Trinidad and Tobago national, Robert Bermudez was this evening installed as the 6th Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), during a ceremony at the St Augustine campus. The ceremony was attended by President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice Sir Dennis Byron, among other dignitaries.
In his inaugural address, the new Chancellor said the UWI must never forget its core purpose, the education of the region’s youth.
“The University of the West Indies has a pivotal role to play in ensuring that we prepare our young people to face this ever-changing world and to retrain those of us for whom it is never too late to learn,” Bermudez said.
“We cannot just produce certified young people, we must produce energized citizens with a social conscience, motivated to change their world. The university must encourage student activism, discourse on the issues of the day and the freedom to develop their minds outside of the strict confines of their studies.
“In my humble opinion, social skills, empathy, social consciousness and a concern for equity are as equally important to success as is technical competence,” he added.
Bermudez has been an entrepreneur for over 40 years. He led the growth of his family-owned firm, to a regional business throughout the Caribbean and Latin America and has enjoyed a distinguished career in business, serving as either Chairman or Board Director for several corporate bodies in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean.
His vision for the University outlines a keen sense of the mission, effectiveness, relevance and interdependence of academia and the economy. His professional experience as a Caribbean-wide entrepreneur with business acumen garnered from across the region suggests that he will continue the outstanding tradition of Chancellorship at the University.
“I started life as a baker and to this day I still see myself as such. I am deeply conscious of the responsibilities of this office,” Bermudez said, as he thanked the University Council for bestowing on him the “extraordinary honour”.
“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. The university does not have a moment to waste as change is upon us.”
The new Chancellor noted that the region continues to punch way above its weight, producing the likes Bob Marley, Rihanna and Usain Bolt “global icons, known and loved by millions”.
He said the Caribbean has also produced Nobel Laureates, who may be less well known but equally astounding.
The office of Chancellor is the highest in the UWI system.
Bermudez, who succeeds Barbadian Sir George Alleyne (2003-2017), paid tribute to his predecessor whom he said, “has dedicated his life to the service of his country, this region and particularly to this university”.
The post of Chancellor was also held by Her Royal Highness Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone (1948-1971); Sir Hugh Wooding (1971-1974); Sir Allen Montgomery Lewis (1975-1989); and Sir Shridath Ramphal (1989-2003).
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, said the new Chancellor “has demonstrated through his many roles as a man conscious of his Caribbean identity and responsibility, and willingness to provide leadership to our people at home and beyond, in the entrepreneurial arena and elsewhere, that he is amply energized for the role of Chancellor of our beloved UWI”.