STREET BEAT: Sir Hilary – man of vision
SIR HILARY BECKLES – educator, scholar, controversialist, agitator, visionary.
During interviews, the former principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies exudes a quiet humility, but those who speak of him paint a larger-than-life picture.
Street Beat visited the campus to speak to staff and students about the man who led the campus for more than a decade.
Chief of security Charles Boyce said he admired Sir Hilary’s vision.
“Personally what I like Sir Hilary for is he has a fantastic vision; he can see 20 years down the road. There is no doubt he wants to take the university to new places and I fully support that,” Boyce said.
Sir Hilary has accepted the post of vice chancellor of the university, the chief administrative officer for all campuses. Boyce said he wished him well.
“I congratulate him;
I think he will make an excellent vice chancellor. There is no doubt he changed this campus’ skyline and has done yeoman’s work in terms of putting up new facilities and I’m sure that will continue.”
Boyce said training was always high on Sir Hilary’s agenda, security included, sostaff were always kept up to date on where the university was going and with any strategic plans.
Samantha Alleyne knew Sir Hilary both as a student and now as a member of staff. She gave both perspectives.
“When I was a student, I had a relatively smooth ride. He eased the process, comforted us and broke it down for us. Now as a staff member, I haven’t had that much interaction with him but he is always pleasant, always tries to interact with us and is always open. He made a great contribution and he will be missed,” she said.
Student Salim Hussain said Sir Hilary’s life was one which gave inspiration and was a goal to aim for.
“His accomplishments motivate you to get as much as you can [education wise]; to emulate him,” he said.
One thing Hussain wants to see happen going forward is the university finally becoming “internationally accredited”, something started under Sir Hilary but yet to be accomplished.
Fellow student Nicholas Stapleton said Sir Hilary did a great job as principal and took his ideas into reality.
“He had ideas and made them come true such as the 3W’s Oval and the Confucius Centre. I got a good education here which is a good stepping stone in the pursuit of my career,” he said.
Rodney Alkins is a past student of the Cave Hill campus who has kept his respect for Sir Hilary high. He described him as a man of vision.
“For me, he is a visionary; a forward thinker who thinks outside the box and is five steps ahead of everyone else. He is well deserving of his new position of vice chancellor and I look forward to seeing what he does,” he said.
Alkins said one of the lessons Sir Hilary taught him was the constancy of change so he saw Sir Hilary’s elevation as further proof of that.
“He has the Caribbean at heart and always dealt with the issues. He will do well and I am happy for him,” he said.
Not everyone was willing to go on record with their views. One man, who requested anonymity, said Sir Hilary followed his agenda to the letter.
“His agenda was to develop the campus – both physically and the student body – and he did a good job of it. He was always feisty in giving his opinion and I very much admire that, especially in this environment. Once you have potential, he would entertain you,” he said.
One woman said she admired Sir Hilary’s forthrightness, something she shared.
“He is somewhat like me, a straightforward person regardless of who it offends. He has been the bedrock of the university and I am both happy and sad but what you have to do, you do and if [the move] is better for him, then good,” she said.