EDITORIAL: Sir George’s stellar service
WHEN SIR GEORGE ALLEYNE demits office as chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) within a few months, it will close an important chapter not only in his life, but also that of the university. After all, he has had a stellar relationship with the UWI for more than six decades, the last 13 as honorary head.
Sir George is undoubtedly a proud Barbadian, but more importantly a quintessential Caribbean citizen with an illustrious career of public service to the region. The only parochial touch to closing this chapter in his most remarkable journey, which has been defined by excellence, is that it is happening in his homeland, where it all started.
An erudite scholar who excelled in so many areas, hence the epithet “Champ”, Sir George has never lost touch with his roots and despite the many high offices he has held, he has always remained dignified and calm. His focus has been on delivering substance and quality.
As university student, lecturer and professor, he stood out. As director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)), he left an enduring mark after two successful terms, and even as he chairs his last major Campus Council meeting this week, he has invoked his own unique style.
He is a unifying personality, as was very evident when proposed as the candidate for the top position at PAHO. Barbados’ political class united behind him.
This academician, who turns 85 this year, belies his age by his looks while he displays the wit to match top-rated British comedian James Corden. His grasp and depth on issues have made him one of the influential thinkers on the world stage.
This is why his championing of the fight against non-communicable diseases gave clout to this initiative, as did his role as the United Nations’ secretary general’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean. That the influential medical journal The Lancet of Britain featured him on his 80th birthday tells of the esteem in which he is held by his peers worldwide.
No surprise that for his meritorious service in the field of medicine, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1990 and subsequently awarded CARICOM’s highest title – Order of the Caribbean Community – in 2001.
Sir George leaves us with an invaluable lesson. When he was this island’s top scholar in 1951, he must have left many people aghast when he opted to attend the then fledgling UWI rather than any of the First World options available. He had faith in our own, he benefited and he gave back. This is something UWI graduates today need to emulate.
We need to celebrate the life and times of Sir George. He is not just the brilliant lad from St Philip, but someone who worked for the betterment of the entire region.
We thank him for all he’s done. May he enjoy a long and healthy retirement.