ON October 12, 2019, The University of the West Indies (The UWI) Open Campus held its official 2019 Presentation of Graduates Ceremony at the Saint John’s Pentecostal Church, House of Restoration Ministries, Lauchland Benjamin Drive, Woods Estate, St John’s, Antigua.
This year, 768 students (561 undergraduates and 207 postgraduates) graduated with degrees, diplomas and certificates in various disciplines. Among the graduates were 11 doctoral students, representing the first cohort of the Doctor of Education (EdD) in Educational Leadership offered at the Open Campus. Of the total number of graduates, 205 attended the Graduation Ceremony, crossing the stage to be acknowledged by the Chancellor, Robert Bermudez and to receive their scrolls from the Campus Registrar, Karen Ford-Warner.
The ceremony was preceded with the usual pomp and pageantry associated with UWI graduations. In attendance to witness the occasion were several Heads of State, dignitaries and government officials from across the region. They included Dame Sandra Mason, Governor-General of Barbados; His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams, Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda; His Excellency Charles Savarin, President of the Commonwealth of Dominica; Dr Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis; Diallo Rabain, Minister of Education, Bermuda; Christopher Famous, Member of Parliament, Bermuda; and Michael Browne, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Antigua and Barbuda.
The Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, members of the University’s Executive Management and other University officials along with the family and friends of the graduates were also in attendance.
The Chancellor in his address to the graduating class spoke on the topical issue of climate change and urged the graduands to add their voices to this global agenda. “A critical element in addressing climate change is advocacy and activism. I applaud the global efforts being made by students everywhere to ensure that climate change is given due attention by politicians around the world,” Chancellor Bermudez stated.
Honorary Graduate urged graduates to serve
During the ceremony, an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree (LLD) was conferred on Sir Samuel Weymouth Tapley Seaton, current Governor-General of St Kitts and Nevis for outstanding public service to his country.
Sir Tapley, in addressing the graduating class, spoke of how proud he is to be a graduate of The UWI, which is now ranked amongst the best universities in the world. He spoke glowingly of his UWI experience as one of the first batch of students to begin studying law in 1970. “We styled ourselves as guinea pigs upon whom a new endeavour was being experimented,” Sir Tapley stated. As the youngest in his class, he recalled that “there were no past papers to review, no past students to consult and limited textbooks not relevant to Caribbean jurisprudence.” Instead, “there were professors who were of the highest calibre and were dedicated to ensuring that the first law graduates could hold their own in any postgraduate endeavour.”
Sir Tapley, in reflecting on his time at UWI, also acknowledged the presence of his classmates, Sir Clare Roberts, Deputy Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda; Dame Sandra Mason, Governor-General of Barbados; and Justin Simon, QC of Antigua and Barbuda who all were in attendance to share the moment with him.
“Consider what role you wish to play in your respective communities and nations,” Sir Tapley urged the graduands. “See the graduation ceremony as the beginning of a new life experience which could propel you forward to continue to think creatively and outside of the conventional box.”
Sir Tapley charged the graduands to always carry the watch words gratitude, honesty, integrity and respect as these are the hallmarks of a good citizen. He implored the graduands to commit to service. “You must not be a fleeting contributor to your community, pursue avenues with young people, explore your countries rich heritage, research the contributions of your forebearers, engage in worthwhile discussions, pursue further learning all with a purpose,” he continued. “Give your service effectively and with passion and demonstrate at all times the hallmarks of skill, competence and care.”
Sir Tapley, in thanking The UWI for honouring him, also expressed his deepest appreciation to the early tutors who contributed to his development.
Adjust your sail
Dominican Novenia Isaacs who completed the Bachelor of Science in Social Work with First Class Honours was this year’s Valedictorian. In her address to the graduating class, she likened her journey to obtaining her degree to that of a ship and a sail. She spoke of the sacrifices and resilience that propelled her along to overcome in spite of the obstacles caused by the ravishes of natural disasters that hit her country and other parts of the region as well as financial challenges that threatened to derailed her progress.
She urged her fellow graduates to “never forget why you fought to achieve your diploma that tells the world that you received a first-class education from a university that is in the top four percent of universities in the world.”
“Let us not forget the values that were instilled in us, the core values that The UWI stands for such as integrity, excellence, gender justice and diversity,” Ms Isaacs said.
In closing, she reminded her fellow graduates that the graduation marks the continuation of their journey. “The wind will come, your sail may get battered at times, you may feel like turning your ship around or even jumping ship,” she said passionately. “However, adjust your sail, set your faces to the wind, remember the purpose of your journey and sail on.”
The new graduates were led into repeating the Alumni Pledge by Ruthlyn Mathias, President, Alumni Chapter Antigua and Barbuda.
The formal ceremony concluded with the Chancellor bringing the proceedings to an end with the singing of the University Song, which was led by Rox-Ann Brumant.
An official reception hosted by the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda for the graduates and their guests, brought the celebration to a close.