Andrew Lewis (FILE)
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The following is a tribute from former University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill campus registrar and director of planning, Andrew Lewis, on the passing of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur.
"I wish, on behalf of myself and family, to convey our deepest sympathy to Mr Arthur’s widow, daughters and other relatives.
"In my view, as a former registrar and development planner of The UWI Cave Hill campus, Mr Arthur stands next only to Errol Barrow and the founders in his contribution to its maintenance and development.
"His commitment to it was deep and sincere; often emotional. He often described himself as a “bright poor youngster from Mile and a Quarter, St Peter” and that the “Hill” was his path, if not to prosperity, to progress. He would often recount his challenges to make use of this unquantifiable gift, like having to walk several miles through the rain at night to reach home after late classes when public transport or the bus fare was unavailable. Without a doubt, the modern, expansive, and attractive UWI Cave Hill campus that we now see, and the width and breadth of its academic and other programmes, are in no small measure due to the financial and physical space contributions he made to it as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
"It is fair to say that in the post-Barrow period, the Cave Hill campus was, to some extent, painfully constrained by lack of financial support from the host Government responsible for contributing operational funds and funds for its capital development; and from other contributing governments. The campus often struggled to survive. However, Mr Arthur made the difference from the moment he came to office.
"His vision for the campus was clear: to strengthen it as the ladder on which he had ascended. This was captured in the mantra “(at least) a graduate in every household” and received his fulsome support. Developmentally, that vision was to see the campus extend into the Cave Hill/Black Rock/Wanstead areas, including the Lazaretto site, to establish a university city such that with its excellent teaching and extensive research, it would take Barbados into the 21st century; and economically, to see the campus positioned to attract a large regional and international residential student population that would significantly contribute to our foreign reserves.
"Early in office, he facilitated an increase in academic salaries to enable the campus to compete regionally and internationally for the best academic staff; and he moved to eliminate Government arrears. Mr Arthur also canvassed for and strongly supported a university bond issue for $20 million to improve its plant.
"Further, he joined the other campus governments in guaranteeing university-wide Inter-American Development Bank and Caribbean Development Bank loans for more than $80 million to enable UWI to make a quantum leap in science teaching and research. He intervened to ensure the construction of the 3Ws Oval fit for the 2007 World Cup and beyond. These Government initiatives bolstered the campus’ efforts to attract significant private sector capital grants and loans.
"Of special significance was Mr Arthur’s consistent interventions in overcoming the many hidden and often unexpected obstacles which had frustrated the campus’ efforts in the previous 18 years to expand its space in a timely manner beyond the small acreage in order to modernise, expand and ensure international university standards. These focused on the mostly unoccupied Government-owned lands contiguous to the campus in Wanstead, Husbands and Black Rock; and in the Belle.
"The evidence of Mr Arthur’s kept commitment can be seen in the campus’ modern science labs, its campus-wide student computer labs, modern computer centre and its computerised administrative system; a doubling of its library space; the expansion of teaching spaces; the state-of-the-art centre for the creative arts (the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination); new and upgraded administrative and other staff offices; the 3Ws Oval and the Usain Bolt Sports Complex; the Sagicor School of Business; the Social Science Graduate facility at Black Rock; the Caricom Research Building and the Keith Hunte Graduate Hall of Residence, among others.
"It was commendable that on his retirement from active politics, the campus resisted the cavilling over making office space available to Mr Arthur to enable him to extend a new level of service to Barbados and the CARICOM region in an appropriate academic setting, followed by the conferment of the title of Professor of Practice.
"These small tokens, one expects, must certainly portend a larger recognition of his illustrious service to the Cave Hill and The UWI, outside of his wider and considerable contribution to Barbados, the region and the world." (PR)