A retirement function for three University of the West Indies (UWI) senior professionals turned, in a moment, into a lens – looking back at a precise generation of UWI students. They, and the colleagues chosen to toast and ‘roast’ them, all represented alumni from the Class of 1969 – who entered UWI’s three-year undergrad programmes in 1966. They, it turned out, shared hall life, out-of class adventures, and somewhere along the line, an evolved commitment to community, national, even regional development and…to the UWI.
The three are John Aarons, who retired as University Archivist, Cecile Clayton who was Deputy University Registrar and Bette Grant-Otunla who retired as Assistant Legal Counsel. All three had careers at the national level before returning to their alma mater.
So here was yet another key group with the UWI in common – and here is another opportunity for the UWI Museum to mine stories common to a period of university life and of student experience; stories that may sometime help us to create a series of cameos of student life and attitudes across time. They will also contribute to research projects on specific aspects of university life such as the various halls of residence, the Guild of Students and Student’s Union and so on.
We recently focussed on another group from the same period – a group of senior politicians from Jamaica and the Eastern Caribbean island state of St Vincent & the Grenadines, who were pulled together in September for a conference on the future of Westminister government systems.
Theirs was a very much smaller UWI, at a time that became highly politicized when – in October 1968 – the Jamaican government banned radical UWI Lecturer Walter Rodney for interference in national politics. UWI students marched through the streets in their red gowns and UWI became the centre of national focus over several days. Yet the politics of the day was not on the list of UWI memories aired – raising a question for inclusion on the list, for a ‘memories’ session already mooted to boost the museum’s knowledge base.