A Tribute to Ms Edith Bellot, Former Resident Tutor, The UWI School of Continuing Studies, Dominica
“If ever we can speak of a quintessential UWI woman it would be Edith.” This how Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles describes Ms Edith Bellot.
The UWI community mourns the loss of Ms Edith Bellot, who passed away on Tuesday October 31, 2017 in St Kitts. Ms Bellot served as Resident Tutor in Dominica for 21 years from 1984 to her retirement in 2005, anchoring the School’s evolution from the Extra Mural Department to School of Continuing Studies (SCS) and into the era of technologically enabled distance learning through the UWI Distance Education Centre (UWIDEC). She was also the first director of the Cave Hill Chorale from 1973-1976.
Sir Hilary, continued his reflections: “The values and virtues, and the commitment and consciousness she displayed for decades would determine that this description can withstand any scrutiny. From her early service as a member of the University singers at Cave Hill to her final fellowship in Dominica in the development of the Open Campus, Edith was eternally involved in the promotion of the mandate and reputation of The UWI. Dominica was Edith’s ancestral environment but the Caribbean was her world. She loved every grain of ground she walked on across this archipelago that she knew so well. This emotional energy was reflected in the extraordinary generosity shown every visitor to The UWI in Roseau. From arrival to departure she took personal care each colleague. In our hundreds we savoured the hospitality that sprung from the professionalism of her leadership which was embedded in the conduct of her small but big hearted staff. Edith’s edict was pure and precise: One Caribbean. One UWI. One Love. The Caribbean—its Dominica and The UWI—is grateful for her stellar service and untold sacrifices. Her collective contributions as a performing artist, activist academic, and mentoring administrator will be celebrated in the soul of the communities she cultivated.”
Ms Bellot’s passion for ensuring that students in Dominica and other parts of the Eastern Caribbean were included in the education revolution led by The University of the West Indies is legendary. One colleague, Vilma McLenan recalls Edith driving the UWIDEC team all over Dominica to meet students “where they lived” and to understand the challenges they faced in accessing face to face education. Dr. Luz Longsworth, Principal of the Open Campus, in paying tribute to Ms Bellot stated that “Edith Bellot helped to lay the foundation for the move to online, anywhere, anytime education which transformed the UWIDEC and the SCS into The UWI Open Campus. Her energy, her passion and focus on taking the University to the people, are values that have become embedded into the ethos of The UWI Open Campus. We are eternally grateful to her for her service”.
Former Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Emeritus Lawrence Carrington, in his tribute to Ms Bellot who served under his leadership of the SCS, remembers her as “bold, outspoken and feisty. Her elegance and style never inhibited her startling laughter. She was practical and earthy yet angelic when she sang. She was philanthropic without fanfare and caring to the point of self-denial. A great soul and a good friend.” Her colleague Resident Tutors Beverley Steele (Grenada), Adrian Fraser (St Vincent and the Grenadines), Sir Howard Fergus (Montserrat) and Dr Joseph Palacio (Belize), all saluted Ms. Bellot for her willingness to give advice and wise counsel not only to her students, but to her colleagues within and beyond The University of the West Indies. She is described as lighting up every space she occupied and livening up every meeting with her frankness, peppered by a sharp wit and sense of humour.
We celebrate Ms Bellot’s dedication to building a strong presence of The University of the West Indies in the region, her care and concern for the students’ welfare in Dominica, as well as in St Kitts and Nevis where she acted as Resident Tutor on several occasions. She was part of the team of “intellectual guerrillas”, as dubbed by the late Vice-Chancellor Professor the Honourable Rex Nettleford, who helped to lay a robust foundation for the creation of wider access to The UWI, a legacy upon which we continue to build. We pay tribute to an outstanding Caribbean woman who, as Dr Francis Severin, Director of the Open Campus Country Sites observes, “was never one who embraced awards or tributes, perhaps tragically. Her philosophy was that she could not honestly accept awards for doing her legitimate work, which included her contributions to humanity.” It is this humility and humanity that defined Edith Bellot and elicited the love and appreciation that so many have expressed since her passing last week.
The University of the West Indies offers its sincere condolences to her daughter, Kathleen and all her family and friends on the loss of this strong but gentle woman of substance.