Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (UWI), President of Universities Caribbean, and Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, has been paid special tribute by having the administration building at the Cave Hill Campus named in his honour.
The building now bears the name Hilary McDonald Beckles Administration Complex. The iconic four storey structure was conceptualised by Sir Hilary, during his tenure as principal at Cave Hill, to reflect the architectural motif of the Golden Stool of the Ashanti that serves as a symbol of cultural identity and the collective wisdom of elders and ancestors. Sir Hilary invited the Asantehene [King] of the Ashanti, Otumfo, Osei Tutu II of Ghana to Barbados to lay the foundation plaque. The building was opened in April 2010.
Principal, Professor the Most Honourable Eudine Barriteau said the Cave Hill campus community, and wider UWI family, fully supported the honour, given Sir Hilary’s 40 plus years of contributions to the development of the university, and his current leadership of The UWI’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is entirely appropriate for him to be saluted through the naming of that building in which decisions are made that give the institution its direction and governance. He is someone renowned for his decisive role and leadership qualities,” she said.
Professor Barriteau also hailed Sir Hilary’s advocacy work in the areas of social justice and minority economic enfranchisement, adding, “He is someone who thinks ahead of the times. His emphasis on reparatory justice is one example.”
Sir Hilary served the Cave Hill Campus as the university’s youngest appointed Personal Professor, Head of the History Department, and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education before assuming the office of Principal, which he held for 13 years between 2002 and 2015.
He is a globally distinguished academic whose wide ranging scholarship includes gender research, an international thought leader, transformational education administrator, United Nations Committee official, private sector director of major corporations, and expert in sport history, science and practice. He holds Barbados’ highest national honour, Commander Knight of St Andrew, in acknowledgment of his distinguished service in the field of education, culture and sport. He also holds the second highest national recognition from the Commonwealth of Dominica, the Sisserou Award of Honour.
During his tenure as principal of the Cave Hill Campus, Sir Hilary transformed the academic, funding and infrastructural environment, creating new and innovative programmes and facilities that enabled the campus to thrive. These developments meant that the enrollment of the campus could move from the 3,000 range to the 9,000 range within the context of a scientific system that monitored the relationship between quantity and quality. The academic quality management system at Cave Hill became highly respected by national and international experts. Working with the Owen Arthur Regime he successfully negotiated the acquisition of 50 acres of additional lands at the Lazaretto for expansion, reflecting the commitment to the quality remit.
Sir Hilary has a deep interest in the identity issues of the built environment. Never accepting up front a design brief, he worked closely with the best local architects to fulfill his passion by conceptualising, sketching, and co-designing the many iconic buildings on the campus. These include: the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination building that reflects the indigenous creole culture; the ‘China/India’ building that hosts the Confucius Institute, reflecting the regional Asian heritage; the Administration Building, celebrating African culture; and the CLICO and Sagicor buildings, with majestic Roman pillars, that reflect the European legacy. The Usain Bolt Sport Complex was conceived and designed to celebrate the blended beauty of Barbados’ land and sea environments. Cave Hill now has a unique multi-cultural built environment that celebrates human cultural diversity. The iconic 3Ws Oval serves as the centrepiece of identity cohesion with the Mandela Freedom Park as an open invitation.
These structures were created in order to radically improve the pedagogical and educational capacity of the campus with new and innovative academic programmes, and an aggressive postgraduate training and research culture. From the Creative Arts to the Faculty of Medicine, the School of Business and Student Services, academic disciplines and student support systems were empowered in this way.
Sir Hilary, commenting on the honour stated, “My entire professional life has been dedicated to perfecting a contribution to the art and science of decolonization and nation building within the context of institutional and public education. It has been by necessity a highly discursive experience, and therefore inevitably contentious. One’s head is always buried in the work at hand, and this expression of generosity from my peers gave cause to lift it and smile. I feel very blessed by this recognition and accept it as a tribute to all my very noble colleagues, staff and students, who I know worked and are working very hard for the campus and university, enabling our collective results to be viable, sustainable and visible.”