Governor General of Barbados Dame Sandra Mason has saluted the University of the West Indies’ early administrators for their bold vision and lauded the institution for its high-ranking status on the world stage when she accepted an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from her alma mater on October 2.
Dame Sandra was honoured by The UWI during a special convocation ceremony at Government House in recognition of her outstanding contribution to public service.
She had been among the first cohort of students enrolled at the Cave Hill Campus, Faculty of Law which was established 50 years ago. She told family, friends and UWI representatives present that her graduating class owes an immeasurable debt of gratitude to the great regional institution.
“As I accept this honour this evening, I do so with humility and with the unerring recognition that I represent not only myself but the Class of 1973 of the Faculty of Law of The University of the West Indies, with whom I began that pioneering journey some 50 years ago,” she said.
“Our gratitude is more because attendance at The University of the West Indies results in a complete education underpinned by the listed core values which guide the university’s mandate. The values of integrity, intellectual freedom, excellence, civic responsibility, accessibility, diversity, and equity,” Dame Sandra added.
She also lauded the Faculty of Law’s “monumental achievement” on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.
“Since 1948, when it was established as The University College of the West Indies, to bring light, liberty, and learning to the region, this university has always remained cognisant that it had to justify the dreams of our forefathers that we, sons and daughters of our cruel history, take a bold step into the world of academia. With fervent endeavour, we have reached the stage where we now boast of being a world-class institute of learning,” Dame Sandra said.
“Some 20 or so years ago after its inception, The University of the West Indies, in deciding to establish the Faculty of Law, proved yet again that it understood that the formula to success for this region was to unleash the potential of its people. It understood that to continue to fulfil the potential of bringing light, liberty and learning to its people, it needed to definitively proclaim our Caribbean-ness,” she said.
Dame Sandra praised the foresight of the island’s early leaders in the post-independence era to establish a Faculty of Law that was indigenous to the Caribbean.
“The time had come for our people to go further and set about bending the history of the arc of our imposed colonial legal tradition towards a jurisprudence more germane to us as an emancipated people. And it understood that in order to do this we could no longer be found loitering on the doorsteps of the legal institutions of our erstwhile colonial masters. I proudly stand here today as a product of that vision, and for that I humbly thank you, (The) University of the West Indies.”
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of The UWI, described the occasion as a moment of celebration and
reflection, as Barbados prepares to make the transition to a Republic.
“This is the moment of a country girl steeped in the village culture but steeped also in the dialectics of that village culture. A cozy little place, but also a place that has launched a thousand ships into the world. Small villages producing enormous minds. Minds that are ready to take on the world,” Sir Hilary said.
“An African sensibility embedded in that village, like all our villages: Respect for family, love of your neighbour, conversations about the future, respect for discipline, respect for elders. All of those African values are embedded in small villages. And so that village laid the foundation for a legal mind; the ideal citizen, a consciousness forged around the principle of service. It was that mentality that found its way to the Cave Hill Campus and enabled our Dame to be in the first cohort of law students 50 years ago at the Cave Hill Campus.”
16 EMINENT PERSONS BEING HONOURED
The vice chancellor added that, with The UWI now ranking in the top 1.5 per cent of universities in the world, Dame Sandra had good reason to be “as proud of her alma mater, as it is exceedingly proud of her”.
Sir Hilary stated: “This journey of citizen and campus and university has been a struggle for the creation and the perfection of democracy within our Caribbean. There is no university in the world that can say it has a finer record of commitment to social justice than our University of the West Indies.”
Dame Sandra is one of 16 eminent persons being honoured this year by The UWI. A special convocation was held in July to confer an Honorary Doctor of Science degree (DSc) on Dr Ruby Lake-Richards, one of the first 33 medical students who attended The UWI (then University College of the West Indies). As the University’s graduation season continues, 14 other honorary degrees are being conferred during the virtual ceremonies across the University’s five campuses.
Well-wishers around the world can tune in via www.uwitv.org, UWItv’s channels on Flow EVO or Facebook
live. The programmes and schedules for the ceremonies are available here.