and the fields of art and media.


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Over the last six decades, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged University with over 40,000 students. Today, UWI is the largest and most longstanding higher education provider in the English-speaking Caribbean, with main campuses in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and Centres in Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Christopher (St Kitts) & Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent & the Grenadines. UWI recently launched its Open Campus, a virtual campus with over 50 physical site locations across the region, serving over 20 countries in the English-speaking Caribbean. UWI is an international university with faculty and students from over 40 countries and collaborative links with over 60 universities around the world. Through its seven Faculties, UWI offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Pure & Applied Sciences, Science and Agriculture, and Social Sciences.