The building which houses the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, has been named the Wendell McClean Building.
McClean, a former Dean of the faculty, had given exceptional service to the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, and Barbados. He almost single-handedly was responsible for taking possession of the building, a development which for the past 42 years, has enabled thousands of social science students to use the space that became their home away from home.
During the naming ceremony which was attended by the former Dean’s family and friends, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Eudine Barriteau said the university was pleased to be honouring McClean during its 70th anniversary celebrations, and so close to the country’s independence.
“Wendell McClean was my Dean when I entered the Faculty of Social Sciences in 1976. By then, he was renowned for his no-nonsense demeanor. I trusted his advice and guidance, and he was always readily available to provide academic guidance to students. The faculty’s student body may have been 200 or less at the time. I remember well that although I really wanted to read for political science at the bachelors and masters’ level, I followed his advice and did a BSc in Public Administration and a Master’s in Public Administration, Public Sector Financial Management. At the PhD level, I still wanted to study the operations of power within state policy, so I decided not to ask him, because Wendell was very persuasive,” Professor Barriteau recalled.
The Principal noted that the sons and daughters of working class Barbadians, who currently work in government and non-government organizations, who are socially and economically better off today as a result of their journey through the faculty, undoubtedly owe a debt of gratitude to McClean for his foresight in insisting that a physical space and resources be provided for the then new faculty.
“And so, if the Faculty of Social Sciences may be perceived as the birthplace of the managerial, professional workplace, then it is entirely appropriate that not only do we designate to Wendell McClean the title of godfather of that development, but that accordingly, we do the right thing as we are here doing today, by placing his name in the heartland of the faculty so that his legacy will be perpetuated and known for generations to come,” she said.
Apart from academia, McClean has been remembered for his work as a public advocate on the regulation of public utilities. Professor Barriteau recalled that McClean put up a committed and determined fight on behalf of all Barbadian consumers in tackling proposed rate increases by utility companies. She said those who feel the might of technology providers now often wish that McClean was around today to take on the public or consumers’ case.
“I must remark that I was quite pleased when the Barbados Economic Society under the presidency of Professor Andrew Downes introduced the Wendell McClean Memorial Lecture shortly after the turn of this century. However, following the inaugural lecture by Dr Delisle Worrell in 2004, I believe there was one other which was delivered by Sir Neville Nicholls, and the series has gone into abeyance. Perhaps it is time for the Barbados Economic Society working with the Department of Economics to consider the reintroduction of this annual lecture as a recognition of Wendell’s contribution to the field of economics and [his] tireless efforts as a public advocate,” the principal said.
The former Dean’s sister, former Senator and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maxine McClean, said the family was honoured that the university decided to name the faculty building after her deceased brother who gave freely of his economic knowledge, especially when he selflessly represented consumers’ interest against utility companies, without charging any fees.
The former Senator, who also taught at the faculty for a period of time, said her brother who was the second of eleven children, was determined to excel and reach academic heights. She said weeks before he died, though he was ill, he was willing and ready to travel to another Caribbean territory to fight for consumers.
“Graduates, students of his all went on to make their mark in Barbados, the region and internationally… Today, as I listen to many young economists, both in terms of their delivery and the substance of their contribution, I regret the loss of a number of brilliant minds. And of course, I regret the loss of Wendell and that they didn’t have the chance to sit at his feet. I regret that this new generation of economists missed out on the intellectual and academic rigor Wendell demanded of his students, especially those majoring in economics,” McClean said.
Professor Barriteau noted that although Social Sciences is the biggest faculty, it is the only one that does not have a lecture theatre. McClean vowed to be the first member of the Social Sciences Alumni to contribute BDS$1,000 to this worthy cause, which she said perhaps could be named after Sir Frank Alleyne, who alongside McClean, made a significant contribution to the Faculty in its early years.
McClean’s widow, Clothilda, and three of his four daughters were present for the memorable occasion, with the widow assisting in unveiling the signage. (AH)