News Releases

Personal statement by UWI Chancellor Sir George Alleyne on the passing of PM David Thompson

For Release Upon Receipt - October 26, 2010

St. Augustine

ST AUGUSTINE, Trinidad And Tobago – The news of Prime Minister Thompson’s death cast somewhat of a pall on our graduation ceremonies for the Cave Hill Campus of the UWI yesterday. We observed moments of silence as was appropriate and in noting his passing I remarked that there would be another more appropriate time at which the University would record more formally a tribute to his work and memory.

There are several ways in which his death touched and impacted on the University. First, he was a proud honors graduate of our Faculty of Law and is one of the Prime Ministers, graduates of our University in whom we are well pleased and of whom we are very proud. He too was also proud of being a son of the Pelican and his career after he graduated brought credit not only to himself, his family and people of Barbados, but also to his alma mater.

I followed his career in politics from a distance of course, but am not privy to the details of his rise to the political eminence to which he rose. The fact that he did so at such an early age must be a tribute both to his intrinsic worth as well as to his skill as a politician, as many are called, but few are chosen to lead their countries. However, as a Barbadian and Chancellor of his University I can speak about my admiration for his statesmanlike bearing and contribution at the meetings of The CARICOM Heads of Government when I could be proud of the content of his contributions and the manner in which he made them. I have had the occasion to interact with him as Prime Minister in regard to his government’s position on the University. He would make it clear that he personally and his government would support the University fully and they would be punctilious in discharging their responsibilities to the Cave Hill Campus and to the University as a whole. I was comforted by his repeated affirmations on the importance of the University continuing to be a regional institution and a key instrument in fashioning and nurturing Caribbean regionalism. And I have never seen his government waver from those positions.

On a more personal level, there are two characteristics that endeared him to me over the years. First was his intellectual curiosity. He was extremely well read in areas that went far beyond politics. It was he who introduced me to the philosophy of Capra and encouraged me to read his “The Turning Point” and “The Tao of Physics”. We had the opportunity for serious discussion on Fukiyama’s early writing on the end of history and could discuss whether small societies would indeed reach the stage at which there was nothing worth striving for and men would have no chests. I enjoyed having these kinds of discussions even on the few occasions when we met during his term as Prime Minister. Finally, the aspect of his character that was to me extremely attractive was that he had the rare virtue of knowing how to listen. He would not only listen, but he would hear. These are qualities that are valuable in all men and women, but of special value when they reach positions of authority.

Of course I will miss him and our University community will miss him. Although no one can really share another’s grief, we grieve ourselves for the void his death has created and we know that there are thousands of others whose lives he has touched who will be grieving also. Our condolences go to his family and I hope that the knowledge that there are so many who both grieve and empathize will be of some small comfort in their current moments of sadness and the future moments when the reality of the permanence of absence strikes home.

Farewell, and as the Jamaicans would say: Walk good David and may good duppy walk with you!


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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.