Editorial Staff
2 months ago

Editorial Staff
2 months ago

Outstanding Tribute rendered to Sir Hilary Beckles

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The Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, has been recognized for his exceptional contributions to academia and advocacy for social justice and administration.

A festschrift, entitled “Interrogating Injustices: Essays in honour of Hilary McD. Beckles,” was launched on December 15, 2023, at The UWI Cave Hill campus.

The commemorative volume of writings, which is one of the most extensive scholarly works of its kind in the region, comprises 41 articles contributed by dozens of academics, including fellow historians from across the globe, who paid tribute to the scholar.

The publication, which is nearly 1150 pages long, was edited by Professor Verene Shepherd, Dr. Henderson D. Carter, and Dr. Ahmed N. Reid and published by Caribbean-operated publisher Ian Randle Publishers. It is unprecedented in its scope and commemorates the 75th anniversary of The UWI and the 60th anniversary of Cave Hill.

According to Professor Shepherd, Director of The Centre for Reparations and Research at The UWI, she was inspired by Sir Hilary and, like many others, had to unlearn inherited colonial history.

Shepherd, who is also a contributing author, said a systematic approach was taken to the expansive scholarly project. The project was meant to almost pattern the 10-point plan of the CARICOM Reparations Commission.

“We had to turn away a few articles…but we tried to accommodate as many people as possible. It was a big project for a big intellectual and it took [a lot] of hours,” Shepherd added.

Dr. Henderson D. Carter, Head of the Department of History and Philosophy at Cave Hill, authored three of the published articles. He said the writings celebrated the long and distinguished journey of Sir Hilary, whom he met in 1985 and described as a teacher, fellow cricketer, and friend.

Dr. Carter revealed that the idea to compile scholarly works in honour of the academic was first proposed in 2013 but was stalled.

However, it was revived and reimagined in 2019 by Professor Shepherd. “This book is our way of saying ‘thank you for your inspirational teaching, your inspirational supervision, your leadership in research, your foresight in creating heritage assets’…I’m proud to have been one of your students, proud to have been one of your cricketing friends,” Dr. Carter stated.

The Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Cave Hill campus, Professor R. Clive Landis, who hosted the event, contributed a chapter to the book entitled, “The Triple Three Threat to the Caribbean,” referring to chronic diseases, climate change, and COVID-19. He said the festschrift was a fitting tribute to one of the greatest intellects in the Caribbean.

David Comissiong, Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM, expressed similar sentiments in his reflections on Sir Hilary, whom he described as essential to Caribbean civilization.

​”Your contribution has made a tremendous difference to our society. Our society is so much richer by the fact that you…chose to come back here and to place your intelligence and your intellect, your energy and your services at our disposal and we would forever be grateful to you.”

Tribute was given in song by Barbados’ cultural ambassador Dr. The Most Honourable Anthony ‘Mighty Gabby’ Carter, a longtime friend of Sir Hilary.

A visibly emotional Sir Hilary, who received a standing ovation from the scores of friends, family, diplomats, and members of the academic community in attendance, said he was overwhelmed and thoroughly appreciated the honor.

In his remarks, he gave insight into some of his experiences and explained what kept him motivated over the decades, as he referenced advice rendered by his late father.

Sir Hilary emphasized that he believed in making university education available to all who are willing and able, and as an administrator of higher education, he could promote and assist in something he believes in. “It breaks my heart even now, to know that in the English-speaking [Caribbean], we have the lowest enrollment in higher education in the entire hemisphere,” he lamented.

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