Newly Installed UWI Chancellor, Robert Bermudez: “Leadership is About Service.”
The UWI Regional Headquarters, Jamaica W.I., September 21, 2017. Two months ago, Caribbean entrepreneur Robert Bermudez took his place as the highest office-holder in The University of the West Indies. On Saturday, September 16, the University community formally welcomed him as the institution’s sixth Chancellor. The traditional academic ceremony, held at the St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago, marked the transition of leadership in the regional institution.
Before hundreds of regional guests, including the President and Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Chancellor Bermudez pledged to discharge his duties and obligations for the well-being of the University. As part of the ceremony’s ritual, he was robed by the Presidents of the Student Guild Councils across the four campuses, and capped in the mortarboard by Professor Archibald McDonald, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Mona Campus, as a symbol of knowledge and wisdom. He then received the mace—a wooden staff—from Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, signalling his official installation.
Chancellor Bermudez was cognisant of the honour in his inaugural address: “I am deeply conscious of the responsibility of this office and I wish to thank the University Council for bestowing this extraordinary honour upon me. In trusting its leadership to someone outside of academia, the University has made a clear statement that, as it enters its 70th year, it is recalibrating itself to the demands of the future. Its newly adopted strategic plan stands on three pillars: access, alignment, and agility. I fully endorse the plan and the framework that has been put in place to ensure its timely implementation.”
In closing he stated, “This Daaga Auditorium, named in memory of a rebellious slave, brings to mind a rebel of my time, Makandal Daaga, a man who chose to identify himself as “The Chief Servant”, a description that resonates deeply with me as it captures what I believe good leadership to be.”
Vice-Chancellor Beckles drew reference to the historical and contemporary significance. “It is a moment that cries out for change and transformation. It is a crossroad in which The UWI has chosen a different path, a direction to radically transform the nature of our operations and our quality of service and commitment…We are entering a new era. The UWI is being re-engineered. It is along this path that we invite Mr. Bermudez to inspire us, to guide us and to empower this University of the West Indies.”
The four Campus Principals also added to the evening’s accolades:
Professor V. Eudine Barriteau, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal at the Cave Hill Campus said, “I speak confidently for the Cave Hill Campus and in fact all institutions of The University of the West Indies when I state we are all eagerly anticipating benefitting from the distillation of your entrepreneurial acumen into our internal operating processes and our external civic and corporate relations. We anticipate sharing that very wisdom, expertise and penetrating insights which fashion your exceptional record of achievements as one of the Caribbean’s most successful corporate leaders.”
Professor Archibald McDonald, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Mona Campus expressed his distinct honour, “…to welcome such a distinguished Caribbean entrepreneur to join the rank of Chancellor of our University… Today, The UWI has gained a visionary and an exceptional leader who will guide our institution into a new period of development that is poised to change the face of tertiary education and academic thought for the Caribbean.”
“The University of the West Indies Open Campus welcomes our new Chancellor and looks forward to benefitting from the wisdom, and wide experience that he has amassed in his long and successful career,” said Dr. Luz Longsworth, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Open Campus. Dr Longsworth assured the Chancellor, “…the Open Campus welcomes you with open arms and hearts as you join us in leading a revolution in higher education in our region.”
Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the host Campus, Professor Brian Copeland, welcomed Chancellor Bermudez as a son of the soil but also as a citizen of the Caribbean. He said, “Given the task we have placed upon ourselves, and given your stellar and successful leadership in Caribbean business, The University of the West Indies… sees great hope for success in its future endeavours.”
Other remarks from the University community included: Mr. Jonathan St. Louis-Nahous, President, Guild of Students at the St. Augustine Campus; Dr. Bishnu Ragoonath, President of the West Indian Group of University Teachers (WIGUT); and Mr. Craig Tuckett, Representative of The UWI Alumni Association.
Guild President Jonathan St. Louis-Nahous, considered the Chancellor’s personal story of self-education a parallel for The UWI’s new perspective where technology has made knowledge easily available. “The University’s function is now more than just educating our region, but shaping the direction of its growth, provoking thought and action in each youth about where we are headed, and the role to be played by each of us.”
“Chancellor, you have accepted the highest office in this institution, and we, as members of this University, receive you with the hopes and aspirations that as you bring a fresh perspective to The UWI, you will undoubtedly ensure that the Governance of The UWI is effected in accordance with the Statues and Ordinances.” said Dr. Bishnu Ragoonath.
Craig Tuckett was similarly optimistic: “You have been selected not only because of your evident reputation of supreme business acumen and astuteness, but more so because of your high moral compass and esteemed character traits of being fair, caring and considerate and a true lover of the Caribbean region and its peoples. And we know that this will indeed translate and trickle down to make the University a more understanding, accommodating and student-friendly institution and will hold the alumni in a position of high regard.”
The recorded ceremony and highlights, including photos and speeches, are available for viewing at www.uwi.edu/chancellor-installation.